Brazil Fires Rocket As Part of Research

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

SAO PAULO, Brazil – Brazil on Thursday successfully launched a rocket on a 20-minute flight aimed at obtaining a better understanding on how gravity affects human enzymes and DNA.

The 41-foot-long VSB-30 rocket, was launched from the seaside Alcantara site in northeastern Brazil, the Brazilian Space Agency said in a statement posted on its Web site.

The two-stage rocket soared approximately 175 miles before beginning its descent.

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During almost seven minutes the rocket’s payload was in a state of microgravity, an environment of near-weightlessness that allows researchers to study the fundamental states of matter _ solids, liquids and gases _ and the forces that affect them.

“We needed a state of microgravity in order to better understand how gravity affects the speed of chemical reactions in enzymes and the quality of DNA repair following exposure to radiation and solar rays,” Flavio de Azevedo Correa, the project’s experiment coordinator, said by telephone.

“Eventually, the results could help us develop new processes and pharmaceutical products to treat cancer,” he added.

Thursday’s launch was the second from Alcantara since Aug. 2003, when 21 space agency workers were killed as a satellite-launching rocket exploded while being prepared for launch.

Investigators determined that an electrical flaw triggered one of the rocket’s four solid-fuel boosters during final preparations at the launch pad.

The Alcantara base in the state of Maranhao is considered an excellent launch site because it is located just 2.3 degrees south of the equator, the line at which the Earth moves the fastest, helping propel rockets into space and using less fuel.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)