Europe settles on design for Ariane 6 rocket

Media captionAirbus Safran Launchers' promotional video for the Ariane 6

The design for Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket has been settled and development will now move on apace, say officials.

The launcher is due to be introduced in 2020 and long-term will replace the Ariane 5 and Soyuz vehicles that currently operate out of French Guiana.

Airbus Safran Launchers, the company set up exactly one year ago to build the new rocket, is in the process of pulling together its subcontractors.

CEO Alain Charmeau said rapid progress was being made on the project.

"The basic design of Ariane 6 is now frozen to allow us to move into a more detailed design and production phase," he told BBC News.

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James Webb: Hubble successor maintains course

Cryo-vac test Image copyright NASA/CHRIS GUNN
Image caption Soon to emerge: The instruments were placed in the Goddard vacuum chamber for testing late last year

The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is reaching some key milestones in its preparation for launch in 2018.

Engineers are about to complete the assembly of the primary mirror surface on the James Webb Space Telescope.

Read full article James Webb: Hubble successor maintains course

'Case is made' for Anthropocene Epoch

People Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Humans have made an indelible mark on Planet Earth in a very short period of time

There is little doubt now that we have entered a new geological age, believes an international scientific panel.

The team, which has been tasked with defining the so-called Anthropocene, says humanity's impacts on Earth will be visible in sediments and rocks millions of years into the future.

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Enceladus: Does this moon hold a second genesis of life?

Artist's impression Image copyright RICHARD BIZLEY/SPL
Image caption The Enceladus Interplanetary Geyser Park: Might we go there someday?

The mighty Cassini probe has made many great discoveries at Saturn, but none top its extraordinary revelations at Enceladus.

What the plutonium-powered satellite has seen at this 500km-wide, ice-crusted moon is simply astounding.

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Europe's ExoMars missions are go - finally

Artist's impression of TGO and Schiaparelli Image copyright ESA
Image caption Artist's impression: The satellite will release the lander three days out from Mars

The first of Europe's ExoMars missions is finally ready to get under way.

This initial venture will involve a satellite going to the Red Planet to study trace gases, such as methane, in the atmosphere.

Read full article Europe's ExoMars missions are go - finally

Curiosity rover: The reward for 'whale watching' on Mars

Whale Rock Image copyright NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS
Image caption Whale Rock is about 50cm high and is made from sediment grains that bounced along a rippling stream bed

Whale Rock. It's got quite a story to tell.

When scientists first saw it in images returned from Nasa's Curiosity rover on Mars, they really weren't sure what to make of it.

Read full article Curiosity rover: The reward for 'whale watching' on Mars

Martian water streaks present exploration challenge

Streaks Image copyright NASA
Image caption The dark streaks - or "recurring slope lineae" - result from the movement of liquid water, Nasa scientists say

Wherever there's water, there's a good chance life can thrive.

H2O is the "lubricant" of biochemical reactions, and Nasa's announcement that liquid water flows under certain circumstances on the Red Planet will heighten expectation that this normally freezing, desiccated world might just provide a foothold for microbial organisms.

Read full article Martian water streaks present exploration challenge

Advanced Ligo: Labs 'open their ears' to the cosmos

Ligo optics Image copyright ADVANCED LIGO
Image caption Advanced Ligo represents one of the most sensitive measuring systems ever devised

The experiment that should finally detect ripples in the fabric of space-time is up and running.

Labs in the US states of Washington and Louisiana began "listening" on Friday for the gravitational waves that are predicted to flow through the Earth when violent events occur in space.

Read full article Advanced Ligo: Labs 'open their ears' to the cosmos

Philae video captures real-time comet landing

Media captionSeven photos have been smoothed into a real-time movie of the approach

A new video captures the moment Philae, Europe's now-famous comet lander, first approached Comet 67P for its historic landing on 12 November last year.

Philae acquired a series of still images with its Rolis descent camera.

Read full article Philae video captures real-time comet landing

Lisa Pathfinder: Gravity quest set to go into orbit

Lisa Pathfinder Image copyright IABG
Image caption Lisa Pathfinder will launch in November for a mission that is likely to last about a year

Europe is ready to launch its most exquisite satellite mission yet.

Lisa Pathfinder is a fundamental physics experiment that will test the technology needed to detect gravitational waves - what are sometimes referred to as ripples in the curvature of space-time.

Read full article Lisa Pathfinder: Gravity quest set to go into orbit