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Ariane Rocket Launches Asia-Pacific Telecoms Satellites

An Ariane 5 rocket took off from the European space center at Kourou in French Guiana late Thursday, before placing two Asia-Pacific telecoms satellites into orbit, the launch firm Arianespace said.

The twice-delayed launch took place at 7:05 pm (2305 GMT) and shortly afterwards the Measat-3b, of Malaysian operator Measat, and Optus 10, of Australian counterpart Optus were successfully placed into geostationary orbit.

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NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity Finally at Mount Sharp

NASA's Curiosity rover is about to conduct some serious scientific drilling at Mars.

The space agency announced Thursday that the rover has reached the base of Mount Sharp, its destination since landing two years ago. Officials say drilling could begin as early as next week at an outcrop of rocks called Pahrump Hills.

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Amazon Deforestation up 29 pc in 2013 -- Brazil

Deforestation in the Amazon rose 29 percent between August 2012 and July of last year to 5,891 square kilometers (2,275 square miles), Brazilian officials said Wednesday, posting an amended figure.

Last year, authorities indicated a slightly lower figure of 5,843 square kilometers for a 28 percent rise.

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Scientists Say the Ozone Layer is Recovering

Earth's protective ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reported Wednesday in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet.

Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis.

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Scientists: Strong Solar Storm Heading to Earth

A strong solar flare is blasting its way to Earth, but the worst of its power looks like it will barely skim above the planet and not cause many problems.

It has been several years since Earth has had a solar storm of this size coming from sunspots smack in the middle of the sun, said Tom Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. The flare on the sun barely hits the "extreme" on forecasters' scale, but with its worst effects missing Earth it is only looking "potentially strong" at most when it arrives at Earth as a solar storm, he said.

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Three Russian and American Astronauts Return to Earth

Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut returned to Earth on Thursday after spending more than six months working together aboard the International Space Station, as tensions between their countries soared over the Ukraine crisis.

American Steven Swanson and Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev, who left on March 26, landed in the Kazakh steppe at 0223 GMT aboard a Soyuz capsule, the Russian space agency Roscosmos and its U.S. equivalent NASA said in statements.

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Tsunami Could 'Wipe out' Pakistan's Largest City

Pakistan's largest city Karachi, home to around 18 million people, could be "wiped out" by a tsunami, officials said Wednesday after a drill simulating a major earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

The test, and one carried out a day earlier simulating another quake off Indonesia, were designed to check an early-warning system set up after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 230,000 people.

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Mozambique Cracks Ivory Poaching Ring

Wildlife campaigners in Mozambique say police have cracked an ivory poaching ring believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 39 elephants.

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Japan Nuclear Watchdog Backs Restart of Two Reactors

Japan's nuclear watchdog Wednesday gave a green light to plans to restart two reactors, more than three years after the Fukushima disaster.

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China to Launch Second Space Lab in 2016

China will launch its second orbiting space laboratory in two years' time, a top official said Wednesday, the latest step in an ambitious space programme Beijing says will one day land a Chinese man on the moon.

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