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April 20, 2012 at 6:50 PM
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China denies U.S. espionage accusation

BEIJING, April 20 (UPI) -- Chinese officials have denied U.S. accusations that China's progress in space exploration is partly owed to espionage.

A report Wednesday by the U.S. Defense and State departments recommended loosening U.S. export controls on items used to build satellites and other relevant equipment but suggested maintaining or tightening controls on exports to particular countries such as China and Iran, and accused China of stealing space technology.

"China deeply regrets the relevant report from the U.S. administration, and is firmly against the groundless accusation made against China," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

"The report mistakenly insisted on the two-decade-old satellite export restrictions against China, which was against the consensus reached between the two heads of state on enhancing space cooperation," Liu said.

China's achievements in space exploration are the result of hard pioneering work, innovation and diligence of the Chinese people, he said.

Depiction of Egyptian pharaoh found

CAIRO, April 20 (UPI) -- A stone slab depicting Ramses III, who ruled Egypt's 20th Dynasty from 1186-1155 B.C., has been found at the Karnak Temple, researchers say.

The rare archeological piece depicts the Pharaoh Ramses III providing sacrifices and offerings to the god Amon Ra, the Egypt State Information Service reported Friday.

Also depicted on the slab is Amon Ra's goddess wife Amont wearing a crown.

The Temple of Karnak, considered the largest ancient Egyptian temple in the world, is a large complex containing a group of temples such as the Great Temple of Amon Ra, The Temple of Khonso, The Ipt Temple, The Temple of Ptah, the Temple of Montho and the Temple of the God Osiris.

Satellite tracked as it remains silent

PARIS, April 20 (UPI) -- Optical, radar and laser observations of a European satellite that inexplicably went silent April 8 show it is still in a stable orbit, space officials say.

All efforts to restore contact with the Envisat environmental monitoring satellite have failed, the European Space Agency reported from its Paris headquarters Friday.

With help from European and international partners, ground controllers are attempting to determine whether Envisat has entered its "safe mode," which could offer a starting point for it revival, officials said.

The French space agency CNES turned its Pleiades satellite around April 15 to capture images of Envisat passing above it at about 54 miles. Pleiades normally provides high-resolution images of Earth.

Flight specialists and engineers are studying the images to determine whether Envisat's solar panel -- the satellite's power source -- is in a position for sufficient exposure to the sun to generate enough power to put Envisat into safe mode.

"These unique images will enable us to analyze Envisat's orientation, which will indicate whether we are able to regain contact with the satellite," Manfred Warhaut, head of ESA's Mission Operations Department, said.

Africa said rich in underground water

LONDON, April 20 (UPI) -- The continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater in underground aquifers holding 100 times the amount found on the surface, scientists say.

Researchers from the British Geological Survey and University College London have mapped the amount and potential yield of groundwater resources for the entire continent.

While rivers and lakes are subject to seasonal changes that can limit their availability for people and for agriculture, the new maps suggest many countries currently considered to have limited supplies possess substantial groundwater reserves, the researchers said.

"Where there's greatest groundwater storage is in northern Africa, in the large sedimentary basins, in Libya, Algeria and Chad," Helen Bonsor from the British Geological Survey told the BBC. "The amount of storage in those basins is equivalent to 75 meters (250 feet) thickness of water across that area --- it's a huge amount."

Because of climate changes that turned the Sahara into a desert over centuries, many of the aquifers underneath it were last filled with water more than 5,000 years ago, the researchers said.

However, widespread drilling of large wells to tap these hidden resources might not be the best strategy, they said, citing concerns large-scale operations could rapidly deplete the aquifers.

Sometimes slower means of extraction can be more efficient, Bonsor said.

"Much lower storage aquifers are present across much of sub-Saharan Africa," she said. "However, our work shows that with careful exploring and construction, there is sufficient groundwater under Africa to support low yielding water supplies for drinking and community irrigation."

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