The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 45.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

News Briefs, part 2

New Space-Borne Radar to Focus On Planet Earth's Environment

Los Angeles Times

Outer space is Jet Propulsion Laboratory's usual playground, where its planetary probes rendezvous with asteroids, piggyback on the solar wind and zip to the fringes of the solar system. But these days, the NASA agency's high-tech wizardry is rediscovering an old world - planet Earth.

In an unlikely twist for a space agency, JPL's new Spaceborne Imaging Radar, or SIR-C, is turning home as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Mission to Planet Earth, a $1 billion project to study the global environment on what scientists say is unprecedented scale. Starting Friday, the $360 million radar embarks aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on the second of three trips to send back striking images from our own backyard: a tropical rain forest in Mexico, volcanos in the western Galapagos Islands, the habitat of endangered mountain gorillas in war-torn Rwanda.

SIR-C is unique in its ability to work on three frequencies, allowing scientists to probe an area with three different looks at the same image. SIR-C is the world's most advanced civilian radar, capable of penetrating clouds, vegetation, ice, dry sand, soil and darkness.

Other radars work only on a single frequency. The difference, experts say, is like looking at an X-ray instead of a photograph.

Yeltsin Pitches for Trade With U.S. Pacific Northwest

Los Angeles Times

In further acknowledgment of the westward shift of America's economic potential, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin Thursday concluded his U.S. visit in the "other" Washington.

Here, far from the lawn of the White House and the chambers of the United Nations, the difficult matters of global arms and diplomacy yielded to an equally challenging proposition: Russia's claim as a credible business partner along the flourishing Pacific Rim.

Potato chips and microchips, the lowly Arctic codfish and the lofty space station - these are the early and thin economic links already established across the North Pacific between the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Russia's Far East. In a seven-hour visit to Seattle, Yeltsin lent his prestige to try and shore up the bridge.

"The West Coast of the United States has established very good contacts with us. It is time to cooperate on a pragmatic basis," the Russian leader said. "Last year our trade volume doubled. I see considerable change for the better."

His audience of 800 business and political leaders was enthusiastic with its greeting, but a good deal more cautious in assessing the climate for conducting commerce in Russia.

He repeatedly played to the Western United States' image of itself as the vibrant heart of the Pacific Rim. "In the West of the United States, there are more smiles. In the East, more stress," he said.

Yeltsin seemed to acknowledge investor concerns, particularly about crime and political stability. He joked that business executives could travel to Russia these days "without about 15 bodyguards." But there was no joke in his voice when he said, "Let me tell you, we have achieved political stability."