In my most recent post on Chandrayaan-1 I mentioned the first results from the RADOM experiment, provided to the Indian mission by the nation of Bulgaria. I also mentioned that "I don't know anything about Bulgaria's previous contributions to planetary exploration," and two of you readers took the hint to send me further information about exactly that topic. Thanks to their help, I can now tell you that Bulgaria -- a country with a population smaller than that of Los Angeles -- actually has a pretty long history of contributions to planetary exploration, dating back to the founding of a Group of Space Physics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in 1969. Bulgarian scientists worked on the VEGA and Phobos missions (including processing the VSK images of Phobos), and a Bulgarian instrument flew on the ill-fated Mars 96 and another will fly on Phobos-Grunt. There's a summary of Bulgaria's contributions to space research and planetary exploration in this paper presented to the 2002 COSPAR scientific meeting. And if, like me, you don't know very much about Bulgaria to begin with, you might consider checking out the CIA World Factbook page on the country -- this is my hands-down favorite website for finding out the basic facts about other countries. (Yes, it's that CIA.)
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