Taiwan to make lunar lander for Nasa moon-mining mission

TAIPEI (AFP): Taiwan is building a $47 million lunar lander as part of the first ever moon-mining project, officials said Monday. The lander, to be made by the island’s Chung-shan Institute of Science and Technology, will carry a rover and touch down on the moon’s surface after a three-day journey from Earth. US space agency NASA is leading the project, which is called Resource Prospector and aims to be the first mining expedition on another world.

The rover is designed to excavate hydrogen, oxygen and water from the moon, NASA says on its website. “To be honest, the schedule is pressing,” Han Kuo-chang, the head of CSIST’s international cooperation programme, told AFP, adding that the US would supply the rover and the lander’s descent propulsion system. “Should the Resource Prospector prove to be successful, the moon could be used as a base for space journeys into Mars,” Han said. It is the first time Taiwan has built a lunar lander.

CSIST is required to deliver the 3.7-tonne vehicle to NASA before the end of 2018, according to the agreement signed between Taiwan and the US space agency.

NASA is due to launch the moon-mining mission early in the 2020s.

 

 

 

Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia

SYDNEY (AFP):  Riches from the Palace of Versailles including a harp belonging to Marie Antoinette will travel to Australia, the country’s national gallery said Monday, as part of a display never seen outside France. More than 130 paintings, tapestries, pieces of furniture, statues and other objects from Versailles, one of France’s grand museums, will be on display in the Australian capital Canberra from December. “The Palace of Versailles has never before lent a collection like this, drawn from all over the palace, to an exhibition outside France,” National Gallery of Australia director Gerard Vaughan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Items making the long journey include a marble bust of Louis XIV, a formal portrait of Marie Antoinette, and the 1.5 tonne-statue of Latona and Her Children from one of the main fountains of Versailles outside Paris. “Versailles: Treasures from the Palace” will also showcase personal items, including Marie Antoinette’s hand-crafted chair and harp. President of the Palace of Versailles, Catherine Pegard said it was the first time the items from the museum had travelled so far from France.

Speaking from Canberra, she told AFP it was important to show that the landmark museum was not closed in on itself but “open to the world”.

The exhibition, which will run from 9 December 2016 to 17 April 2017, had been under discussion for several years, she said.

“We thought that Canberra was a wonderful place because it is so different from Versailles but, at the same time, the power is located in Canberra as it was in Versailles,” she added.

 

 

 

Iraq marshlands named Unesco world heritage site

BAGHDAD (AFP): Unesco has named Iraqi marshlands once ravaged by dictator Saddam Hussein as a World Heritage Site, a bright spot for a country where jihadists have repeatedly sought to wipe out history. The area named “is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq,” Unesco said. “The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BCE,” it said. “The Ahwar of Southern Iraq - also known as the Iraqi Marshlands - are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment,” Unesco said. Iraq has been seeking World Heritage status for the marshes since 2003, and its government hailed the move. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the Iraqi people on Unesco’s decision, and thanked “all those who contributed to this success.”

Abadi also said that culture in the country will continue “despite the destruction and demolition of Iraqi heritage and antiquities by barbaric terrorist gangs.”

He was referring to Islamic State group’s destruction of artefacts at the Mosul museum and the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, the latter of which is a World Heritage Site.

IS has sought to couch the destruction in religious terms, saying it was targeting idols, but that has not stopped it from selling artefacts to fund its operations.

The marshlands once stretched across some 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles), but they were devastated after Saddam ordered them drained in the 1990s to stop them being used as hideouts by Shiite guerrillas opposed to his regime.

Many dams and canals ordered built by the dictator have now been demolished, allowing waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to flood back, fish and fowl to return and humans to settle once again.

But dams farther upriver in Syria and Turkey still limit the flow of water into the marshes, and high levels of salinity have also been a problem in the south, killing fish and making the water undrinkable.

 

 

 

Chinese consortium buys Opera browser for $600m

OSLO (AFP): A Chinese consortium has bought the Opera internet browser for $600 million (543 million euros), its Norwegian developer said Monday, after a public share offer for the company failed. The consortium led by Golden Brick Silk Road will purchase the mobile and desktop versions of the internet browser, plus performance and privacy apps and a stake in a Chinese joint venture, but not the advertising, games and television units, said Opera Software in a statement to the Oslo stock exchange. The transaction was announced simultaneously with the failure of the $1.2 billion public offer to take over the entire company. It gave no reason for the failure, but in a statement to the Oslo stock exchange last week Opera Software said the outcome of the offer was uncertain as it had not yet received regulatory approvals by the deadline of July 15. “It wasn’t that the approvals weren’t given, just that it didn’t happen before the deadline,” chief executive Lars Boilesen was quoted as saying in the daily Dagens Naeringsliv. Golden Brick Silk Road fund is a Chinese consortium which includes Beijing Kunlun Tech which is specialised in mobile games and cybersecurity specialist Qihoo 360.

 Opera’s management had backed the proposed takeover as it would give the browsers access to the extensive internet user bases of Kunlun and Qihoo in China.

Opera says its light, quick browser is used by more than 350 million consumers worldwide.

Last month it ranked fourth for mobile devices behind Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari and Android Browser, according to data by NetMarketShare, and sixth on desktop computers.

The purchase, which should close in the second half of this year, may be the better deal for Opera.

“Opera acquisition do-over is interesting: it’s now getting half as much ($600m) for approximately one-quarter of its business,” tweeted tech journalist Ingrid Lunden.

The advertising, games and television units generated 77 percent of Opera Software’s $616 million in sales last year.

Opera’s shares, which took a beating last week after the company warned the share offer might fail, fell by 15 percent in early trading on the Oslo stock exchange.