- - Sunday, August 19, 2012

PASADENA — NASA’s Curiosity rover has zapped its first Martian rock, aiming its laser for the sake of science.
During the target practice Sunday, Curiosity fired 30 pulses at a nearby rock over a 10-second window, burning a small hole.

Since landing in Gale Crater two weeks ago, the six-wheel rover has been checking out its instruments, including the laser. During its two-year mission, Curiosity was expected to point the laser at various rocks as it drives toward Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the crater floor. Its goal is to determine whether the Martian environment was habitable.

In several days, flight controllers will command Curiosity to move its wheels side to side and take its first short drive.

Equatorial ship-borne launch
 rockets satellite into orbit


LONG BEACH — A rocket carrying an Intelsat satellite has successfully lifted off from the oceangoing Sea Launch platform on the equator.

A Sunday statement from Sea Launch AG said the rocket took off from the Pacific Ocean platform Odyssey at 11:55 p.m. PDT Saturday.

Thirty minutes after the launch, the 13,188-pound satellite named Intelsat 21, built by Boeing Satellite Systems, was in geosynchronous orbit, to North America, South America and Europe.

The Odyssey platform and the control ship sail from their home port in Long Beach, Calif., to take advantage of physics that allow a rocket to more easily carry a payload to orbit from the equator.

NEW YORK

Two die as small plane 
crashes into town street

NEW YORK — A small plane carrying three people plummeted into a residential Long Island street with a fiery crash Sunday, killing two of those aboard as neighbors tried to douse the flames with fire extinguishers and garden hoses, authorities and witnesses said.

The single-engine, propeller-driven Socata TB10 — a model known as the “Tobago” — went down around noon in Shirley, shortly after taking off from nearby Brookhaven Calabro Airport.

The front of the plane landed on a tree-lined street flanked with homes — ending up about 100 feet from the nearest house and several hundred from half a dozen others — and its tail plunged into a nearby construction trash bin, said Jeff Litwin, who lives on the street a few hundred feet from the crash on Helene Avenue.

A neighbor “was trying to put out the fire with a garden hose, but it was too hot and he couldn’t get to a person trapped inside,” Mr. Litwin said by phone.

Police say 60-year-old Jane Unhjem, of Goshen, N.Y., died several hours after being hospitalized with burns. Her husband, 61-year-old Erik Unhjem, was listed in serious condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

Story Continues →