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NASA says new heavy-lift rocket debut not likely until 2018
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, designed to fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars, likely will not have its debut test flight until November 2018, nearly a year later than previous estimates, agency officials said on Wednesday. NASA is 70 percent confident of making a November 2018 launch date, given the technical, financial and management hurdles the Space Launch System faces on the road to development, NASA associate administrators Robert Lightfoot and Bill Gerstenmaier told reporters on a conference call. NASA estimates it could spend almost $12 billion developing the first of three variations of the rocket and associated ground systems through the debut flight, and potentially billions more to build and fly heavier-lift next-generation boosters, a July 2014 General Accountability Office report on the program said. While the rocket might be ready for a test flight in December 2017, as previously planned, the new assessment showed the odds of that were “significantly less” than the 70 percent confidence level NASA requires of new programs, Gerstenmaier said.
Texas family to part ways with skeleton of mammoth found on its farm
By Lisa Maria Garza DALLAS (Reuters) - A North Texas family, who discovered the skeleton of a 20,000- to 40,000-year-old mammoth while mining through sediment on their farm, is preparing to turn over the remains to a local museum. In May, Wayne McEwen and his family were gathering material from a gravel pit on their property, south of Dallas, when his son struck a 6-foot (1.8 meter) tusk while operating an excavator. The rest of the near-complete skeleton was unearthed by a team from a nearby community college, who determined it was a Columbian mammoth - a slightly larger, less hairy version of the more famous woolly mammoth. The family decided to donate the remains to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.
Tricking memory in lab animals stokes hope for PTSD
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - The frailty of remembrance might have an upside: When a memory is recalled, two research teams reported on Wednesday, it can be erased or rewired so that a painful recollection is physically linked in the brain to joy and a once-happy memory to pain. "Recalling a memory is not like playing a tape recorder," said Susumu Tonegawa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led one of the studies. The mice had been engineered so specific brain neurons could be activated with light, a technique called optogenetics.
SpaceX delays launch after test rocket explosion
By Irene Koltz CAPE CANAVERAL Fla (Reuters) - Space Exploration Technologies will delay the launch of its next Falcon 9 rocket by up to two weeks following Friday’s explosion of a related prototype vehicle during a flight test, officials said on Tuesday. The privately owned company, also known as SpaceX, had planned to launch a communications satellite owned by Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Holdings Ltd early Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On Sunday, SpaceX announced it would delay the launch of the AsiaSat 6 spacecraft for one day to review data collected during the botched test flight of a Falcon rocket demonstration vehicle that on Friday. The Falcon 9R exploded about 17 seconds after liftoff from SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, rocket development and testing facility, video posted on YouTube by spectators showed.
Boeing says completed key design review for space taxi
By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Boeing Co has completed a key review of its design for a new commercial venture to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, making it the only one of four rival bidders to finish the NASA work on time, company officials said on Thursday. Boeing is competing with Space Exploration Technologies Corp, or SpaceX, and privately held Sierra Nevada Corp, to develop and build U.S. The multibillion-dollar program has taken on new urgency in recent months, given escalating tensions with Russia over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine. NASA spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said the U.S.
Ebola Drug 'ZMapp' Saves Infected Monkeys, Study Shows
An experimental drug called ZMapp, which contains a cocktail of three antibodies that fight the Ebola virus, has successfully treated 18 monkeys infected with the deadly disease, researchers reported today. The new results raise hope that the drug may also work in people who are infected in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the researchers say. On the basis of these results in monkeys, several human patients had recently received the latest drug, before the details of the study were published today (Aug. 29) in the journal Nature. "The success was great," co-author Gary Kobinger, chief of special pathogens at the Public Health Agency of Canada, told reporters at a news conference about the study.
Calling All Nerds! New Sci-Fi Museum Wants Your Designs
The nonprofit Museum of Science Fiction plans to build a science fiction museum in Washington, D.C. The organization is now hosting a competition seeking the best exhibit design for a temporary preview museum, with a first-place prize of $1,000. The final museum will feature works of science fiction in literature, television, film, music, video games and art, and will contain exhibits and collectibles across seven themes: the creators, vehicles, time travel concepts, aliens, computers, robots and technology, the organizers told Live Science previously.
Photos of 'Yeti Footprints' Hit the Auction Block
Ardent believers in the existence of a mythical creature known as the Yeti may be excited to learn that rare photographic "evidence" of this mysterious beast is now up for auction. In 1951, British mountaineer Eric Earle Shipton was leading an expedition on Mount Everest when he took a series of photographs of what he believed might be the footprints of a bipedal, apelike creature known as the Yeti. Four of Shipton's 12-inch by 13-inch (30 by 33 centimeters) photographs will be sold to the highest bidder in a two-week-long online auction that began on Aug. 27. The other two photos give the viewer a better sense of the scale of these enigmatic prints — showing the Yeti footprint next to an ice ax and a booted foot, respectively.
Labor Day Weekend Stargazing: See Moon, Mars and Saturn Meet Up
The yellowish-white object to the moon's right is the planet Saturn, while the one below and slightly to the moon's left is Mars. In April, Mars was 57.6 million miles (92.7 million kilometers) away from Earth, the Red Planet's closest pass with Earth for the year.
As Space Shuttle Discovery Turns 30, Smithsonian Curator Shares Orbiter Secrets
NASA's retired space shuttle Discovery will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its first launch being admired by fans of all ages, according to the Smithsonian curator charged with its care. "If Discovery could talk, it would surely express happiness at seeing so many people coming to visit and saying how awesome it looks," said Valerie Neal, Discovery's curator at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and the author of the recently released book, "Discovery: Champion of the Space Shuttle Fleet."
Scientists solve mystery of moving Death Valley rocks
By Alex Dobuzinskis LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A solution to the longstanding mystery of why rocks move erratically across an isolated patch of California's Death Valley finally emerged on Thursday, when researchers published a study showing the driving force was sheets of wind-driven ice. Trails from the movement of the rocks, which show them changing direction suddenly in their movement across the so-called Racetrack Playa, have long befuddled scientists and the general public. Paleobiologist Richard Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who led the study, saw the rare phenomenon first-hand last December while standing with his cousin, engineer James Norris, at the spot.
Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone Began at a Funeral
An extensive look at the genome of the Ebola virus reveals its behavior, when it arrived in West Africa and how it spread in the region to cause the largest-ever recorded Ebola outbreak. Researchers sequenced 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients in Sierra Leone, one of the countries affected by the outbreak that started in the neighboring Guinea, and found that the virus' genome changes quickly, including parts of the genome that are crucial for diagnostic tests to work. "We've uncovered more than 300 genetic clues about what sets this outbreak apart from previous outbreaks," co-author Stephen Gire of Harvard said in a statement. The researchers studied the viruses isolated from the blood of these patients, as well as subsequent Ebola patients, to identify the genetic characteristics of the Ebola virus responsible for this outbreak.
'Jeopardy!'-Winning Computer Now Crunching Data for Science
Watch out, Sherlock, there's a new Dr. Watson in town. IBM's Watson, the computer that famously won the quiz show 'Jeopardy!', is now helping researchers make scientific discoveries. The new system, known as the Watson Discovery Advisor, could accelerate the scientific process by sifting through massive amounts of information and visualizing patterns in the data. But unlike when Watson was on 'Jeopardy!,' its new role as Discovery Advisor is "not about getting to an answer, but [rather] gaining insight into a large body of information," Merkel told Live Science.
Brutal Winter? Almanac Could Be Wrong, Scientists Say
The United States is in for another long, cold winter, according to the newest edition of the Farmers' Almanac. This winter will see "below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation," the Almanac reads. But the predictions included in the Farmers' Almanac are just that: predictions. While NOAA's official three-month outlook for the coming winter months isn't due out until around mid-October, Artusa said that meteorologists are not seeing the climate conditions that would indicate what the Almanac refers to as a "record breaking winter."
Scientists find mild cases of MERS among patients' families
By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fewer than half of Saudi Arabian patients in a study passed the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus to household members, and many of those who developed secondary infections contracted mild cases of MERS, global researchers reported on Wednesday. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirmed observations that the virus can cause mild disease, but overall transmission rates are low. "If less than half of infected patients transmit the virus to contacts, such as in this study, we can be pretty sure that this virus will not be able to start an epidemic in humans," co-author Christian Drosten of the Institute of Virology at the University of Bonn Medical Center said in an email. MERS, thought to originate in camels, causes coughing, fever and pneumonia, and kills about a third of its victims.
Schrödinger's Cat Comes into View with Strange Physics
By sending green, red and yellow laser beams down a path to detector, researchers have shed light on the famous physics idea known as the "Schrödinger's cat" thought experiment. Over any given period there's a 50-50 chance the poison vial will open, and a person who opens the box after a given time and looks at the cat will then observe that it is either dead or alive.
Lava flow from Hawaii volcano could threaten homes, scientists say
By Malia Mattoch McManus HONOLULU (Reuters) - State scientists and officials are warning some residents of Hawaii's Big Island that their homes could be jeopardized by a lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that is moving through a forest preserve toward their neighborhood. Geological Survey scientist said that while the lava flow did not pose an imminent threat to residents of the Kaohe Homesteads of the island's Puna area, it was less than 2 miles (3 km) away and appeared to be advancing. "We are observing steam plumes," said Jim Kauahikaua, Scientist-in-Charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The Hawaii Volcano Observatory and Hawaii County Civil Defense are holding meetings throughout the week to update residents on the potential threat, and the county was conducting daily flights over the area to assess the danger. "It's very difficult to forecast what direction it could take," said Darryl Oliveira, Director of Hawaii County's Civil Defense, noting the flow has averaged a rate of travel of 200 to 300 feet (60 to 90 meters) a day.
UN panel: Global warming human-caused, dangerous
WASHINGTON (AP) — Global warming is here, human-caused and probably already dangerous — and it's increasingly likely that the heating trend could be irreversible, a draft of a new international science report says.
U.S. scientist pleads guilty to taking government laptop to China
The scientist was fired in April 2012 from Sandia National Laboratories, a government-owned research facility operated by Sandia Corporation that is responsible in part for ensuring the safety of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. Huang also pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a counterintelligence officer in June 2011, the U.S.
Art, Science & Philosophy Behind Photos of Oldest Living Things
What can a simple, unadorned photograph of a tree teach people about a heady concept like "deep time" or "year zero?" Quite a lot, actually, if the photographer in question is Rachel Sussman. The scientists immediately recused themselves and said, "I'm not qualified." But for myself as an artist, I was able to come in and say, "I just have this idea, and I'm just going to follow it whatever direction it takes." I don't have to be following rote scientific protocols when deciding I want to look at this clonal desert organism and this coral and these bacteria.