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Comet makes rare close pass by Mars as spacecraft watch
By Irene Klotz NEW YORK (Reuters) - A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system on Sunday made a rare, close pass by Mars where a fleet of robotic science probes were poised for studies. Comet Siding Spring passed just 87,000 miles (140,000 km) from Mars, less than half the distance between Earth and the moon and 10 times closer than any known comet has passed by Earth, NASA said. ...
Humans should thank ancient Scottish fish fossils for joy of sex
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists studying fossils have discovered that the intimate act of sexual intercourse used by humans was pioneered by ancient armored fishes, called placoderms, about 385 million years ago in Scotland. In an important discovery in the evolutionary history of sexual reproduction, the scientists found that male fossils of the Microbrachius dicki, which belong to a placoderm group, developed bony L-shaped genital limbs called claspers to transfer sperm to females. Females, for their part, developed small paired bones to lock the male organs in place for ...Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:54:37 -0400
GMO labeling foes spend big on campaigns in Oregon, Colorado
By Carey Gillam (Reuters) - Opponents of GMO food labeling proposals on the ballot next month in Oregon and Colorado have contributed roughly $20 million for campaigning against the proposed laws, nearly triple the money raised by supporters of the initiatives, campaign finance reports show. Both measures would require labels on foods made with genetically engineered crops, which are common in the United States. Voters in Colorado and Oregon weigh in on the issue in mid-term election voting on Nov. 6. ...
U.S. Air Force lands robotic X-37B space plane in California
By Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. military landed its X-37B robotic space plane at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California on Friday, ending a classified 22-month mission that marked the third in Earth orbit for the experimental program, the Air Force said. The X-37B, a 29-foot-long (9-meter) winged craft that resembles a miniature NASA space shuttle, touched down at 9:24 a.m. local time at the coastal air base and launch facility near Lompoc, California, 160 miles (258 km) northwest of Los Angeles. ...
Are we there yet? Scientists prepare for change of epoch
By Emma Anderson BERLIN (Reuters) - Scientists from around the world met this week to decide whether to call time on the Holocene epoch after 11,700 years and begin a new geological age called the Anthropocene - to reflect humankind's deep impact on the planet. For decades, researchers have asked whether humanity's impact on the Earth's surface and atmosphere mean we have entered the Anthropocene - or new human era. ...Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:58:45 -0400
Incredible Science and Historical Artifacts Up for Auction
A working Apple-1 computer, a window from the Manhattan Project's bomb-development site and a letter from Charles Darwin discussing the details of barnacle sex will go on sale this month at an auction of rare scientific artifacts. A viewing window from the Manhattan Project valued at around $200,000 is another big-ticket item at the auction. The Manhattan Project was a secret government operation during World War II designed to develop the world's first atomic bomb, and included many famous scientists like J. Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. A collection of astronomer George Willis Ritchey's deep-space photographs, books and telescope blueprints is also on sale.
'Oldest Parisian': Neanderthal Fossil Suggests Hunting Injury
Three arm bones from a prehistoric individual, likely a Neanderthal, were uncovered in the Seine Valley of northern France, suggesting that Neanderthals had a temporary camp along the river 200,000 years ago. The long left arm bones, dated at 200,000 years old, are the oldest human ancestor remains ever to be discovered in Tourville-la-Rivire, about 72 miles (116 kilometers) northwest of Paris. It's the oldest Parisian, if you like," study researcher Bruno Maureille, at the Universit de Bordeaux in Talence, France, told the BBC. The bones, found in September 2010, consist of a humerus, radius and ulna from a left arm.
What It's Like to Spend a Month Under the Sea
As his record-breaking 31-day mission underwater drew to a close, Fabien Cousteau was in no rush to go topside. "I felt like I could stay down another month," Cousteau said. Cousteau, 47, belongs to a "watery family." He's the grandson of the late Jacques Cousteau perhaps the most famous ocean explorer of the 20th century and earlier this year, he led the longest-ever expedition at the Aquarius Reef Base, a seafloor laboratory located off the coast of Florida. For a month, Fabien Cousteau's home was a habitat about the size of a bus (or, he joked, a New York City apartment), some 63 feet (19 meters) below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Apollo Astronaut's Anniversary Patch Recalls 'Flight of the Phoenix'
Forty-six years ago this week, NASA's first Apollo astronauts to launch into space were circling the Earth just as their mission patch depicted. "Our original patch concept was to depict a Saturn 1B [rocket] rising from the ashes of its predecessor, like the mythical bird, Phoenix," Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham wrote on his website. As their back-ups, Cunningham, Schirra, and Eisele had inherited the Apollo 1 crew's mission. The fire, which was caused by a short circuit and inflamed by the capsule's pure oxygen atmosphere, resulted in the Apollo command module being redesigned.
Mars Rover Curiosity 'Up Close': Q&A With Author Marc Kaufman
NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012, pulling off a bold and unprecedented maneuver that saw the robot lowered to the Red Planet's surface on cables by a rocket-powered sky crane. Curiosity made quick work of its main mission goal, determining just seven months after touching down that an area near its landing site called Yellowknife Bay could have supported microbial life in the ancient past. The 1-ton robot left Yellowknife Bay in July 2013 and last month arrived at the base of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp, which has long been the mission's chief science destination. Veteran science journalist Marc Kaufman has written a new book that takes readers far beyond this basic mission outline.