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Nation in brief

Space probe close to date with Saturn

By wire services
Published June 12, 2004

Nearly seven years after it left Earth, Cassini, an internationally built craft named for a 17th century astronomer, is on schedule to enter orbit June 30 after it dashes through a gap in Saturn's shimmering rings. Scientists hope its findings will reveal new secrets about the evolution of our solar system.

Cassini had its first encounter with the Saturn system Friday afternoon, hurtling within 1,240 miles of the outermost moon, Phoebe. The tiny moon is just 137 miles across. Saturn, in contrast, is nearly 75,000 miles in diameter.

Scientists believe Phoebe originated in the outer reaches of the solar system and that it was later flung toward Saturn, which captured it into orbit.

Man leaps off helicopter to death in Grand Canyon

PHOENIX - A man aboard a sightseeing helicopter took off his seat belt, opened a door and jumped to his death in Grand Canyon National Park in an apparent suicide, officials said Friday.

The company operating the helicopter said the passenger removed his seat belt during the flight Thursday and leaped out. Park officials offered few details on what led to the man's death, saying only that they believe he acted intentionally. The incident was still under investigation.

Rachel Wilkie, a spokeswoman for Papillon Airways, said the company's canyon flights continued Friday. She declined further comment.

The helicopter was returning to the canyon's South Rim when the man fell about 4,000 feet to his death.

Four other passengers and the pilot were shaken but unharmed.

Denver gets a surprise: a very needy sister city

DENVER - When the White House announced this week that Denver's new sister city was Baghdad, the prospect of sending humanitarian aid to the Iraqi capital came as a surprise to officials in the city, which is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit next year.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments is considering joining the International Partners For Peace program, said council chairwoman Lorraine Anderson.

But the council has only verbally asked to participate and has not formally applied, Anderson said. "I was surprised that people thought it was a done deal," she said.

First lady Laura Bush announced sister city pairings on Wednesday. Other U.S.-Iraq pairings include Dallas with Kirkuk and Tucson, Ariz., with Sulaymaniyah.

Unlike Denver, Dallas and Tucson had already known about their pairings.

[Last modified June 11, 2004, 23:46:13]

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