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  First Woman Space Tourist Arrives at International Space StationSeptember 21, 2006 09:57 Anousheh Ansari, the first woman space tourist, arrived at the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz craft, NASA said.

The vehicle carrying Ansari, 40, an Iranian-born American, NASA's Michael Lopez-Alegria and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, docked with the station at 4:34 a.m. Florida time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement on its Web site.

Ansari and her colleagues were welcomed by the station's three-man crew after floating through a hatch linking the spacecraft and the outpost, which orbits about 240 miles (386 kilometers) above Earth. The Soyuz launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 18.

Ansari will spend 10 days in space, returning on Sept. 28 with two of the station's current residents, NASA's Jeff Williams and Russia's Commander Pavel Vinogradov. Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria will remain on board, along with Germany's Thomas Reiter, who has been in orbit since July.

 
  Atlantis’ Success Paves Way For Europe, Japan MissionsSeptember 21, 2006 09:55 I've been inside Atlantis on the ground and I'm glad to see that she made it back after a successful mission.

Extra sleep and loud applause for the Atlantis shuttle crew, huge relief for NASA’s shuttle programme - and joyful anticipation among European and Japanese space officials: that’s the mood after the completion of the first major construction mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in nearly four years.


The faultless landing Thursday morning of Atlantis at Cape Canaveral in Florida signalled the final push to complete the building of the station, circling 360 kilometres above the Earth.

After the deadly disintegration of NASA’s Columbia shuttle in February 2003, construction on the station came to a near standstill.

Shuttles were grounded until new safety precautions and designs were developed, leaving the workload to the smaller Russian Soyuz craft that were unable to carry heavy cargo.
  Thai Army Coup Ousts GovernmentSeptember 19, 2006 12:24 The Thai armed forces dismissed the government and revoked the country's 1997 constitution on Wednesday after a coup to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

A coup spokesman, Retired Lieutenant-General Prapart Sakuntanak, announced the dismissal in a televised address after the army took control of Bangkok without a shot being fired and announced a commission to reform the constitution. The prime minister declared a state of emergency from New York.

 
  Earthlike Planets May Be CommonSeptember 08, 2006 10:05 Earthlike planets covered with deep oceans that could harbor life may be found in as many as a third of solar systems discovered outside of our own, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

These solar systems feature gas giants known as "Hot Jupiters," which orbit extremely close to their parent stars -- even closer than Mercury to our sun, University of Colorado researcher Sean Raymond said.

The close-orbiting gassy planets may help encourage the formations of smaller, rocky, Earthlike planets, they reported in the journal Science.

"We now think there is a new class of ocean-covered, and possibly habitable, planets in solar systems unlike our own," Raymond said in a statement.

The team from Colorado, Penn State University and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Maryland ran computer simulations of various types of solar systems forming.

The gas giants may help rocky planets form close to the suns, and may help pull in icy bodies that deliver water to the young planets, they found.

"These gas giants cause quite a ruckus," Raymond said.
  Blair's Statement Fails To Dampen DiscontentSeptember 07, 2006 11:06 Tony Blair’s announcement today failed to quell the discontent among Labour MPs over his leadership.

Doug Henderson, a close ally of Gordon Brown, said it was not clear that the electorate now knew any more about the Prime Minister’s intentions than they did before his statement.

Mr Henderson said: “It does not seem to me that the public know any more about the Prime Minister’s retirement plans.

“People keep saying to me that the Labour Party must have a clear direction forward with clear priorities and a new leader before the elections in 2007.”