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Moscow court upholds dismissal of astrologist's NASA claim

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MOSCOW, March 30 (RIA Novosti) - The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal Thursday lodged by an astrologist against a lower court's ruling to dismiss a huge lawsuit against NASA for crashing a spacecraft into a comet last year.

Marina Bai had attempted to sue NASA for $302 million in moral damages following the agency's July 4 strike on Comet Tempel 1 with a 400-kg impactor fired from the Deep Impact spacecraft about 83 million miles from Earth. She argued that the experiment "encroaches on the system of spiritual and life values, as well as on the natural being of outer space, upsetting the natural balance of forces in the universe."

NASA, however, said the Deep Impact mission would help it study the geological and chemical structure of comets circling the Sun, providing valuable clues as to the nature of the solar system and how it was formed.

A Moscow district court dismissed the astrologist's claim on November 8, 2005, but her lawyer, Alexander Molokhov, appealed the decision in the upper court, stating that NASA had "affected the psychological well-being" of his client.

In addition, the astrologist said the comet consisted of organic materials and bacteria, "which could be drawn to Earth by gravity."

"The bird flu virus could be the result of these experiments," Bai suggested, though few scientists have rushed to agree with her.

On the contrary, Vladimir Fortov, vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said during the first trial that the NASA probe's crashing into the comet posed no danger to Earth.

"The impact of the collision on the comet's orbit was just 10 centimeters, with the distance between it and Earth being millions of kilometers," he said.

Bai's lawyer said he would appeal today's ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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