The European Space Agency signed final contracts with Thales Alenia Space Italy for work on a pair of missions to assess if the planet Mars has or ever had life, officials said at the Paris Airshow this week.
Until last year, the ExoMars program was a joint project between ESA and the U.S. space agency NASA. But NASA dropped out, citing budget problems.
Russian choir of 4,335 performs in St. Petersburg
More than 4,000 Russian singers have performed outdoors in St. Petersburg with the aim of setting a world record for the largest choir.
The 4,335 singers of all ages and from nearly all of the city’s professional and amateur choirs sang from the steps of St. Isaac’s Cathedral before thousands of spectators under an intermittent rain.
The spectators, who closed their umbrellas with the start of Sunday’s performance, sang along during the one-hour concert.
The 14 songs performed included some of the most popular and patriotic songs of Russia and the Soviet Union, including a hymn celebrating the country’s victory in World War II.
Yulia Alshenina, whose daughter sang in the choir, said the concert was so moving she could not hold back her tears.
Obama, Putin set up two rounds of talks
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday set up two rounds of talks in coming months in a bid to move past a fight over human rights and seek common ground on issues such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.
The announcement of an Obama-Putin summit in early September, added to plans for a meeting at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June, suggested the two leaders want to revive the momentum from a reset in relations despite tensions over the so-called Magnitsky List.
Pair of vases man Inherited then packed away found to be rare Russian antiques, sold for $2.7 million
Randy Buttram never gave much thought to the two 4½-foot tall ornate vases that graced the elegant main entrance of his grandparents’ Oklahoma City mansion and later were displayed around a fireplace facade at his parents’ home.
The vases, which had been packed away for around a decade, turned out to be rare items from Russia dating back nearly two centuries — to the reign of Nicholas I.
They also carried immense value, fetching $2.7 million Thursday in a private sale about a week before they were to be auctioned.
Putin says Russia to launch first manned space flight from its soil in 2018
President Vladimir Putin told astronauts in orbit on Friday that Russia will send up the first manned flights from its own soil in 2018, using a new launch pad he said will help the once-pioneering space power explore deep space and the moon.
Speaking by video link with the International Space Station’s crew from the building site, Putin said it will be open to use by the United States and Europe - playing up cooperation on the anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 flight, which set off the Cold War space race.
The Concertgebouw Royal Orchestra from Amsterdam will make a tour in Russia this autumn.
This event is a part of the cultural program of the Year of Russia in Holland and of Holland in Russia.
The orchestra’s Chief Conductor Mariss Jansons says that the orchestra will play two concerts in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg. The program includes Beethoven’s Third Concerto and Richard Straus’ symphony “Life of a Hero”.
The Concertgebouw Orchestra is the leading orchestra of the Netherlands. In 1988, when it was 100 years old, it received the title “Royal” from Queen Beatrix.
Mariss Jansons is the orchestra’s Chief Conductor since 2004.
Russian spaceship reaches station in record time
AP: Soyuz, a Russian capsule carrying three astronauts, docked to the International Space Station after a six-hour trip on March 29, 2013. It was the shortest, most direct trip ever take to the space station.
The spaceship carried Chris Cassidy, a U.S. astronaut, and Russian astronauts Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin. The three will join the current crew of three already at the space station and will spend five months in space.
Photo: The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz TMA-08M space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Friday, March 29, 2013. (AP Photo/NASA, Carla Cioffi)
Russia meets with Syrian envoy on peace plan
Russia is seeking to revive last summer’s failed peace plan for Syria during talks with a top Syrian diplomat and the international envoy on the crisis, the foreign ministry said Thursday.
U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday and is to visit Moscow this weekend, spurring speculation that there is a new plan to end the country’s bloody civil war that has killed more than 40,000 people.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich denied reports of the existence of a new U.S.-Russian peace initiative, saying Russia is focused instead on fulfilling the plan brokered by Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, which was approved at an international conference in Geneva in June.
"We are trying to find a solution on the basis of the Geneva plan," Lukashevich said. "We continue to believe that there is no alternative to that document in trying to find a settlement in Syria."
The plan envisioned an open-ended cease-fire to be enforced by hundreds of U.N. monitors, followed by talks on a political transition. It called for establishing a transitional government of national unity that could include members of Assad’s government, the opposition and other groups to oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.
But, on Russia’s insistence, it left the door open for Assad being part of the transition process and was rejected by the opposition. After an initial decrease in violence, the proposed cease-fire collapsed and Syria descended even further into bloodshed.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad met Thursday with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to pave the way for Brahimi’s visit. Mekdad is expected to hold talks with other top Russian diplomats later.
Russia has used its veto right alongside China at the U.N. Security Council to protect its old ally from international sanctions, but it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the Syrian strongman.
Lavrov said last week that Moscow would welcome any country’s asylum offer to Assad, but has no intention of sheltering him if he steps down.
At the same time, Moscow has given no signal of a shift in its firm opposition to international sanctions against Assad and calls for him to step down.
Lukashevich said again Thursday that calls for Assad’s ouster run contrary to the Geneva plan and criticized the West for backing the opposition push for the regime’s ouster.
He reaffirmed that Moscow has plans to evacuate its citizens if the situation worsens, but rejected reports that a Russian navy squadron en route to the Mediterranean has such a mission.
International crew of three reaches orbiting space station
A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying a multinational crew of three arrived at the International Space Station on Friday, setting the stage for a Canadian for the first time to take command of the orbital research base.
The spacecraft carrying Chris Hadfield from the Canadian Space Agency, NASA’s Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko blasted off from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome on Wednesday and parked at the station’s Rassvet docking module at 9:09 a.m. EST as the ships sailed 255 miles above northern Kazakhstan.
"The Soyuz sleigh has pulled into port at the International Space Station with a holiday gift of three new crewmembers," said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.
The trio joined station commander Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Evgeni Tarelkin, who are two months into a planned six-month mission.
Ford is due to turn over command of the $100 billion research complex, a project of 15 nations, in mid-March to Hadfield, who will become the first Canadian to lead a space expedition.
"This is a big event for me personally," Hadfield said in a preflight interview. "It takes a lot of work, a lot of focus. It’s something that I can look back on as an accomplishment and a threshold of my life."
Command of the station, which has been continuously occupied since November 2000, typically rotates between an American and a Russian crewmember.
In 2009, Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne broke that cycle to become the first European Space Agency commander. Japan’s Koichi Wakata is training to lead the Expedition 39 crew in March 2014.
All three of the station’s new residents have made previous spaceflights. Hadfield, 53, is a veteran of two space shuttle missions. Marshburn, 52, has one previous shuttle mission and Roman Romanenko, 41, a second-generation cosmonaut, served as a flight engineer aboard the space station in 2009.
The station crew will have some time off to celebrate several winter holidays in orbit - Christmas, the New Year and then Orthodox Christmas - before tackling a list of about 150 science experiments and station maintenance, including two spacewalks.
Among the studies will be medical research into how the human cardiovascular system changes in microgravity.
"When you live in an environment like that, the heart actually shrinks. Your blood vessel response changes. It actually sets us up to cardiovascular problems," Hadfield said. "We have a sequence of experiments that’s taking blood samples and monitoring our body while we’re exercising and doing different things to try and understand what’s going on with our cardiovascular system," he said.
The research is expected to help doctors unravel the aging process on Earth, which is similar in many respects to what happens to the human body in weightlessness.
In addition to medical research, the space station serves as a laboratory for fluid physics and other microgravity sciences, a platform for several astronomical observatories and a testbed for robotics and other technologies.
US-Russian crew picked for one-year space station flight
(Photo: NASA / Bill Ingalls)
A veteran NASA space commander and Russian cosmonaut have signed on for the ultimate space voyage: a yearlong trip on the International Space Station.
American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will launch on the one-year space station flight in spring 2015 and return to Earth in spring 2016, NASA officials announced Monday. They will begin their mission training in early 2013.
Russian ballet comes in from the cold
Russia’s legendary National Ballet performs Swan Lake and Don Quixote in Bogota, Colombia. Tara Cleary reports.
Moscow hosts 34th International Contemporary Music Festival
On Wednesday, October 31, the 34th International Contemporary Music Festival “Moscow Autumn” opens in the Moscow Composer House. The festival’s motto is “making contemporary music more accessible”.
Outstanding Russian composer Edison Denisov called this festival the most advanced composer event as it has always provided an opportunity for composers working in different styles and different manners to express themselves. In particular, the festival welcomed many Russian avant-garde composers, whose music was successfully performed abroad but almost never played in Russia. It was at this festival where many pieces by Edison Debnisov and other outstanding nonconformist composers such as Alfred Schnitke and Sofia Gubaidulina were performed for the first time. Performing only new compositions has always been the festival’s main principle, Oleg Galakhov, head of the Moscow Composer House, says.
"There is no other festival where only new music is performed. At least there is no other large scale event like this with the same concept. The festival covers all the genres of contemporary music, different styles and methods of music writing. In order to be included in the program of the Moscow autumn festival a music piece must contain elements of a path breaking work, of an onward movement towards unexplored areas of music composition."
There 235 music pieces in the program of the current festival ranging from symphonic music to jazz, from compositions for the choir and Russian folk instruments to electro-acoustic music and multimedia projects. However this year the festival is focused on opera marking the 100-anniversary since the birth of the outstanding Russia opera director Boris Pokrovsky. The Moscow Chamber Music Theater that he founded is to present a one-month program of contemporary operas. All 40 years of its existence the Chamber Theater has had strong affinity with contemporary music, Oleg Galakhov says.
"More than 50 operas by contemporary composers were staged in that theater though those were mainly Moscow composers, many of whom wrote especially for this theater. But all those productions were just brilliant."
The history of the “Moscow Autumn” as an international festival began in 1994 when an outstanding French composer of the Greek origin Iannis Xenakis attended the festival. Since then, visits of foreign composers have grown into extended concert programs. This year program includes foreign sets called “Finnish visit” and “Italian visit”. Another long awaited event is the Russian German cross-cultural program in which Russian composers will present their music based on German themes and visa versa.
Scientists are hailing the discovery of the remains of a 30,000-year-old frozen mammoth, found by an 11-year-old boy in northern Russia.
It took a week to excavate the animal using a steamer to thaw the permafrost. Scientists hope the discovery may help them find an answer to why the extinct beasts were hunch-backed.
Collection of pre-1917 films returned to Russia
Lenfilm Studios has received a collection of 350 Russian silent movies made before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the St. Petersburg City Culture Committee said on Friday.
The collection was handed over by Steven Krams, president of Magna-Tech Electronic Co. Inc. The films were taken out of Russia during the Civil War. Krams decided to return the films to Russia as a sign of respect for Lenfilm Studios’ contribution to cinematography.
According to Lenfilm board chairman Eduard Pichugin, the collection will arrive in Russia by December. The films will be digitized and prepared for screening.
Lenfilm, Russia’s second largest film studio, was founded in 1918.