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World in brief

Explorer robot begins 6-month trip to Mars

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 3, 2003

MOSCOW - An unmanned spacecraft built by the European Space Agency blasted off atop a Russian rocket Monday on a mission to Mars, where it will orbit the planet for nearly two years and search for signs of life.

The Mars Express spacecraft was launched by a Soyuz FG booster rocket from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:45 p.m. EDT, according to the agency.

The space vehicle, which cost $350-million was initially put into Earth orbit, and about 90 minutes later was given the final push to send it on a six-month journey to Mars.

Deadly heat wave claims 1,100

HYDERABAD, India - Scorching heat has killed more than 1,100 people across India in the past three weeks, relief officials said Monday. Most of those succumbing to soaring temperatures have been in southern Andhra Pradesh state, where at least 1,020 deaths have been reported, said relief commissioner D. C. Roshaiah.

In Andhra Pradesh state's Nalgonda district, temperatures soared to 120 degrees.

Iranians detain, release 4 U.S. soldiers

WASHINGTON - Four U.S. soldiers and five civilians in two boats were taken captive by Iranians, blindfolded and interrogated before being released, U.S. Central Command said Monday. Two of the civilians were still being held.

Four soldiers from the Army's 1092nd Engineer Company, a civilian Army contractor, two civilian captains and two boat drivers were sailing up the Shatt al Arab waterway in the al Faw peninsula Sunday to pick up Iraqi South Oil Co. personnel when they were taken by force by Iranians, a spokesman, Cmdr. Dan Gage, said from Central Command headquarters in Tampa.

The nationalities of the civilians were not available. On Monday, the Iranians took the group back to their boats and released all of them except the two drivers, Gage said.

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