FAST is published by the Science and Technology Office of the Embassy of France to the United States, and by its CNRS Washington office.


When meteorite hunters dug a small piece of Mars out of the Sahara, French
researchers jumped at the chance to buy the 104-gram pebble for closer
study. Some early and surprising results from the battery of examination to
which geologists and planetologists have been subjecting the rock seem to
indicate that well below the surface Mars’ mantle contains water. Organized
by the CNRS’ Institute for Sciences of the Universe, a half dozen labs,
including geodynamic specialists from Lyons, inorganic geochemists from
Nantes, physicists and magmologists from Paris, and petrologists from Nancy,
are taking a close look at what is a rare type of meteorite, a nakhlite.
What they have found so far is that the alteration due to contact with
water, which can be read in terms of the ratio of heavy hydrogen, or
deuterium, to the more normal isotope, is not at all typical of what has
been observed by spectroscopy on the surface of Mars, where normal hydrogen
is rare. The most exciting conclusion to draw would be that it has acquired
this characteristic from contact with earthly water, since the lower
deuterium levels match those commonly found in mineral alteration from
contact with surface water on earth. French scientists feel they have some
arguments in favor of reading these results as information direct from the
interior of mars such as the fact that there is very little indication of
the mineral alternation that would be expected if the Martian rock had
gotten damp here on earth. (Agence France Presse, June 12; Le Monde, June
13, p26, Pierre Barthelemy)


Satellites are being put to use in a number of ways, but one of the less
expected is for fighting emerging diseases. Nonetheless the National Space
Studies Center (CNES) is spearheading a program of research that combines
epidemiological data on clinical cases, vaccination programs, veterinary
data and so forth with satellite observation enriched by data on hydrology
and various geographical or geological phenomena to produce mathematical
models of the geographical dynamics of a particular disease. The program
has attracted a number of partners and much support with the hope it offers
of being able better to understand and control the spread of emerging
diseases. Partners include INRA, the CNRS, the Pasteur Institute, and other
organizations. This research is expected to be useful not only in cornering
emerging diseases but in epidemiological control in general, as early
disease tracking programs in Senegal, Guyana and northeast Brazil(dengue
fever), and parts of Asia(malaria) have shown promising results. (Le
Quotidien du Medecin, June 11, p11)