Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Октябрь 2011 г. (часть 2)
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    The Hindu / October 17, 2011
    The emerging innovation capital of Russia
    Tomsk in Siberia is all set to spearhead the country's technological revolution
    • Vladimir Radyuhin
    В ближайшие годы у Томска с его огромным научным потенциалом есть все шансы стать инновационной столицей России. Уже создана сеть бизнес-инкубаторов, венчурных фондов и центров трансфера технологий для содействия коммерциализации научных исследований. Особая экономическая зона предлагает значительные налоговые льготы для компаний, специализирующихся в области нанотехнологий, информационных технологий, электроники, биотехнологии и медицины. В следующем году к Томской ОЭЗ будет добавлен ядерный кластер, после того как секретный военный объект Северск будет преобразован в гражданский научно-исследовательский центр.

Tomsk, an ancient Russian city tucked away amid endless Siberian forests and swamps, would seem an unlikely place to spearhead Russia's technological revolution. Yet, it is from here that science and technology is staging an impressive comeback. In the coming years, Tomsk, known for its hydrocarbons and iron ore resources, may emerge as the innovation capital of Russia.
Russian leaders have announced the goal of transforming the resource-dependent economy into a knowledge-based economy. While today oil, gas and minerals account for 80 per cent of Russia's export earnings, by 2020 the share of innovative industry is set to grow from five per cent to 30 per cent. The government funnelled $25 billion into Research and Development in 2010 and plans to more than double the funding over the next 10 years. President Dmitry Medvedev, who made innovation a focus of his tenure, last year signed a plan to build a futuristic high-technology research hub on a thousand acres of wasteland in Skolkovo outside Moscow. Even as the construction of the multi-billion Russian version of the Silicon Valley gathers momentum, a high-tech economy is up and going 3,000 km away in Tomsk.
Enormous potential
What makes Tomsk special is its enormous scientific potential. It is home to Siberia's oldest university, set up in 1888. Today, the city boasts of 25 academic and research institutes, six universities and 16 other schools of higher education. The city of 500,000 residents has nearly 100,000 students, drawn from all over Siberia and other Russian regions, as well as from 14 foreign countries.
Russia has been traditionally strong in academic research but weak in applications, with the notable exception of defence technologies. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the situation worsened as the economy nosedived in the course of a painful transition to free market. Over the past decade, the Russian economy has bounced back, growing 10-fold to a $2 trillion GDP. But it remains heavily reliant on commodities. However, the picture is beginning to change.
Tomsk was the first among Russian regions to adopt a strategy of innovative development. In recent years, the local government has built a ramified network of business incubators, venture funds and technology transfer centres to facilitate the commercialisation of a vast treasure trove of academic research. The high point of this effort was the establishment of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) that offers considerable tax breaks, exemption from customs duties and other benefits to companies specialising in nanotechnologies, IT, electronics, biotechnology and medicine. A nuclear cluster will be added to the Tomsk SEZ next year, when the previously secret military nuclear facility, Seversk, will be converted into a civilian research centre. The Tomsk tech-town is still in its early stages but its 57 tenants have already come up with some amazing world class innovative products.
Elecard, a top world manufacturer of video codecs, whose customers include Microsoft and Sony, has developed, jointly with another Tomsk company, Triaxes - a technology to convert 2D films into 3D format and to shoot glasses-free 3D content with stereoscopic cameras used today for filming movies which are seen with glasses on.
The Tomsk-based firm, Mikran, has teamed up with Nokia Siemens to produce LTE base stations for Russia's first 4G network. The company supplies electronic equipment to Indian telecom and defence sectors, and manufactures critical transmit/receive modules for phased array radars deployed on Russia's latest MiG-35 fighter planes.
A new gearing technology developed by the CJSC "Technology Market" allows for the construction of smaller size gearboxes with higher load capacity, longer life and greater efficiency than any existing gearings.
Some high-tech products of the Tomsk SEZ have special relevance for India. A revolutionary nano-filter, AquaVallis, purifies 100 per cent biologically polluted water and does not require any further disinfection. It features higher flow rate, longer cartridge life and lower cost per unit of filtered water, and is ideal for countries like India. The filter was displayed at a Russian national exhibition in New Delhi in 2008 but no Indian firm showed any interest in the product.
A wound nano-dressing developed by Tomsk scientists not only heals all kinds of burns and inflammations much faster than traditional bandages but is also effective in fighting hospital infection and drug-resistant bacteria - the curse of modern medicine.
A replica
Tomsk offers a glimpse of what Russia may look like in 10 or 20 years. Its economy, traditionally shaped by hydrocarbons, timber and defence industries, is a scaled replica of the Russian economy. The commodity sector still dominates but the region's 400 innovation driven enterprises contribute 20 per cent to the gross regional product. Tomsk plans to double the share in the next few years.
A number of foreign companies have set up shop in Tomsk to tap its rich natural and intellectual resources. India is represented by ONGC Videsh Ltd which in 2009 acquired Imperial Energy, an oil company that has production assets in the Tomsk region. However, daunted by harsh climate and challenging terrain conditions, the company has considered pulling out. Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress, a strong advocate of closer business ties with India, tried hard to make OVL stay.
"I am aware that the OVL has opened talks with [Russian oil company] Bashneft for selling the Imperial Energy, but we would like them to carry on. I'm sure they will overcome their problems and expand operations in our region; we can offer them more oil blocks," Mr. Kress told The Hindu during a recent press tour of Tomsk by Moscow-based foreign media. He expressed the hope that more Indian companies would come to Tomsk.
"We would like to cooperate with India in not only hydrocarbons. We invite Indian businessmen to join our SEZ. We have developed a range of technologies that Indian companies may find very useful."
Foreign business is indeed discovering the taste of the new Tomsk economy. Japanese, Singaporean, Taiwanese, Australian and European companies have settled in the SEZ but Indian companies are conspicuously absent from the region's high tech sector. Tomsk's trade with India stands at just over $1 million, which is 0.1 per cent of the region's foreign commerce.
India's low visibility in Tomsk is in stark contrast with the high-profile presence of China focussed on the rich pool of local talent. There are about 1,500 Chinese students enrolled at Tomsk universities, mostly in engineering faculties. The Confucius Institute has been operating at the Tomsk State University since 2008, offering Chinese language training to Russian students and running several language classes for schoolchildren. A number of leading Chinese universities have cooperation agreements with Tomsk universities that provide for regular exchange programmes and joint research. The prestigious Tomsk Polytechnic University has been invited to open a branch in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China. Tomsk has similar partnership arrangements with the Japanese, German, French, Australian and other foreign universities.
Again, there are no Indian varsities among Tomsk partners. Some time ago, Tomsk signed a cooperation memorandum with Mumbai, but it is still too early to say whether it will make any difference.
Local India fans make their best to compensate for the lack of interest on the part of Indian government and business. There are half-a-dozen Indian dance groups which offer classes in classical and Bollywood styles to enthusiasts, give concerts and make the Indian presence felt at various cultural events. Moreover, Tomsk dancers have extended their reach far beyond their region to cater to the growing interest of Russians in India and its culture. One of the best known groups, Satvika, has set up a "Bharatanatyam school in Siberia" offering week-long intensive courses to groups and individuals prepared to travel hundreds of kilometres to Tomsk to get initiated in the ancient art of Indian dance.
Right time for India
It is rather unfortunate that Russian cities like Tomsk are low on India's radar screen. This probably betrays a widespread but outdated view of Russia as being little more than a source of energy and commodities for India's booming economy. It was a misconception 10 years ago, and is even more so today. In the 1990s, Indian business missed a chance to gain a foothold in the Russian up-and-coming manufacturing industries such as automobile, food and tobacco. Today, it has an opportunity to catch up by joining Russia's innovation push. Now is the right time to enter the burgeoning market of Russian high-tech. On the one hand, the Russian government is pouring money into cutting edge technologies while, on the other, Russian business is yet to develop an appetite for innovation, with just 10 per cent of companies investing in innovation.
"We are inviting Indian business to come and set up joint R&D centres with Tomsk companies in IT, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies and other priority areas for both our countries," says Governor Kress.

Copyright © 2011, The Hindu.
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    Reuters / Wed Oct 19, 2011
    Russians see room for moonbase in lunar lava caves
    • Alissa de Carbonnel
    Российские ученые и космонавты считают, что обнаруженные на Луне вулканические туннели могут стать естественным укрытием для первой лунной базы.

The United States may have put the first man on the moon, but Russian scientists and space explorers are now gazing at a new goal - setting up a colony on the moon.
The discovery of volcanic tunnels on the moon could provide a natural shelter for the first lunar colony, cosmonauts and scientists said on Tuesday.
Researchers have long suspected the moon's volcanic past left an underground network of lava tubes as its legacy, and 2008 images from Japan's Kaguya spacecraft showed a possible way down - a mysterious, meters-deep hole breaching the surface.
"This new discovery that the moon may be a rather porous body could significantly alter our approach to founding lunar bases," veteran spaceman Sergei Krikalyov, who heads Russia's Star City cosmonaut training center outside Moscow, said at a forum on the future of manned spaceflight.
"If it turns out that the moon has a number of caves that can provide some protection from radiation and meteor showers, it could be an even more interesting destination than previously thought," he said.
A slide-show image showing bunker-like inflatable tents dotting the lunar landscape helped forum participants imagine the lunar bases. "There wouldn't be any need to dig the lunar soil and build walls and ceilings," said Krikalyov.
"It would be enough to use an inflatable module with a hard outer shell to - roughly speaking - seal the caves."
The first such lunar colonies could be built by 2030, estimated Boris Kryuchkov, the deputy science head at the training center.
As the world's space agencies debate where to fly beyond low-Earth orbit, including deep space missions to asteroids and Mars, the European Space Agency's (ESA) head of human spaceflight programmes said the moon also looked attractive.
"In ESA, there is still a very strong focus on the moon. It could be a natural first to go there," Martin Zell told Reuters.

* * *
    Le Quotidien / 2011-10-19
    Conférence sur la coopération scientifique avec la Russie
    С 19 по 21 октября в Люксембурге прошла выставка российских высоких технологий (биотехнология, нанотехнология, материаловедение, технологии освоения космоса, телекоммуникации), а также конференция по вопросам научного и экономического сотрудничества двух стран.

Les relations scientifiques, technologiques et économiques avec la Russie se sont développées de manière significative ces dernières années.
Afin de stimuler les coopérations bilatérales dans la recherche et le développement, des scientifiques russes de renom ont pu présenter leurs compétences à une audience luxembourgeoise lors de la " Russian Hightech Conference and Exhibition " le 19 octobre à la Chambre de Commerce. Issu des contacts entre les gouvernements luxembourgeois et russe, cet événement a également mis en lumière des acteurs clés du paysage de la recherche et de l'innovation au Grand-Duché.
Plus de 100 participants ont répondu présents à l'invitation à cette conférence organisée par le Centre culturel et scientifique russe, le Fonds National de la Recherche et Luxinnovation (FNR), l'Agence nationale pour la promotion de l'innovation et de la recherche. Réel moment d'échanges, l'événement a permis aux entreprises et chercheurs luxembourgeois d'initier ou de consolider des collaborations internationales dans de nombreux domaines technologiques. Ils ont également pu découvrir les produits et technologies de pointe des centres de recherche et universités russes présents.
Stimuler les partenariats internationaux
L'objectif de la conférence était notamment d'augmenter la visibilité de la recherche luxembourgeoise afin de favoriser la mise en place de partenariats public-privé internationaux et la création de réseaux d'experts transfrontaliers.
Pierre Decker, Premier Conseiller de Gouvernement auprès du Ministère de la Recherche, a souligné la volonté du gouvernement de renforcer les collaborations scientifiques internationales. " Cette journée nous donne une opportunité inédite de mieux connaître la diversité des compétences des institutions russes représentées" a-t-il dit. Alexander Schulgin, Ambassadeur de la Fédération de Russie au Luxembourg, a également manifesté l'intérêt de son pays de renforcer les liens dans les domaines de la recherche et de l'innovation avec le Grand-Duché.
La journée a été rythmée par l'intervention de prestigieux orateurs issus d'organismes de renom tels que l'Académie russe des Sciences, la Fondation russe pour la recherche fondamentale et l'Institut de Moscou sur l'acier et les revêtements. Les orateurs ont notamment abordé les thématiques des matériaux et nanocomposites ainsi que des technologies de l'information et de la communication, entre autres celles liées au domaine du spatial.
Découverte des compétences luxembourgeoises
Du côté luxembourgeois, Yves Elsen, Président du Luxembourg Space Cluster, a présenté le secteur spatial. Les participants ont également pu apprécier l'intervention de Georges Thielen, Président du Luxembourg Materials Cluster.
La Russie a les moyens d'investir
D'autre part, Moscou est en train de se construire une place financière plus internationale et souhaiterait pour ce faire consulter les experts en la matière au Luxembourg. Avec un déficit inexistant et une dette publique inférieure à 10% de son PIB, la Russie a largement les moyens d'investir. D'autre part, le pays souhaite également que des chercheurs pourquoi pas luxembourgeois s'expatrient quelque temps sur ses terres. Pour devenir plus attractive, la Russie est d'ailleurs en train de mettre en place un régime de visa simplifié pour les travailleurs hautement qualifiés.
Si les relations russo-luxembourgeoises n'en sont encore qu'à leurs prémices, quelques exemples de coopération existent déjà, à l'image de l'entreprise d'origine russe LCMA, installée à Esch-sur-Alzette. L'alliance des savoir-faire des deux pays a permis à cette entreprise de devenir un leader dans le domaine du titane, un matériau notamment utilisé dans l'aéronautique.
Les chercheurs luxembourgeois venus à la conférence pour s'informer du savoir-faire russe ont quant à eux pu visiter une exposition réalisée par des scientifiques russes au sein même de la Chambre de commerce pour montrer leur travail.

* * *
    Bellona / 18-10-2011
    Norway, Finland and Russia come together on Arctic radiation safety
    • Anna Kireeva
    В Мурманске прошла презентация трехстороннего проекта CEEPRA по развитию сотрудничества между Норвегией, Финляндией и Россией в области охраны окружающей среды и радиационного исследования Арктики. В проекте участвуют финская Администрация по радиационной и ядерной безопасности (STUK) и Метеорологический институт, Государственное управление Норвегии по ядерной и радиационной безопасности (NRPA), Мурманский морской биологический институт (ММБИ).

MURMANSK - Russia, Norway and Finland have launched a 3-year-long trilateral programme for environmental and radiation protection and research in the European Arctic
Called the Collaboration Network on EuroArctic Environmental Radiation Protection and Research, or CEEPRA, the effort is aimed at strengthening cross-border cooperation between key authorities and research organisations, improving emergency preparedness capabilities and risk assessments for nuclear accidents in the region.
The project also aims at raising awareness and knowledge among the general public with respect to the regional Arctic environment, common challenges and risks in the area of nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and dealing with radioactivity in the environment.
The €1 million project is headed up by the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA), the Murmansk Marine Biology Institute (MMBI), and the Finnish Meteorological Institute. "It is no secret that before the 1990s such a huge quantity of radioactive waste built up on the Kola Peninsula that the Murmansk Region became a "hot environmental spot" not only on the map of Russia, but of the world," said the deputy minister for economic development of the Murmansk Region, Viktor Gorbunov.
Gennady Matishov, who directs the Murmansk Marine Biology Institute of the Kola Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences said it was imperative to strengthen cooperation between Russian scientists and their counterparts in other northerly countries to facilitate information exchange and encourage joint research - what the CEEPRA project is designed to encompass.
Research projects
According to Dina Solatie, who runs STUK's laboratory in Northern Finland, CEEPRA will foster research in a number of directions.
In particular, radioactive contamination in land-based and marine ecosystems of the European Arctic region will be researched via examination of samples taken in Finland's Lapland, Norway's Finnmark and Tromsш, Russia's Kola Peninsula, and the Barents Sea.
The hoped-for result will be to acquire information about the actual levels and transport routes of radioactive substances across the Arctic environment and food chains. The research will also allow scientists to assess potential sources of radioactive contamination and risks arising from possible accidents.
Where atmospheric contamination is concerned, the focus will be on the modelling of atmospheric processes and the estimation of fallout patterns, should an accident occur in the European Arctic that results in a release of radioactivity into the environment.
Two modelling experiments to assess nuclear accident scenarios are planned as part of the project: one at a new nuclear power plant at Simo, in Finland's Lapland, close to the Swedish border, or Pyhajoki, in the Oulu region (both are projected sites for possible nuclear power plant construction); the other, on a floating nuclear power plant stationed in the Arctic Ocean north of the Kola Peninsula.
The modelling experiments will look at the impact on local populations, and how an accident would affect tourism.
Norway's view of possible threats
While addressing possible problem areas, NRPA representative Anna Nalbandyan noted that currently the content of all radioactive substances in the Barents Sea seems to be subsiding. To check on that assessment, a joint Norwegian and Russian monitoring expedition is planned in the Barents Sea in 2012, she said.
She identified potential threats in Norwegian research reactors, nuclear power plants based abroad, nuclear-powered fleets, military and civilian nuclear sites in the north, radioactive waste storage facilities, nuclear fuel production and reprocessing facilities, smuggling of radioactive substances, and the threat of terrorists acts involving the use of radioactive materials.
According to Nalbandyan, the shipping of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive materials is a special concern. She said that providing notification of such deliveries to all countries along whose shores vessels carrying nuclear cargoes will pass should be an unconditional obligation.
In 2010, Norway was appalled that it had received no prior notice of the nuclear deliveries that the Russian cargoship MCL Trader was making, even as the ship's route involved passing close to the Norwegian shores.
In October of 2010, State Secretary of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Erik Lahnstein, said that there was no notification system in place, and insisted a bilateral agreement was called for with Russia in order to advise Norway of when and where such shipments would take place in the future.
NRPA's Nalbandyan said the situation has improved and that Russian authorities now inform their neighbours of anticipated nuclear deliveries on board vessels sailing along their shores.
"It all depends here on how close to the Norwegian shore the vessels pass. This determines whether or not a foreign state is obliged to provide notification," Nalbandyan said.
Scientific monitoring and its public benefits
According Bellona-Murmansk's head, Andrei Zolotkov, the first impression from the launch of CEEPRA is an encouragement that programme participants can in the future be expected to share the results of their research with the public.
"With the general tendency toward an improved situation with radioactive contamination and environmental well-being in the northern seas, background levels must be taken stock of, so as to monitor the situation objectively in the future," said Zolotkov.
"The potential threats are not going to go anywhere in the near future, and work will continue at these sites. And scientists, as opposed to ministry-affiliated supervisory authorities, could assess more objectively the [risks] associated with the use of nuclear energy," he said.

Copyright © Bellona.
* * *
    The Moscow Times / 06 October 2011
    Counting the Cost of Russia's Melting Permafrost
    • By Roland Oliphant
    К 2050 г. зона вечной мерзлоты в России может уменьшиться на 15-30%. Возможные последствия зависят от вида зоны (сплошные, островные и прерывистые) и, соответственно, продолжительности и глубины промерзания (от нескольких метров до 1,5 км). Основная опасность в сплошной зоне на севере заключается в том, что фундаменты зданий могут начать трескаться с увеличением глубины таяния в летние периоды. В расположенных южнее прерывистых и островных зонах наиболее высока угроза дорогам, железнодорожным путям и трубопроводам - участки вечной мерзлоты чередуются с непромерзшей землей, и сдвиги границ между этими слоями вызывают резкие перемены в топографии.

Take a shovel anywhere in two-thirds of Russia's vast expanses, dig more than a meter into the ground, and you're likely to hit something rock-like.
But it isn't stone. It's permafrost - technically defined as any ground that is continuously frozen for at least two years, but in some areas it is hundreds of meters deep and tens of thousands of years old. And it is melting - putting roads, railways and buildings across the country at risk of sinking.
"In the next 25 to 30 years, the permafrost zone in Russia could shrink by 10 to 18 percent. By mid-century that could rise to 15 to 30 percent," Vladislav Bolov, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry's Center for Forecasting and Monitoring, told RIA-Novosti at the end of the summer.
The effects, he warned, would be devastating, especially on roads and railways built across the zone of permanently frozen earth.
That zone is a vast territory. Permafrost covers 10.7 million square kilometers of Russia - about 63 percent of the country.
Counting On Past Experience
Russians have been learning to live with the peculiarities of permafrost since the first explorers pushed into Siberia in the 16th century, and there is plenty of traditional knowledge and technology to draw on.
Siberian architecture has largely evolved with this experience in mind. In frozen cities like Yakutsk and Norilsk, buildings stand above the ground on piles, which are drilled through the active layer to rest on the "eternal" icy foundation below.
And water and heating pipes wind through the streets not underground, but on overhead gantries.
"It can look pretty strange to the unaccustomed eye," said Darya Smolikova, a Yakutsk native who has been living in Moscow since 2001. The buildings resemble centipedes, she said.
The legs of these "centipedes" help insulate them from the cold in winter - but more importantly, they inhibit the warmth of the structures from being conducted downward and melting the frost that acts as their foundations.
Thanks to this, Smolikova said, Yakutsk's buildings are remarkably stable, considering the harsh conditions they are built in.
In the same way, infrastructure - including roads and railways, multistory apartment buildings, oil and gas production facilities - has been built directly on the frozen ground.
But all that could change if the permanently frozen layer beneath the seasonally thawing surface begins to melt.
Russian Railways, which operates more than 5,000 kilometers of track in the permafrost zone, says it is already familiar with the problem and regularly struggles with sinking rail beds.
"The primary effect of permafrost melt is subsidence - sections of land that sink or shift unpredictably. These can appear as local subsidence tens of meters long, and as long 'wavy' areas that extend for a kilometer or more," Russian Railways said in a written statement describing the effects of melting permafrost on the landscape.
The resulting "thermokarst" landscape is characterized by rapidly appearing lakes and uneven hummocks of ground interspersed with marshland.
To make matters worse, the resultant accumulation of water lowers the upper limit of the permafrost, causing flooding. It also reduces the ground's load-bearing capacity, the company said.
And it is not just railways that are suffering. An earlier report into the impact of global warming by the Federal Meteorological Service noted that "the strength of basements of buildings and engineering constructions located on permafrost has declined in some Siberian regions" because of changes in the bearing capacity of ground induced by warming and an increase in the depth of seasonal thawing.
Not everyone is convinced that there is a problem, however.
A spokesman for road builder Rosavtodor reached by telephone struck a note of bravado when asked whether the melting was a cause for concern.
"On the contrary, we're only glad," spokesman Andrei Menshov said. "Actually, the less permafrost there is, the easier it is to build roads." He did not elaborate, and a promised interview with a Rosavtodor expert never materialized.
And Smolikova, who grew up in Yakutsk, said a lot of the rules have turned out to be bendable.
"There was a myth that because of permafrost it was impossible to lay asphalt because it would crack in winter. But then a new mayor came a long who - so they say - stole less, and the roads miraculously became much smoother," Smolikova said.
"Another myth was that you couldn't build railways in eastern Siberia, but as soon as Putin said we should produce more diamonds and precious stones, it turned out you can," she added.
"Personally, I think that if houses are collapsing in Yakutsk, it's for the same reason they do everywhere else in Russia: because of dilapidation and violations of building technology."
Bolov said the "negative effects on transport links can already be observed."
Nonetheless, Mikhail Grigoriyev, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for Permafrost Studies in Yakutsk, which has been researching the phenomenon since the 1960s, is not alarmed.
"We have seen warming. In eastern Siberia, for example … it's getting warmer - in some places we've seen rises of half a degree Celsius, and in others 2 degrees - and that's serious. But we don't see catastrophic consequences," he said by telephone.
Glacial Speed Affects Perceptions
The process, however, is gradual. Russian Railways estimates that the ground temperature is rising by "as much as" 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade in the north, and 0.5 degrees in the east.
Grigoriyev cautioned that the climate models such forecasts are based on are not perfect - and the speed of warming (and the consequent degradation of permafrost) can vary from year to year.
"It's happening - but warming has slowed in the past couple of years. It's not happening now as fast as it was in 2006 or 2007, for example," he said.
Nor is the thaw uniform. It depends on altitude, moisture in the soil and a host of other factors that mean total temperature increases recorded in various locales of Siberia vary from 0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.
Zones of Danger
Russia's vast permafrost is divided into three zones - the insular, discontinuous and continuous - depending on the durability and depth of the frozen ground.
In the "continuous" zone, which includes most of Siberia from the Yenisei River to the Bering Strait, the ground is permanently frozen to depths of hundreds of meters, and the temperature is as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius.
But the continuous zone, which has been frozen for tens of thousands of years, is bound by less durable belts of "discontinuous" and "insular" zones, where freezing may last only a few years at a time.
It is here that marginal temperature increases can have far-reaching consequences.
Temperatures in western Siberian zones, including the Yamal Peninsula, will rise 1.5 to 2 degrees, bringing it up to between minus 3 and 4 degrees, Bolov of the Emergency Situations Ministry estimated.
That is not enough to completely thaw the ground, but it does mean that the so-called "active" surface layer that thaws during summer could become deeper and thaw for longer, jeopardizing buildings whose foundations rely on the "eternal" frost below.
The biggest threats, if there are any, will occur in the peripheral "insular" belt, which extends from the Kola Peninsula and Arkhangelsk region on the European Arctic coast, sweeps to the south through parts of northern China and Mongolia and includes parts of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
According to the Emergency Situations Ministry, the southern boundary will retreat 150 and 200 kilometers to the northeast in coming decades. "Several tens of kilometers" could be lost by mid-century in the Irkutsk region, Khabarovsk territory, the Komi Peninsula and Arkhangelsk, and between 100 and 150 kilometers in Khanty-Mansiisk and the Sakha republic.
Different Scenarios, Same Problems
But that is not set in stone; the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring report considered no less than four potential scenarios - ranging from complete melt on the steppe by 2020 to only a partial melt by 2050.
All this makes the process difficult to predict, said Kirill Chistikov, a fellow of the Russian Geographical Society and expert on permafrost at St. Petersburg State University. And it also complicates the response.
The main danger in the frozen heart of the continuous zone that covers the vast expanses of the Sakha republic, Chukotka and Magadan is to buildings whose foundations may fracture as the depth of the summer melt increases and reduces the load-bearing capacity of the frost.
The threat to roads, railways and pipelines is much more significant in the south, where the discontinuous and insular belts are in retreat.
"Islands" of permafrost exist alongside nonfrozen ground, and the constantly shifting boundaries cause some dramatic shifts in topography.
Experience Brings Solutions
Nonetheless, these are not especially new processes, Grigoriyev said.
And since the 1960s, Russian road and rail builders have stabilized ground temperatures with the use of "liquid-vapor thermo-siphons" - metal tubes filled with frozen carbon dioxide that are put in the ground along roads and rail lines, with one end in the frost below the active layer and another in the air above it. Natural heat exchange reduces temperatures by between 1 and 5 degrees Celsius.
Russian Railways favors thermo-siphons in areas of high snowfall in the north, but said it also recommends building drainage systems to remove meltwater from thermokarst lakes.
This may explain the nonchalance of companies like Russian Railways or Rosavtodor - they have, after all, been dealing with these problems for years.
The difference is that the increased pace of change will require a more proactive strategy.
A 2009 Greenpeace report into the social and economic impact of climate change in the permafrost zone, which Grigoriyev co-authored, recommends careful monitoring by city authorities of building foundations in the north so that they can either be stabilized with thermo-siphons, or at least abandoned before they collapse, and a monitoring system to give early warning of the subsidence threat to roads, railways and pipelines in the south.
But no strategy to deal with anticipated permafrost changes had been adopted at either the federal or regional level at the time that report was written, and there have been no announcements in the two years since that would indicate any improvement in the situation.
How Much Could It Cost?
"To be honest, we don't really know," said Igor Podgorny of Greenpeace. "We simply don't know how to assess such a big change so many years in the future."
Despite the Emergency Situations Ministry's warning forecasts, it is anyone's guess how much the melting could cost companies or the government.
If the authorities have attempted to estimate the economic effects of thawing, their studies have not been made public.
Neither Russian Railways nor Rosavtodor responded when asked whether they had estimated the costs associated with mitigating permafrost melt.
The Human Factor
The immediate threat is not from the long-term progress of degradation, say both Grigoriyev and Chistikov, but poor understanding of proper behavior for those who choose to live and build in the zone.
"There are a lot of rules about how you need to build. Unfortunately, we have structures that are sometimes not properly built and not properly used," he said.
"In some places waste disposal goes directly into the ground, under or near buildings, including hot water, and even worse, salty water. In those areas where the permafrost temperature is minus 1, or even just zero degrees, that can have a sharp impact very quickly," Grigoriyev said.
"On the other hand, I can show you some Soviet-built structures that were built properly, are still there today and doing absolutely fine," Chistikov said.

© Copyright 1992-2011. The Moscow Times. All rights reserved.
* * *
    PhysOrg.com / October 18, 2011
    Russia blames scientists for rocket crashes
    Генпрокуратура назвала причиной падения спутника "Экспресс-АМ4" и грузового космического корабля "Прогресс М-12М" в августе этого года небрежность сотрудников предприятий космической отрасли при подготовке аппаратов к полету, а также недостаточный контроль Роскосмоса за принятием и выполнением решений.

Russia's chief prosecutor on Tuesday blamed a recent spate of disasters threatening the future of the International Space Station (ISS) on negligence by the country's underpaid rocket scientists.
A probe into the August 24 crash of the unmanned Progress cargo ship and an August 18 error that put Russia's biggest satellite in the wrong orbit blamed both mishaps on the state-run Roskosmos space agency and its workers.
The decision said the Prosecutor General's office would be pressing for disciplinary measures and fines against "those who caused the accidents" and singled out the agency's executive for separate blame.
The prosecutor's statement pointed to "a lack of proper control on the part of Roskosmos officials over the adoption of corresponding decisions."
The once-vaunted Russian space agency was already rocked by a reshuffle in April when its chief Anatoly Perminov got the sack during celebrations for the 50th anniversary year of Yuri Gagarin's first manned space flight.
Roskosmos has acknowledged the criticism but complains of being underfunded and unable to compete for top talent with Western firms that draw the young away from its Soviet-era institutions with spartan conditions.
Perminov's dismissal followed Russia's loss of three navigation satellites that the prime minister and likely future president Vladimir Putin has promoted as a rival to the US-made Global Positioning System (GPS).
Roskosmos has since been forced to temporarily ground its main rockets - the longer-range Soyuz and the lucrative Proton-M - and left question marks hanging over Russia's ability to safely deliver humans to space.
The US space agency NASA had been mulling the option of leaving the space station abandoned for the first time in 10 years should Roskosmos fail to solve problems with its Soyuz carrier rocket by mid-November.
The abandoned US space shuttle programme and and the failure of both private and Western state firms to step in thus far has left Russia as the only nation capable of ferrying ISS replacement crews.
Roskosmos on October 3 successfully test-launched a Soyuz model and has since scheduled the next crew to the ISS for November 14.

© PhysOrg.com™2003-2011.
* * *
    Nature / 14 October 2011
    Europe looks to Russia after NASA falls short on ExoMars
    The US agency's shrinking budget and growing space-telescope costs are squeezing other projects
    • Ron Cowen
    После того, как из-за сокращения бюджета НАСА отказалось от обещания предоставить ракету-носитель для первой стадии проекта ExoMars по поискам жизни на Марсе, Европейское космическое агентство (ESA) начало переговоры с Россией по поводу ее участия в программе.
    Первая стадия проекта состоит в доставке к Марсу орбитального летательного аппарата, разработанного для обнаружения возможных источников метана и других остаточных газов, которые могут быть признаком наличия на планете микробов. Если стороны придут к соглашению, российская ракета-носитель отправит аппарат в 2016 году. На второй стадии орбитальный летательный аппарат станет ретранслятором для самоходного аппарата, который будет запущен в 2018 году с целью сбора на Марсе образцов грунта.

The European Space Agency (ESA) will forge ahead with ExoMars, an ambitious two-part robotic mission that would look for signs of life on the red planet, even though NASA has reneged on its promise to provide a launch rocket for the first stage of the mission.
During a 12-13 October ESA council meeting in Paris, the agency decided to begin negotiations with Russia for a rocket that would launch the first stage of ExoMars, in 2016, in exchange for Russian participation in the mission. Already €150 million (US$207 million) shy of the €1 billion it needs for the entire ExoMars project, ESA has deemed it too costly to use its own Ariane rocket for the 2016 launch, according to a senior ExoMars official who asked not to be identified.
The initial 2016 phase of the mission would carry an orbiter designed to sniff out possible sources of methane and other trace gases that might signal the presence of microbial life on Mars. The orbiter would then serve as a data relay for a rover, to be launched in 2018, that would collect Martian soil samples. A future mission would carry those eagerly awaited samples back to Earth, where scientists would examine them for signs of past or present biological activity.
Money talks
ESA officials say they were quietly informed more than a month ago that budget problems would prevent the US space agency from providing an Atlas V rocket for the 2016 launch. NASA still plans to provide a rocket for the second part of the mission in 2018. By February, ESA aims to conclude the Russian negotiations and confirm NASA's other commitments to ExoMars, which include providing several instruments for both parts of the mission.
Because of uncertainties in NASA's proposed planetary science budget, which is expected to decline after 2012, the US agency hasn't been able to provide the assurances that ESA needs, NASA planetary science division director James Green told a NASA advisory committee on 13 October.
"It makes us look like we're a bad partner," acknowledged Green, but he said NASA hoped to firm up its commitment in the coming months. Nature 's ExoMars source says the outcome of the negotiations between ESA, Russia and NASA will be crucial to the success of the mission.
A bad sign?
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Some US planetary scientists are concerned that NASA's inability to provide a rocket for the 2016 ExoMars launch is a sign of a bigger problem. The space agency must find $156 million in its 2012 budget to pay the skyrocketing costs of the long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), its flagship observatory and successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA is asking all of its divisions, including planetary science, to come up with some of the extra money, Green noted. The agency will need to find an additional $1 billion to support the JWST from 2013 to 2016.
The cost of the JWST "is obviously a factor" in the ExoMars problems, says planetary scientist Mark Sykes of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Sykes was a co-author of a bluntly titled editorial, "JWST Threatens Planetary Science", published on 8 September in the Planetary Exploration Newsletter. "There are important national priorities in space beyond the goals of JWST that as a country we cannot afford to sacrifice," the authors argue.
Sykes suggests that if the costs of the JWST can't be contained within NASA's astrophysics budget, perhaps it should be cancelled, or funded by the US Congress as a stand-alone project. But other planetary scientists, including Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, note that the JWST will also use its infrared eyes to peer at planets both inside the Solar System and beyond.
At a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Conference and the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences held last week in Nantes, France, the session on ExoMars began not with a review of the mission's science, but with a discussion about ways to ensure its survival.
"I'm wearing black, but I hope this isn't a funeral," said Ann Carine Vandaele of the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy in Brussels who attended the session.
ESA's decision this week to soldier on should quell some of those concerns, at least temporarily. But they may come to the fore next February if the agency isn't able to hammer out an agreement with Russia.

© 2011 Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.
* * *
    The Guardian / Friday 21 October 2011
    Soyuz rocket launches European navigation satellites into orbit
    After disappointment on Thursday, Soyuz has successfully placed the first two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit
    • Robin McKie, Kourou, French Guiana
    C космодрома в Куру (Французская Гвиана) российская ракета "Союз" успешно вывела на орбиту первые два спутника европейской навигационной системы Galileo. Пуск должен был состояться на день раньше, но был отменен из-за неполадок в топливной системе.

A Russian Soyuz rocket has launched two European space navigation satellites into orbit from a European base in Kourou, French Guiana.
Shortly after 7.30am local time (11.30am BST), the calm of the rainforest dawn was broken by the blast of the Soyuz ST-B's engines igniting. A jet of burning gas shot into the 28-metre-deep flame trench and the rocket forged upwards, a bright spark of light rising through the drizzle that enveloped the space centre just as the final countdown began.
This was the first launch of a Soyuz outside the former Soviet Union and followed a day of frustration on Thursday when blast-off was cancelled two hours before the scheduled launch. A faulty valve had cut off the flow of fuel being pumped into the rocket's third stage. The valve was replaced and fuel pumping was resumed early on Friday morning.
The rocket's three stages burned through their fuel, the Fregat upper stage detached and inserted the Soyuz's cargo of two Galileo navigation satellites into orbit around the Earth.
Three hours and 49 minutes after blast-off, the European Space Agency announced that the two Galileo satellites had successfully reached their final orbit 23,222 kilometres above Earth, and that their launch had been a complete success.
It took 350 Russian space technicians and engineers working for the past four years to build the new Ј500m launch site - funded by French aerospace companies - beside Europe's launch facilities in French Guiana, a former colony now administered as a French department.
For Russia, the site offers enormous advantages. Earth's rotational speed is greatest at the equator - French Guiana lies between 2 and 4 degrees north - and so launchers get an extra kick into space, thus reducing fuel use.
For Europe, the successful launch also provides a major political boost. The two satellites now in space will be the first of 30 such craft that European space engineers will use to create Galileo, a rival system to GPS that should free Europe from reliance on America's navigation satellites.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.
* * *
    Les Échos / 20/10/2011
    Les nouveaux rêves de grandeur du spatial russe
    • Benjamin Quénelle
    Хотя космическая отрасль в России снова вошла в число национальных приоритетов, ей по-прежнему не хватает средств и крупных проектов. Некоторые эксперты считают, что российская космонавтика слишком сконцентрирована на сотрудничестве с НАСА и Arianespace, что не дает ей продвигаться вперед, и что Роскосмосу нужен собственный большой проект.
    Тем не менее, после череды летних неудач российский космический сектор готов вступить в эпоху "реализма и рентабельности". Основные задачи - увеличить долю России в космическом бизнесе, сосредоточиться на системах связи и навигации и автоматических межпланетных станциях. Еще один проект - новый космодром "Восточный" на российской территории неподалеку от китайской границы.

Cinquante ans après les exploits de Gagarine, le temps n'est plus à la guerre froide mais à la coopération entre l'industrie spatiale russe et ses homologues occidentales. Redevenu une priorité nationale, le spatial russe manque encore d'argent et de grands projets.
Une bonne nouvelle, enfin, après les déconvenues de l'été. Si tout se passe bien, l'industrie spatiale russe ouvrira ce jeudi, à 12 h 34 précise, un nouveau chapitre de son histoire. Non plus à Baïkonour, le vieux cosmodrome soviétique des exploits de Youri Gagarine. Mais en Guyane française, sur un pas de tir construit presque à l'identique, près de Kourou. Cinquante ans après le mythique vol du premier homme dans l'espace, la compagnie commune créée par Arianespace et Roskosmos, son homologue russe, va mettre sur orbite des satellites Galileo, le GPS européen. Une autre époque. Mais une même fusée. Car, aujourd'hui comme hier, le lancement sera assuré par le bon vieux lanceur Soyouz.
" C'est la 2CV de l'espace, mécanique basique mais d'une redoutable fiabilité ", résume, entre humour et admiration, un ingénieur français à Baïkonour. " La fusée la plus efficace de l'histoire ! " s'enthousiasme Patrick Buzzard, le représentant à Moscou de la Nasa, l'agence aérospatiale américaine. Avec plus de 1.770 vols réussis à son actif, le Soyouz a un taux record de succès (quelque 98 %). " C'est impressionnant de voir ce que les Russes font avec aussi peu d'argent ", poursuit le spécialiste américain, soulignant que le budget de Roskosmos, l'agence russe, est six fois moins élevé que celui de la Nasa (2,5 contre 15 milliards d'euros). " En dix ans, l'industrie spatiale russe a changé radicalement. Je le vois à la mentalité de mes interlocuteurs en réunion. Fini les longs discours, l'arrogance et les incompréhensions culturelles. C'est plus interactif et ouvert ", observe pour sa part Jean-Yves Le Gall, le président d'Arianespace et maître d'œuvre du vol d'aujourd'hui. " Le Soyouz en Guyane a été le précurseur de la globalisation. Cette fusée a encore un bel avenir devant elle ! "
Série noire
Incroyable clin d'œil de l'histoire, Soyouz est devenu, de fait, indispensable aux programmes des Etats-Unis comme de l'Europe. Après la récente mise en retraite des navettes américaines, c'est ce lanceur qui, seul, assure la relève pour les tirs vers l'ISS, la station spatiale internationale. Entre Arianespace et Roskosmos, c'est pareillement gagnant-gagnant : les Russes fournissent le Soyouz ; les Européens apportent les contrats. Jusque-là, les lancements issus de cette coopération se faisaient à Baïkonour, au milieu de la steppe de l'ex-république soviétique du Kazakhstan. Ils s'effectueront dorénavant aussi et en majorité depuis la Guyane. Placé sur l'Equateur, le nouveau pas de tir permet en effet d'envoyer des charges plus lourdes que depuis le cosmodrome d'Asie centrale.
Mais, ces derniers mois, les échecs à répétition de Roskosmos ont quelque peu refroidi l'enthousiasme général. En août, un vaisseau-cargo Progress (dérivé du Soyouz) transportant plusieurs tonnes de matériel et de nourriture pour approvisionner l'ISS s'est écrasé après son envol de Baïkonour, à la suite d'une défaillance de moteur. Peu avant, l'autre fusée russe, l'énorme Proton, avait elle aussi subi un revers : le décollage lui-même s'est bien passé, mais le satellite de télécommunications qu'elle devait mettre sur orbite s'est égaré. Une vraie série noire pour Roskosmos. Car, en février, il avait déjà perdu contact avec un satellite militaire. Et deux mois plus tôt, trois satellites Glonass (futur concurrent russe du GPS américain et du Galileo européen) sont tombés en mer après leur lancement avorté par un Proton.
Depuis, ces quatre incidents ont fait l'objet de commissions d'enquête. D'après les premières conclusions, ils seraient moins liés à des problèmes techniques qu'à des erreurs opérationnelles. " Des fautes humaines qui n'auraient pas lieu d'être ", résume l'expert français Alain Dupas. " Mais cela ne remet pas en cause la fiabilité des fusées. On peut faire confiance à 100 % au travail de ces commissions, même si elles ne sont pas totalement transparentes. Les instructions venues d'en haut étaient claires : il fallait être rapide et efficace ", rapporte Igor Marinine, rédacteur en chef du magazine " Novosti Kosmonavtiki ". Dès septembre, après une brève suspension des vols, Proton et Soyouz ont d'ailleurs repris le chemin de l'espace. Des lancements, cette fois, sans bavure.
" Mais, si les échecs se sont succédé en si peu de temps, c'est qu'il y a un problème de fond ", prévient à Moscou un acteur occidental du secteur. La chute du Progress qui devait approvisionner l'ISS est, par exemple, une première dans l'histoire de ce vaisseau jusque-là ultrafiable. " La technologie ne peut donc pas être en question. C'est le facteur humain qui est en cause ", interprète cet observateur. Sont particulièrement critiqués les systèmes de contrôle de qualité, réputés insuffisants. " Les ratés de cet été rappellent nos errements en matière de discipline ", analyse Andreï Ionine, expert de l'Académie Tsiolkovsky, haut lieu du spatial russe. " C'est en partie une question de personnel : entre les jeunes recrues inexpérimentées et les ingénieurs soviétiques en pré-retraite, nous souffrons d'une insuffisance de cadres de 30-40 ans, âge clef dans ces métiers. " A la chute de l'URSS, les ingénieurs de cette industrie en pleine crise se sont tournés vers des emplois mieux payés et les jeunes vers des études offrant plus de perspectives. Aujourd'hui, un renouvellement se fait, mais lentement. " Depuis deux-trois ans, nous le voyons parmi nos étudiants : une nouvelle génération apparaît ", raconte Oleg Alifanov, doyen de la faculté de l'aérospatial à Moscou. " C'est en train de changer. Grâce aux salaires en hausse (25.000 roubles en moyenne pour les ingénieurs, soit 625 euros). Grâce aussi à un regain de prestige : le spatial est redevenu une priorité au plus haut niveau ! "
Absence de grands projets
Pour cause : Vladimir Poutine, l'actuel Premier ministre, ex et futur chef du Kremlin, ne cesse d'appeler Roskosmos à " aller de l'avant ". Sur un ton enthousiaste (" Pour demeurer leader, il ne faut pas rester immobile "). Mais aussi parfois menaçant, surtout après les récents déboires dans la chaîne d'inspection et de certification (" Il faut des changements radicaux "). " Du coup, les Russes vont intensifier leurs contrôles de qualité ", se rassure Jean-Yves Le Gall, régulièrement " bluffé par la connaissance détaillée " de Vladimir Poutine sur les dossiers spatiaux. Dans le cadre de sa coopération avec Roskosmos, le président d'Arianespace explique avoir déjà dû depuis longtemps " ajouter des couches supplémentaires d'inspections pour que, comme chez nous, beaucoup de gens contrôlent ce que font les autres... ". Deux des quatre lanceurs Soyouz déployés à Kourou pour de futurs lancements ont d'ailleurs été rapatriés en Russie, car, contrairement à la fusée qui décolle aujourd'hui, ils sont équipés d'un moteur identique à celui qui a provoqué l'échec du Progress en août. Simple précaution après un incident de parcours, assure Jean-Yves Le Gall.
Même optimisme du côté de la Nasa, même si la suspension des vols a contraint à repousser le lancement vers l'ISS des vaisseaux-cargos et des capsules habitées. " Nous travaillons dans un climat de confiance et de respect. Le Kremlin est fermement attaché à la station spatiale internationale ", positive Patrick Buzzard dans ses bureaux de l'ambassade américaine à Moscou. Cet été, Vladimir Popovkine, le nouveau patron de Roskosmos, a pourtant semé le doute. Il a publiquement regretté " le virage pris vers les vols habités " et a déploré que la participation russe à l'ISS, qui représente " presque la moitié de la totalité de notre budget ", plombe les finances de son agence. Mais les analystes ont depuis décodé ces déclarations : si Vladimir Popovkine veut baisser la part de l'ISS dans les comptes de Roskosmos, ce n'est pas au détriment de la station, mais en augmentant les dépenses des autres programmes. " Les Russes participent à fond dans ce projet. C'est l'avantage avec eux : lorsqu'ils s'engagent sur quelque chose, ils s'y impliquent jusqu'au bout ", affirme René Pischel, le directeur du bureau moscovite de l'ESA, l'Agence européenne de l'espace.
" La station, c'est un peu comme un appartement communautaire. Nous n'allons pas le quitter ! " plaisante Andreï Ionine qui regrette tout de même, comme d'autres experts locaux, que " le spatial russe tourne en rond à force de trop se concentrer sur ses collaborations avec la Nasa et Arianespace ". " Qu'est-ce que cela nous rapporte ? s'interroge-t-il. Après la chute de l'URSS, le secteur n'avait pas d'argent. Aujourd'hui, il en a, mais il manque de grands projets. " Le mois prochain, Roskosmos doit pourtant envoyer une sonde vers Phobos pour étudier l'atmosphère et le sol de ce satellite de Mars. Une mission scientifique inédite et ambitieuse. Une exception, ironisent à Moscou les plus pessimistes. " Il nous faut un programme phare, tel un vol habité vers Mars, qui servirait de dynamique pour toute notre industrie ", insiste Igor Marinine.
Réalisme et rentabilité
Avec Vladimir Popovkine, nommé en avril à l'issue d'un grand " nettoyage " au sein de Roskosmos, l'industrie spatiale russe est en fait entrée dans l'ère du réalisme et de la rentabilité. A Baïkonour, ce patron, issu de l'armée mais doté d'une solide expérience internationale, a vite été redouté. " Les Russes ne parlent que de lui et de sa volonté de supprimer la moitié du personnel. Ils sont terrifiés... ", témoigne un Français sur place. A Moscou, malgré les revers de cet été, il a impressionné par sa capacité à définir en six mois une stratégie qui, certes controversée, a le mérite d'être claire. Avec un objectif : faire passer de 3 à 10-12 % la part de la Russie (qui contribue déjà à 40 % des lancements mondiaux et construit 20 % des vaisseaux) dans le commerce spatial. Vladimir Popovkine veut désormais se concentrer sur les systèmes de communication, de navigation et les sondes à distance de la Terre. Des missions qui ne font guère rêver, mais doivent apporter des résultats utiles. Et faire tourner la boutique.
Autre grand dessein : Vostochny, le nouveau cosmodrome. Prévu en territoire russe près de la frontière chinoise, il doit prendre le relais de Baïkonour, enclave louée au Kazakhstan et donc toujours susceptible d'être remise en cause par un différend politique. Vladimir Popovkine vient cependant de ramener ce programme à plus de pragmatisme, en gelant, du moins pour le moment, le projet d'y développer Rus-M, la famille de lanceurs nouvelle génération à l'étude depuis longtemps pour remplacer le Soyouz. " Nous sommes arrivés à la conclusion que nous n'avons pas besoin d'une nouvelle fusée. Nous pouvons continuer avec celles dont nous disposons déjà ", vient de déclarer à la Douma le patron de Roskosmos. Un coup dur pour les ingénieurs russes, d'autant que leur autre projet de lanceur, Angara, accumule les retards.

Tous droits réservés - Les Echos 2011.
* * *
    ScienceDaily / Oct. 6, 2011
    Supersaturated Water Vapor in Martian Atmosphere
    Ученые из Института космических исследований РАН, совместно с французскими коллегами из Лаборатории динамической метеорологии (Университет Пьера и Марии Кюри) и лаборатории LATMOS (Центр научных исследований Франции), обнаружили в средней атмосфере Марса водяной пар. Ранее считалось, что на такой высоте (25-50 км) вода не может существовать в перенасыщенном состоянии.
    Результаты исследования опубликованы в журнале Science (Evidence of Water Vapor in Excess of Saturation in the Atmosphere of Mars, V.333, N 6051).

Analysis of data collected by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft leaves no room for doubt: the Martian atmosphere of contains water vapor in a supersaturated state. This surprising finding will enable scientists to better understand the water cycle on Mars, as well as the evolution of its atmosphere.
The research was led by a team from the Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales (LATMOS, CNRS / UPMC / UVSQ), in collaboration with Russian and French colleagues(1), and received support from CNES. It is published in Sept. 30, 2011 issue of the journal Science.
On Earth, water vapor tends to condense, i.e. turn into a liquid, when the temperature falls below dew point. The atmosphere is said to be "saturated" since it cannot hold any more moisture at that temperature and pressure. The excess water vapor then condenses around suspended particles and dust, forming precipitation. However, condensation may sometimes be much slower, especially when particles and dust are scarce. Unable to condense, the excess water vapor therefore remains in the gaseous state: this is known as supersaturation. Until now, it was assumed that this phenomenon could not occur in the Martian atmosphere, although this had never been proved.
While several spacecraft have visited Mars since the 1970s, most of their instruments were focused on surface data. Because of this, they only observed the horizontal component of the Martian atmosphere. The way in which water content on Mars varies with height remained largely unexplored. The survey carried out by the SPICAM(2) spectrometer on board the Mars Express spacecraft has now made it possible to fill this gap. SPICAM can establish vertical profiles of the atmosphere using solar occultation, i.e. by observing light from the Sun as it travels through the Martian atmosphere at sunrise and sunset.
Contrary to previous belief, the researchers discovered that water vapor supersaturation is a frequent phenomenon on Mars. They even observed very high levels of supersaturation in the Martian atmosphere, up to ten times greater than those found on Earth. "This ability of water vapor to exist in a highly supersaturated state would, for example, allow to supply the southern hemisphere of Mars with water, far more efficiently than models currently predict," points out Franck Montmessin, CNRS researcher at LATMOS and SPICAM(3) project leader.
Moreover, a far greater quantity of water vapor than thought may be transported high enough in the atmosphere to be destroyed by photodissociation(4). If confirmed, this phenomenon would have consequences for the whole issue of Martian water, a significant fraction of which is known to have continually escaped to space for billions of years, which partly explains today's low abundance of water on the planet(5).
The vertical distribution of water vapor is key to the study of the hydrological cycle on Mars. The hypothesis according to which the amount of water in the Martian atmosphere is limited by the saturation process therefore needs revising. This finding has major implications for the current understanding of both the climate and water transport on Mars.
Notes:
1. François Forget, CNRS researcher at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD, CNRS/ENS Paris/UPMC/Ecole Polytechnique) took part in this work. Both his laboratory and LATMOS belong to the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace.
2. This instrument is a dual ultraviolet and near infrared spectrometer, designed and produced by three laboratories (LATMOS, the Institut d'Aéronomie Spatiale in Brussels and the Space Research Institute (IKI) in Moscow), with funding from CNES.
3. Luca Maltagliati, the lead author of this study, received a CNES grant during his post-doctorate at LATMOS.
4. Solar radiation breaks up water molecules, releasing atoms of oxygen and hydrogen, which are then light enough to escape to interplanetary space.
5. On Earth, the amount of water is estimated to be equivalent to a 3 kilometer-deep layer of liquid water over the whole surface of the planet. Estimates for Mars are considerably lower, although little is known about the quantity of groundwater.

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