Российская наука и мир (дайджест) - Февраль 1999 г.

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    Science / Vol.283, No.5405 Iss. of 19 Feb. 1999, P.1095
    Accelerated Recycling

    Демонтированный линейный ускоритель из Дании получит новую жизнь в Объединенном Институте Ядерных исследований в Дубне.

A dismantled Dutch linear accelerator will find new life in Russia. At the end of last year, particle physicists shut down the 20-year-old Medium Energy Accelerator and the 7A dismantled Dutch linear accelerator will find new life in Russia. At the end of last year, particle -year-old Amsterdam Pulse Stretcher in response to the government's decision to cut back on high-energy physics. Now, the Netherlands' only linear accelerator - a 180-meter-long pipe that fires electrons into a 68-meter-diameter storage ring - will be recycled into a synchrotron radiation source at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia.
Though the Dutch machine is free, the Russian institute must raise millions of dollars for reassembly, a 4-year project. "Fortunately we have a building which just fits," says Dubna chief engineer Igor Meshkov.

© 1998 by The American Association for the Advancement of Science
* * *
    Reuters / Thursday February 25 4:14 AM ET
    U.S. Official Defends Aid To Russian Scientists
    • By Peter Graff

MOSCOW - In a research city in central Russia so secret it appears on no map, nuclear scientists are now working for Intel, designing computer software for the next generation of 3D video games. Rose Gottemoeller, an assistant U.S. energy secretary, cited the work Wednesday as an example of the workings of a program that came under attack this week in a U.S. congressional report. The Initiative for Proliferation Prevention (IPP) and its offshoot, the Closed Cities Initiative (CSI), are aimed at helping find new jobs for 35,000-50,000 of the top scientists in Russia's million-strong corps of nuclear workers. The plan is to keep the scientists from falling into the arms of so-called rogue states, who might bid for their skills to develop new weapons of mass destruction. But the General Accounting Office (GAO), an investigative arm of Congress, concluded in a report this week that much of the money was being wasted, and some of it may have been going to scientists who are still developing weapons for Moscow. Senator Jesse Helms, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, issued an angry attack in the report's wake. "It is absolutely unacceptable for the Clinton administration to donate the U.S. taxpayer's money to Russian scientists who spend their time working on poison gas, biological agents and new nuclear weapons designs for the Russian government. That must stop," Helms' statement said. But in an interview Wednesday after she was grilled by reporters at a news conference over the charges, Gottemoeller said critics were focusing too much on administrative questions, and not enough on whether the programs fulfilled their aims. "I really want to underscore the base-line conclusion of the GAO report, and that is that this program has been extraordinarily valuable in ensuring that weapons scientists stay at home and work in their institutes and are not running off to countries that are proliferation concerns," she said. "It is an important program and ultimately successful." Intel, which has hired scientists at a super-secret weapons research complex in the closed city of Sarov to develop computer software for realistic three-dimensional graphics and other applications, is just one satisfied customer. "I just tear out my hair when people say this is not a successful program, because Intel got started in Sarov thanks to the IPP program and now they have got to the point where they are ready to move from about 65 (software) programmers to about 200," Gottemoeller said. She said she did not believe any U.S. aid money was going to Russian scientists developing new weapons programs, although some might have gone to scientists involved in maintaining the security and safety of Russia's existing arsenal. But she said the Energy Department would implement GAO recommendations that it tighten procedures for approving projects. The GAO also accused the Energy Department of spending more than half of its budget on U.S. laboratories engaged in evaluating the Russian projects. Gottemoeller said steps were being taken to increase spending within Russia.

* * *
    The Washington Post / Thursday, February 25, 1999; Page A20
    Russian Rocket Called Invincible
    Designer Says It Can Penetrate Any 'Potential ABM System'
    • By David Hoffman
      Washington Post Foreign Service

    Ведущий конструктор новой российской межконтинентальной баллистической ракеты заявил сегодня в интервью, что "Тополь-М" способен легко "ускользнуть" от большинства систем противоракетной обороны.

MOSCOW, Feb. 24 - The leading designer of Russia's new intercontinental ballistic missile claimed in an interview published today that the Topol-M rocket has the ability to "effectively penetrate" the antimissile systems "of any state." The comments by Yuri Solomonov, general constructor at the Moscow Institute of Heat Technology, which built the new missile, made public what other Russia experts have previously asserted privately: that the missile has a secret design that permits it to elude the most modern missile defenses. Solomonov was not specific about the missile's shield-smashing ability in an interview with the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, and his claim could not be verified. But his comments could add to the debate over the feasibility of limited missile defense systems, such as one now being developed by the United States. His remarks also could be intended as a warning to the United States, which has suggested modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow use of a limited missile defense. Russia has steadfastly opposed changing the treaty, although there have been some hints that it might be willing to accept changes as part of a larger arms-control agreement. The single-warhead, solid-fueled Topol-M is the centerpiece of Russia's hopes for preserving its nuclear deterrent in the years ahead, at a time when many of its aging missiles, submarines, aircraft and command-and-control systems are scheduled to be retired because of obsolescence and lack of money to build replacements. A first regiment of 10 new Topol-M missiles was placed on combat-duty status in December. Solomonov said the missile had "from the very beginning design capabilities enabling it to effectively penetrate a potential ABM system of any state." He said the missile has different configurations, so that it can function without special equipment against missile defenses or be outfitted to penetrate a defensive shield. "One must understand," he said, "that if you are going along the second route, you must increase spending and also change the characteristics of the missile - make it heavier, more sophisticated in construction." He said that even though the Topol-M has received high priority and personal backing from Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, funding for the project last year was only half of what was budgeted because of Russia's continuing economic problems. Solomonov said characteristics of the Topol-M - in addition to its ability to penetrate an anti-ballistic missile shield - include a high degree of accuracy, resistance to damage and the "effectiveness" of the warhead itself. He suggested that the warhead has a se lf-targeting mechanism that activates just as the warhead is approaching its target. The Topol-M is designed to replace aging "heavy" missiles with multiple warheads, which were outlawed by the START II arms treaty. The treaty has languished unratified in the lower house of the Russian parliament, and some American analysts have suggested that Russia could be allowed to modify the Topol-M into a multiple-warhead missile in exchange for changes in the ABM treaty. Solomonov said that if START II is discarded and if Russia can scrape up enough money, the Topol-M could be converted to a multiple-warhead missile. Other officials have said it could carry up to seven warheads, although they would be relatively small.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
* * *
    Foxnews / February 4, 1999 8.33 a.m. ET (13.33 GMT)
    Western Scientists Slam Russian Notion Of Reflecting Sunlight on Dark Earth
    • By Nigel Hawkes

    Западные ученые подвергают критике идею русских отражать солнечный свет на темную сторону Земли.

A bright light shining from space may startle parts of Europe and North America Thursday evening. It is part of a plan that biologists fear could disrupt life on Earth. Cosmonauts on the Mir space station will use a 25-meter wide mirror to reflect sunlight on to the dark side of the Earth, to test the feasibility of lighting Russia's northern cities during their long winter. If the experiment works, places on Mir's path will be briefly bathed in a pool of light three to four miles across and five to ten times brighter than a full Moon. Observers in Belgium should see the light at about 5:54 p.m. GMT (12:54 p.m. ET). Britain lies outside the illuminated area but if the sky is clear it may be possible to see the space station and its mirror, looking like a bright, slowly moving, double star. The project has horrified astronomers and biologists, who fear that it will obliterate the night sky and disrupt plants and animals that depend on day length to trigger their development. David Thomas, of the University College of North Wales in Bangor, believes that many ecosystems would be disrupted by a full-scale system. "Everything - sex, movement, feeding - is triggered by day length," he told BBC Wildlife magazine. The Space Regatta Consortium, led by Energia of Korolev, near Moscow, would like to launch clusters of 200-metre diameter mirrors capable of achieving 100 times the brightness of the Moon. A cluster of 12 mirrors could provide light to five large cities, the consortium claims. Another experiment in 1993 produced mixed results when it was hampered by clouds and produced illumination only half as bright as the Moon, at best. The consortium has struggled to raise the money for Thursday's experiment and last year postponed a planned deployment. Thursday, a cargo craft that delivered the new reflector for the Znamya ("Banner") project will detach itself from Mir and move to a safe distance. The reflector, made of a thin film stretched over a petal-like structure, will be deployed by the Mir crew, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev, who will watch the position of the spot of light as it crosses the Earth. The orbit will take it over Saratov in Russia, Poltova in Ukraine, then Liege, Frankfurt, Winnipeg, Quebec City, Calgary and Devil's Lake, Alberta, according to the magazine Sky & Telescope, whose senior editor, J. Kelly Beatty, advised: "Most orbiting satellites are quite faint and go unnoticed. But this one could get so bright it will be impossible to miss. Those who aren't expecting it may think they have spotted a UFO." Many scientists outside the consortium are hoping that the experiment will fail. "I cringe to think we could lose the night sky because of all these companies with brain-dead ideas," Daniel Green of Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said.

© comments@foxnews.com
* * *
    The Associated Press / Tuesday February 23 5:46 PM ET
    Israel To Use Russian Scientists

    Израиль будет пытаться помогать российским ученым и вовлекать их в совместные исследования. Тогда у них не будет искушения зарабатывать деньги, содействуя Ирану в создании оружия массового поражения.

MOSCOW (AP) - Israel will try to involve Russia's under-funded scientists in joint research projects so they will not be tempted to make money by helping Iran develop weapons of mass destruction, a visiting Israeli cabinet minister said Tuesday. Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Natan Sharansky, a former Russian dissident, praised plans to improve controls on exporting weapons technology, saying that the tightening "should be continued and even raised, but that alone won't be enough." The alleged cooperation by Russian scientists and engineers with Iran "essentially has an economic cause," Sharansky said, according to the Interfax news agency. He promised that Israel "will work to involve Russia in joint American-Israeli or purely Israeli projects - naturally, of a peaceful character." Russia's scientific programs have suffered severe financial troubles since the 1991 Soviet collapse, and many researchers, who often go unpaid for months, have been forced to look for jobs abroad to make a living. Russia has denied U.S. accusations that its private companies are helping Iran build weapons of mass destruction - a worry that has led Washington to impose sanctions on 12 Russian scientific institutes. But Russia's security chief and presidential chief of staff Nikolai Bordyuzha conceded earlier this month that Russia's controls against leaks of weapons technologies to Iran may be insufficient and need to be improved. Sharansky, who heads an immigrant party in Israel, has made frequent visits to Moscow in recent years to promote closer economic and political ties between the two countries. Sharansky spent 10 years in Soviet prisons after he was jailed in 1977 on trumped-up charges that he was a CIA spy. He was one of the Soviet Union's best-known political prisoners. The Soviet authorities bent to strong international pressure to release Sharansky, and in 1987 stripped him of Soviet citizenship and deported him.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
* * *
    The Associated Press / Tuesday February 23 4:20 AM ET
    Russian Scientists Getting US Money
    Российские ученые получают деньги от США
    • By H.JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. government program to find peaceful work for nuclear scientists from the former Soviet Union has been far from a success, with less than a third of the $63.5 million actually getting to the scientists, a congressional audit says. The General Accounting Office review also found that some of the money may have been used by scientists who continue to work on Russia's weapons programs and in some cases possibly chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. The report was sought by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said Monday the findings put the 5-year-old program in jeopardy. "It is absolutely unacceptable for the Clinton administration to donate the U.S. taxpayers' money to Russian scientists who spend their time working on poison gas, biological agents and new nuclear weapons designs for the Russian government," Helms said. "That must stop." Leonard Spector, director of arms control and nonproliferation at the Energy Department, said in response to the GAO findings that the report provided "valuable insight ... to better manage this valuable program." But the department in a detailed response took exception to the GAO finding that U.S. funds were being used to support Russian weapons programs or development of biological or chemical weapons. "The implicit criticism of the program is that this practice is subsidizing Russian weapon-of-mass-destruction activities. We believe this implication is misplaced," the department said. "We have been particularly sensitive to the dual-use potential of projects" when they involve scientists working in the chemical and biological institutes. But the GAO auditors said while more than half of the money was spent on U.S. efforts to oversee and monitor the program, U.S. officials don't always know which scientists are receiving assistance or whether key scientists are being targeted. The report raised particular concern that some of the assistance was funneled to scientists who continued to work on Russian nuclear weapons programs or chemical and biological programs. "Some scientists currently working on Russia's weapons of mass destruction are receiving program funds," said the auditors, adding that these projects "may not be adequately reviewed by U.S. officials." The GAO found that between 1994 and mid-1998 the U.S. program spent $63.5 million ostensibly to help nuclear weapons scientists find nonmilitary work in the aftermath of the Cold War. About 85 percent of the program was aimed at scientists in Russia. But the GAO said only about $23.7 million, or 37 percent, went to the scientific institutes, mostly in Russia, and even then "the amount of money that reached the scientists ... is unknown." It said an unknown amount of money went "for overhead charges, taxes and other fees" at the institutes. While the program was aimed at funneling assistance into Russia and the other former republics, more than half of the money - $32.2 million over the four years - was spent in the United States by the Energy Department's weapons labs, and another $7.6 million went to support U.S. companies participating in the program. The program is aimed at identifying commercial opportunities for the scientists, who have fallen on economic hard times. But of 79 projects reviewed, "none was a commercial success" although some demonstrated potential, the GAO said.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
* * *
    The Washington Post / Tuesday, February 23, 1999; Page A07
    GAO Criticizes Effort to Keep Russian Weapons Scientists at Home
    • By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer

    Главное Бюджетно-контрольное Управление США критикует усилия, направленные на удержание дома российских ученых, занятых разработкой вооружений.

The General Accounting Office yesterday criticized a four-year-old program aimed at developing nonmilitary jobs for Russian weapons scientists at home so they do not leave to work for Iran, Iraq or other nations unfriendly to the United States. The GAO said in a report that Russian scientists received only 37 percent of the $63.5 million spent through June 1998 on the program, which is run by the Department of Energy. About 51 percent of the money went to DOE national laboratories, whose personnel administered and oversaw the individual projects. In addition, GAO investigators said, some program funds in the 79 projects they specifically reviewed went to Russian scientists still working on weapons programs and other support went to nine so-called "dual-use" projects that "could unintentionally provide useful defense-related benefits to Russian and other [former Soviet republic] scientists." But GAO investigators said officials at Russian institutes they visited reported that they were "not aware of any scientists [immigrating] to countries of concern to provide weapons-related services," and DOE officials said the program was considered a success because it has temporarily employed "thousands of scientists at about 170 institutes and organizations throughout Russia and other Newly Independent States." Overall, however, the GAO concluded, "Although in general the program is employing [Russian] weapons scientists on a part-time basis, it has not achieved its broader nonproliferation goal of long-term employment through the commercialization of projects." The report recommended that DOE review the national laboratories' roles, require more accurate data on the Russian scientists being supported and hold off for a time on expanding a new program to support nuclear scientists living in the "nuclear cities" where Russian warheads are designed and produced. The report drew quick support from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who originally had requested the review. Helms said in a prepared statement that failure of DOE to undertake the suggested reforms will "jeopardize continued support" of the program and also "cast doubt" on Clinton administration plans to put a further $4.5 billion into expanded nonproliferation programs in Russia. A Helms aide said the senator would like to see the programs brought under some control and transferred to the State Department because, like foreign aid, "it has a foreign policy goal." Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), ranking minority member of Helms's committee, was "pleased that the DOE program kept some Russian institutes from shutting down, which would have forced the scientists to go elsewhere," an aide said. "That is the goal of the program," he added. Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), whose district contains DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, returned from Russia on Sunday after inspecting elements of the program. She said the report "makes some good recommendations on how to strengthen accountability" but gets "derailed in the findings." She also said she was concerned that those, like Helms, who oppose the program may be doing it "for partisan reasons." Energy Undersecretary Ernest J. Moniz said yesterday that "imperfect though it is, the program is succeeding in keeping Russian scientists at home." He said that one reason more money was spent on DOE lab personnel than on Russian scientists is the differential in pay. He pointed out that "the average salary of DOE scientists is 25 to 30 times the salary of a Russian scientist." The report noted that the average Russian scientist received about $200 a month in U.S. dollars before the recent devaluation of the ruble. GAO investigators focused in part on the long-term goal of the program, which is to put Russian scientists to work on nonmilitary programs that would result in high-tech jobs in the commercial area. In reviewing 79 of 413 projects underway by late 1998, they "determined that none was a commercial success, although several showed commercial potential." The investigators also reviewed administration of each project and found that DOE lab officials do not know "how many scientists are receiving the funds or whether the key scientists and institutes are being targeted." One problem, they found, was that DOE program guidance was unclear whether funds should go "exclusively to former or previously employed weapons scientists." The GAO was particularly critical of DOE lab employees who served as principal investigators, supposedly monitoring projects closely and "helping ensure accountability." The report found the DOE monitors "did not believe their role included verifying the number of scientists working on a project or trying to determine if the scientists were performing weapons-related work while receiving funding."

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
* * *
    Reuters / Tuesday February 23 2:21 AM ET
    Report Raps U.S. Program To Help Russian Scientists

    Ученые, работающие над созданием оружия массового поражения, могут поддержать попытки администрации Клинтона помочь России адаптировать военные технологии к применению в мирных целях. Главное Бюджетно-контрольное Управление Конгресса нашло проблемы в двух американских программах, направленных на прекращение разработки ядерного, биологического и химического оружия. В отчете Управления говорится, что около 40 млн. долларов ушло лабораториям Департамента энергетики США и непонятно сколько денег в действительности досталось российским ученым на поддержку их работы над мирными проектами.

WASHINGTON - The Clinton administration's effort to help Russia adapt weapons technologies to nonmilitary uses may be supporting scientists working on weapons of mass destruction, Congress' auditors said in a report Monday. Congress' General Accounting Office found other problems in two U.S. programs to stem nuclear, biological and chemical weapons from the former Soviet Union by supporting alternative work for its laboratories and scientists. Instead of reaching Russian institutions and scientists, about $40 million has gone to U.S. Energy Department laboratories to administer the program, the GAO report said. That is most of the money spent on the program so far. Scientific institutions in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union have received about $24 million, the report said. The GAO report said it was uncertain how much of the funds actually went to scientists to encourage them to work on peaceful civilian projects instead of potentially more lucrative weapons projects. The effort to stem weapons production may cost more than $600 million over the next five years, and "likely will be a subsidy program for Russia for many years," it said. While the report said the program appeared successful in employing weapons scientists on civilian projects, it said it had not met broader goals of commercializing those projects to replace weapons production. The report also said program officials do not always know whether key scientists and institutions are getting funds. But contrary to the program's goals, it said some scientists currently working on Russia's weapons of mass destruction program are benefiting from the funds. The GAO also said some defense-related information may have been relayed unintentionally through some projects. "It is absolutely unacceptable for the Clinton administration to donate the U.S. taxpayer's money to Russian scientists who spend their time working on poison gas, biological agents and new nuclear weapons designs for the Russian government. That must stop," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms said in a statement. The North Carolina Republican said the administration should adopt reforms urged by the GAO, including reviewing the role of the national laboratories in administering the program, requiring more data on the scientists and institutions that get funds and seeing that scientists working on mass destruction weapons programs are not eligible.

* * *
    BBC News / Thursday, February 18, 1999
    The technique is cheap and involves removing tissue from the brain
    Brain operation for addicts
    Операция на мозге для наркоманов

    Российские хирурги научились делать операции, помогающие избавиться от привычки к героину. Операция заключается в том, что в черепе пациента просверливается отверстие и удаляется участок мозга, отвечающий за наркотическую зависимость. Операция опробована уже на 100 пациентах. Достаточно дешевая технология обеспечивает успех в 80% случаев.

Russian surgeons are claiming high cure rates for a controversial treatment for heroin addiction which involves drilling holes in patients' heads and removing parts of their brain. Doctors at the St Petersburg Institute of the Human Brain say their technique is cheap and has an 80% success rate. The operation involves drilling holes into the brain and removing tiny parts of the brain which they claim govern drug addiction. So far the surgeons have tried the technique out on more than 100 patients. Their high success rates mean the technique could soon attract worldwide interest.

    Radical breakthrough

Professor Svyatoslav Medvedev, who leads the Institute's team, says the operation is a radical breakthrough in the treatment of heroin addicts. "I don't know any other methods which can successfully remove this psychological dependency. "During the operation we have full cooperation and full voice contact with patients. We never use general anaesthetic, only local anaesthetic." The ability to communicate with patients during the operation is intended to help ensure surgeons do not damage other vital parts of the brain. Working slowly, they use waifer-thin needles to probe brain tissue as well as a compressor adapted from a car foot pump. The surgeons do not boast that the treatment is a miracle cure. They say if patients return to drugs their addiction may come back. Also, they cannot control the social environment in which patients live.

    Drug problems

St Petersburg faces huge economic problems and drug use there is out of control. Last year, two tonnes of heroin were found in port of St Petersburg. But several former patients back the operation. Sveta says she feels like a new woman two months after she went to the Institute. She said: "This operation was my last chance. All my previous attempts had ended in failure. Since the surgery I have not felt the need for heroin at all."

* * *
    Reuters / Friday February 19 1999
    U.S., Russian Experts To Tackle Millennium Bug
    • By Adam Tanner

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. and Russian military experts agreed Friday they should act together to tackle the millennium computer bug amid uncertainty as to whether the onset of the year 2000 would wreak havoc on Russia's nuclear arsenal. The millennium bug, or Y2K problem, caused by outdated computer software that may mistake the year 2000 for 1900, was one focus of meetings of a U.S. Defense Consultative Group that joins military officials of the two countries, officials said. The meetings, led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Threat Reduction Edward Warner and Colonel-General Valery Manilov, a deputy chief of Russia's general staff, ended with a pledge to work together in the future. "It's still at a fairly basic level, talking about coordination and cooperation and areas of common interest," U.S. embassy spokesman Michael Hurley said. "It's not like they are crossing the 'T's and dotting the 'I's on an agreement." Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Kostyshin said: "On computer issues, they reached an understanding about the need to take concrete measures on achieving goals...We are not giving any details of this agreement." U.S. and Russian officials are expected to meet again in March to discuss the issue. Russia has begun to acknowledge that its military may be affected by the Y2K problem, but it is unclear where the cash-strapped country would get the funds it would need to tackle it, or how it could do so in only ten months' time. Alexander Krupnov, the head of Russia's State Communications Committee which is working on the Y2K problem, said Russia needed $2 billion to $3 billion to solve it. "There is a problem and we are dealing with it," said a spokesman for Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces, which oversees the country's vast nuclear arsenal. He gave no further details. Some experts have warned that if computers run into errors as the year 2000 arrives, an accidental nuclear alert could be triggered, though the Russian Defense Ministry says there is no chance of missiles being launched by mistake. U.S. officials say that just by attending meetings the Russians have begun to show a greater awareness of the issue. "Most of the time when we ask questions it's sort of like 'Oh, you're a spy,"' said one U.S. official. "Just the fact that they were willing to talk about this is a step forward." "I don't think they have seriously looked at the problem and we are forcing them to look at the problem to see if it exists and how serious is it." Defense Secretary William Cohen met his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeyev in June and discussed the Y2K issue, but only in the last few months has Moscow acknowledged a wider problem in its aging military complex. A recent report of the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based private group, said all nuclear states should take action to prevent disaster from the millennium bug. "Because of the high level of vigilance that currently attends strategic command and control operations, care must be taken to ensure that Y2K-induced glitches are not mistaken for malevolent assaults by adversaries," the group wrote. It recommended training military officials about symptoms of the bug if it hits, reducing alert status to lessen the chance of accidental attacks and back-up computer systems.

© Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
* * *
    Electronic Telegraph / 11 February 1999
    Russia said let there be light, and there wasn't
    Russian "moon" sinks in the Pacific
    Российская "Луна" потонула в Тихом океане
    • By Robert Uhlig

AN audacious Russian attempt to follow the biblical pronouncement of "Let there be light" by using an artificial moon was abandoned by cosmonauts on board the Mir space station yesterday. "It just stopped, that's it," said Gennady Padalka, one of two crew members as he looked out of the craft's window at the exotic space mirror which failed to unfurl despite repeated efforts by the cosmonauts. The 83 ft wide mirror was to have reflected a beam of sunlight up to four miles wide across a swathe of North America, Europe and Russia, with the ultimate dream of bringing an end to the three-month darkness of Siberia's Arctic winter. Mir's cosmonauts started the Znamya (Banner) 2.5 experiment just before 10am when they released from the station a Progress cargo ship with a folded mirror attached. Just over an hour later, they sent a remote command to unfold the mirror's panels, made of a thin membrane covered by aluminium. The segments of the silver flower-like structure unfolded only partially, apparently snagging on the cargo ship's antenna. Padalka and fellow cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev then blasted the Progress ship's engines by remote control, jarring the mirror. After they manipulated the antenna, the mirror unfurled slightly further, but became stuck again. A Russian space agency official said: "It was not a crew mistake. It appears to be a programming error." Sceptics condemned the experiment as a hare-brained scheme doomed to fail. But the designers believe that a series of mirrors or one giant mirror could harness the Sun to overcome darkness and even help boost agriculture by lengthening the day. The cosmonauts had planned to carry out tests lasting six minutes each, in which the cosmic mirror was to light up the Earth with an intensity of between five and 10 times that of a full moon. The circle of light was to have moved across the face of the Earth at around 16 mph. A similar experiment was successfully carried out on a lesser scale in February 1993, when observers in south-west France described the passage of a smaller space mirror as looking "like diamonds in the sky". The latest experiment may be tried again today if Russian space experts come up with a solution to the problem overnight. A Russian space agency official said that if no breakthrough was made, the Progress cargo ship and the mirror would be abandoned. The scheme has been condemned by environmental campaigners who fear that plans eventually to send up to 200 mirrors into space to illuminate towns in the Russian Arctic Circle could confuse hibernating and migrating animals. The Royal Astronomical Society yesterday repeated its grave concerns about the experiment. The president, Prof David Williams of University College, London, wrote on behalf of the society to the Director of the Space Regatta Consortium, the partnership of seven Russian organisations funding the experiment. The letter points out that astronomers in many countries have developed, at huge financial and intellectual cost, large ground-based observatories at remote dark sites and adds that such studies will be put at risk by the light pollution of the night sky that would inevitably result from the programme.

© Copyright Telegraph Group Limited 1998

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Посещение N 1781 с 06.04.1998