Today’s physics news: Nasa’s seven minutes of terror to land Curiosity, and more….
Nasa’s seven minutes of terror to land Curiosity rover in mission to explore Mars
On Monday morning, a few seconds after 6.30am London time if all goes to plan, Nasa will know whether a $2.5bn (£1.67bn) gamble on a heat shield, a set of eight retrorockets and three nylon lines has paid off. For the first time, a landing vehicle will be gently lowered to the surface of another planet using nylon tethers suspended from a mother spacecraft hovering precariously overhead.
UK space agency boss David Williams to leave post
The UK Space Agency’s chief executive is to step down at the end of the year. Dr David Williams is moving to Australia to take a job with its national science organisation, CSIRO. Dr Williams oversaw the creation of UKSA in 2010. It was established to bring more coherence to British space policy which had until then been split across many government departments.
More schools switching to ‘tougher’ IGCSE alternative
Almost 1,200 schools adopted the “International GCSE” in at least one subject this year amid fears the traditional version fails to stretch the brightest pupils. Examiners insisted that many schools favoured the qualifications in academic disciplines such as English, maths, science and foreign languages. The rise – revealed in figures published by two major exam boards – follows a Government decision to scrap rules imposed under Labour that effectively barred state schools from offering them as an alternative to normal GCSEs.