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Entries in probe (4)

Thursday
Jul052012

London Police Arrest Six on Suspicion of Terrorism

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Authorities in London have arrested six possible terrorists -- subduing one with a stun-gun -- as part of a months-long international terror probe.

The investigation that prompted Thursday's arrests by armed police has so far revealed no known connection to the Olympic Games set to begin later this month, although several arrests occurred near the main Olympic venue in London, according to a police statement and intelligence sources.

Separately, as authorities searched eight homes on Thursday, police near Birmingham stopped a budget intercity bus after a passenger spotted a man pouring something into his bag, and then saw smoke coming out.

In that incident, on the M6 Motorway, armed police escorted passengers off the bus in what was intially described as a "counter-terror response."  Staffordshire Police later issued a statement saying they are not treating this as a counter terrorism incident.

As armed police officers and bomb-sniffing dogs continued their investigation, passengers remained seated on the motorway, which was closed in both directions.  At least 12 fire trucks were on scene supporting the police operation.  The fire department appeared to have erected inflatable "Hazmat" tents.

The incident was unconnected to the arrests, authorities stated.

In the terror probe investigation, five men and one woman, ages 21 to 29, were arrested in several locations across London by officers from Scotland Yard's Counter Terrorism Command.

The arrests were the "executive action" phase of a long-running investigation led by British intelligence service MI-5.

The men and woman were all arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000, police said.  They were taken to a southeast London police station where they are in custody.

Authorities would not disclose further details of the case that might compromise their strategy for interviewing the suspects.  What they seized in the searches is unknown.

Police said the arrests in London are related to a possible plot involving Islamist extremists and potential targets in the United Kingdom.  The incident and arrests occurred days after two people were picked up on suspicion of plotting an attack on the London Olympic canoeing venue.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan152012

Phobos-Grunt: Failed Russian Mars Probe Falls to Earth

Comstock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Somewhere, probably in the southern Pacific between New Zealand and South America, the failed Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe returned ignominiously to Earth Sunday, said the Russian space agency Roscosmos and the U.S. Space Command.

The agencies said they believed the ship reentered the atmosphere around 1 p.m. ET.

They could not say with precision where the spacecraft might have fallen from orbit. Its orbital track during the likely reentry period went over the southern Pacific, South America, parts of Europe and southern Asia. But in a sense, it had already crashed -- at least figuratively -- on Roscosmos.

Phobos-Grunt was launched toward Mars in November, but radio contact was lost and it never got beyond low Earth orbit. Worried attempts to get it to fire its booster engines to head to Mars -- or at least into higher orbit -- all failed.

Roscosmos predicted in November that most of ship would burn up in the atmosphere, but 20 to 30 chunks of charred debris, weighing about 450 lbs., could make it to the surface.

The world's space agencies agreed that any one person's chances of getting hit by debris were tiny -- something like 1 in 20 trillion, based on the spacecraft's orbit and the amount of debris that might survive re-entry. The chances that of the 7 billion people on Earth, one of them, somewhere, could be hit were something like 1 in 3,000.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Spent satellites fall from orbit all the time, though most burn up completely before anything reaches Earth's surface. There have been a few recent -- but harmless -- exceptions: NASA's UARS satellite sent debris crashing into the Pacific in September, and the German ROSAT space telescope scattered debris in the Indian Ocean in October.

The worst known damage caused by Phobos-Grunt was to Russian pride. Roscosmos chief, Vladimir Popovkin, went so far as to suggest that someone had sabotaged the probe.

"It would not be desirable to accuse anybody, but today there are very powerful means of influence for space vehicles which cannot be excluded," he said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia, translated by ABC News.

He gave no specifics, and sources said the U.S. government, mildly offended, stopped helping the Russians track their errant probe in its final days.

More likely, said space analysts, it was the Russians' own fault.

"Certainly, the quality control was lacking," said Charles Vick, who follows Russian space efforts for GlobalSecurity.org, "and testing the spacecraft ... was never done due to lack of funds."

Phobos-Grunt (Phobos is one of Mars' two moons; Grunt is Russian for ground) had an ambitious mission -- to orbit Mars, land on Phobos, scoop up a soil sample, and bring it home for study. Astronauts have brought back moon rocks, and an American probe returned minute samples from the tail of a comet in 2006, but Mars has been seen as the next destination in space.

The Martian moon Phobos as seen by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2008.

Phobos, only 15 miles across, may be an asteroid that was captured by the gravity of Mars eons ago. Scientists would very much like to know what it is made of.

NASA's Opportunity rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, is still working, and a new, larger one, called Curiosity, is on the way there. In the half century since the space age began, Russia has tried and failed 19 times to reach Mars.

"Truly, a travesty for the exploration of space," said Vick. "A loss for all concerned."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan132012

Phobos Grunt: Failed Russian Mars Probe Falling to Earth

Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Somewhere, most likely Sunday or Monday, the failed Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars probe will return ignominiously to Earth, crashing -- at least figuratively -- on the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

Most of it will burn up in the atmosphere, but 20 to 30 chunks of charred debris, weighing about 450 lbs., could make it to the surface, said Roscosmos. Where it might crash will not be clear until just hours before it actually happens.

Phobos-Grunt was launched toward Mars in November, but radio contact was lost and it never got beyond low Earth orbit.

The world's space agencies agreed that any one person's chances of getting hit by debris are tiny -- something like 1 in 20 trillion, based on the spacecraft's orbit and the amount of debris that might survive re-entry. The chances that of the 7 billion people on Earth, one of them, somewhere, could be hit are more like 1 in 3,000.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Spent satellites fall from orbit all the time, though most burn up completely before anything reaches Earth's surface. There have been a few recent -- but harmless -- exceptions: NASA's UARS satellite sent debris crashing into the Pacific in September, and the German ROSAT space telescope scattered debris in the Indian Ocean in October.

So the worst damage was to Russian pride. Roscosmos chief, Vladimir Popovkin, went so far as to suggest that someone had sabotaged the probe.

"It would not be desirable to accuse anybody, but today there are very powerful means of influence for space vehicles which cannot be excluded," he said in an interview with the Russian daily Izvestia, translated by ABC News. He gave no specifics, and sources say the U.S. government, mildly offended, stopped helping the Russians track their errant probe in its final days.

More likely, said space analysts, it was the Russians' own fault.

"Certainly the quality control was lacking," said Charles Vick, who follows Russian space efforts for GlobalSecurity.org, "and testing the spacecraft ... was never done due to lack of funds."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov092011

Will It Strike Earth? Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars Probe Stuck in Earth's Orbit

NASA(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) -- A Russian space probe called Phobos-Grunt -- launched on an ambitious mission to return soil from one of the moons of Mars -- is instead stuck in Earth's orbit after its booster rocket's upper stage failed to send it on its way Tuesday night.

Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, is now trying anxiously to find the problem and see if the ship can be sent on its way to Mars -- or whether it is lost a few hundred miles above Earth's surface, destined eventually to fall ignominiously back into the atmosphere and perhaps scatter debris on the surface.

Phobos-Grunt (the word "Grunt" is a translation of "ground") was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:16 p.m. ET Tuesday. The plan was for its upper stage then to boost it on the long flight to Mars, where it was intended to go into orbit in September 2012. It was supposed to land on Phobos in February 2013, scoop up about 7 ounces of soil, and bring it back to Earth in August 2014.

But Ted Molczan, a Canadian satellite observer, said the upper stage never fired. It was supposed to start automatically, out of range of Russian communications stations on the ground. Molczan says the ship is in a low elliptical orbit, ranging between 129 and 212 miles from Earth.

Now begins a race against time. If the Russians can isolate the problem -- and it turns out to be something that can be corrected by remote control -- perhaps the mission can be saved. But if too much time passes, Mars will gradually move beyond where the ship, with a finite fuel supply, can reach. And in the meantime, Earth's atmosphere will gradually slow it from orbit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio