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Science News
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NASA's Mars rover sets off-Earth, off-road distance record

Handout photo of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover OpportunityBy Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NASA's decade-old Mars rover Opportunity has set a new off-Earth, off-road distance record, logging just over 25 miles (40 km) on the surface of the Red Planet to surpass the benchmark set in 1973 by a Russian probe on the moon. Opportunity, which arrived on Mars in January 2004, a few weeks after its now-defunct rover twin Spirit, was built to drive only about a single kilometer but has continued to operate far beyond its design capabilities. On Sunday, the robot rover advanced another 157 feet (48 meters) as it continued along the rim of a Martian crater, putting Opportunity's total odometer at 25.01 miles (40.25 km), according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California. By comparison, the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover drove about 24.2 miles (39 km) in less than five months after landing on Earth's moon on Jan. 15, 1973, JPL said.

Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:20:15 -0400
Researchers practice living on Mars - without leaving Earth

NASA Hubble Space Telescope picture of MarsFor the most part, expedition leader Casey Stedman and his five crewmates have stayed inside their 1,000-square foot (93-square meter) solar-powered dome, venturing out only for simulated spacewalks and doing so only when fully attired in mock spacesuits. "I havent seen a tree, smelled the rain, heard a bird, or felt wind on my skin in four months, Stedman wrote in a blog on Instagram. Stedman is a U.S. Air Force Reserve officer, graduatestudent at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide. We are simulating a long-duration mission on Mars, with a focus on crew psychology in isolation, the crew said during an online interview with Reddit on Sunday.

Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:45:50 -0400
Rocket blasts off with U.S. neighborhood watch spy satellites

America's Largest Rocket Launches Top-Secret Spy SatelliteAn unmanned Delta 4 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Monday with a pair of U.S. military satellites designed to keep watch on other countries spacecraft. The 206-foot (63-meter) tall rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, lifted off at 7:28 p.m. EDT and blazed through partly cloudy skies as it headed into orbit, a United Launch Alliance live webcast showed. Launch of two satellites for the U.S. Air Forces recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, had been slated for July 23, but was delayed one day to resolve a technical issue with ground support equipment and then three more times by poor weather. Once in orbit, the GSSAP satellites, built by Orbital Sciences Corp, will drift above and below a 22,300-mile (35,970-km) high zone that houses most of the world's communications satellites and other spacecraft.

Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:56:01 -0400
Evidence suggests babies in womb start learning earlier than thought: study

A pregnant woman touches her stomach as people practice yoga on the morning of the summer solstice in New York's Times Square"It really pushed the envelope" in terms of how early babies begin to learn, lead researcher Charlene Krueger, associate professor at the University of Florida's College of Nursing, said on Thursday. Krueger had the women repeat three times out loud a set 15-second nursery rhyme, and do it twice a day for six weeks. The fetuses heart rates were monitored at 32, 33 and 34 weeks as they listened to a recording of a female stranger recite the rhyme. By the 34th week, Krueger said, the heart rates of the tested fetuses showed an overall slight decline while listening to the recording, compared with a control group of fetuses whose heart rates slightly accelerated while listening to a recording of a new nursery rhyme.

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:33:38 -0400
Bayer says Nexavar fails in breast cancer study

The logo of Germany's largest drugmaker Bayer is pictured in LeverkusenFRANKFURT (Reuters) - German drugmaker Bayer said a Phase III trial of cancer drug Nexavar in patients with advanced breast cancer did not meet its primary endpoint of delaying the progression of the disease. The study, called Resilience, evaluated Nexavar in combination with chemotherapeutic agent capecitabine, in women with HER2-negative breast cancer. Oral drug Nexavar, which Bayer is developing jointly with Amgen, is approved for use against certain types of liver, kidney and thyroid cancer. Study details are expected to be presented at an upcoming scientific conference. ...

Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:37:31 -0400
Deep-Sea 'Octomom' Guards Eggs for Record 4.5 Years

Deep-Sea 'Octomom' Guards Eggs for Record 4.5 YearsA real-life "Octomom" off the coast of California has been declared a champion of parenting and patience in the animal world. After the deep-sea creature laid a clutch of eggs, she protected her babies until they hatched 4.5 years later, without even leaving to eat.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:13:52 -0400
New Wrinkle? Ancient Earth Got a 'Face-Lift,' Study Suggests

New Wrinkle? Ancient Earth Got a 'Face-Lift,' Study SuggestsEarth got a "face-lift" early in its history, wiping out most of its original crust, according to a new model of the ancient barrage of asteroids called the Late Heavy Bombardment. "The surface of the Earth was heavily affected by all these collisions," said lead study author Simone Marchi, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. According to the model by Marchi and his co-authors, the meteor storm resurfaced Earth's outer crust and destroyed much of the planet's original rocks, similar to how a dermatologist's microdermabrasion wand buffs away skin, giving patients an instant face-lift.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:40:27 -0400
Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness

The 17th century French philosopher Ren Descartes proposed the notion of "cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"), the idea that the mere act of thinking about one's existence proves there is someone there to do the thinking. "The only thing you know is, 'I am conscious.' Any theory has to start with that," said Christof Koch, a neuroscientist and the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Neuroscience in Seattle. In the last few decades, neuroscientists have begun to attack the problem of understanding consciousness from an evidence-based perspective. In fact, Koch and Francis Crick, the molecular biologist who famously helped discover the double-helix structure of DNA, had previously hypothesized that this region might integrate information across different parts of the brain, like the conductor of a symphony.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:15:12 -0400
Taking Sid Meier's 'Civilization' Beyond Earth (Op-Ed)

Taking Sid Meier's 'Civilization' Beyond Earth (Op-Ed)Will Miller and David McDonough are the lead designers for "Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth." They contributed this article to's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. When we were asked to design a new science-fiction entry in the "Sid Meiers Civilization" series, it was one of those amazing moments when we realized we were going to have the chance to combine a love of game design with a love of science and space exploration. For us, "Civilization: Beyond Earth" has been an opportunity to explore ideas about the future technology, progress and culture and think about how settling on a new planet could be the next stage for humanity's progress. In "Sid Meier's Civilization"(Civ), players choose one of the world's great civilizations and then lead their people from the Stone Age to the Space Age, researching technology and building wonders and declaring war, creating an alternate history of Earth along the way.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:37:42 -0400
How the Moon Got Its Lemon Shape

How the Moon Got Its Lemon Shape"What is the origin of that asymmetry?" study lead author Ian Garrick-Bethell, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, said. The newborn moon was thus primed to be sculpted by Earth's gravity, and that's exactly what happened, researchers say. Indeed, scientists have posited for more than a century that tidal forces helped shape the molten moon, causing bulges that froze into place when Earth's natural satellite cooled down and solidified. For example, tidal forces pulled on the lunar crust, stretching it out and heating it up in places.

Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:08:28 -0400
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