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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
A NASA satellite has captured the once-mighty Hurricane Marie losing steam over the cool waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean. NASA's GOES-West satellite snapped a photo of Marie at 11:00 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Thursday (Aug. 28), the same day the maelstrom was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm. Marie was about 865 miles (1,395 kilometers) west of Punta Eugenia, Mexico, and moving northwest at 15 mph (24 km/h) when the picture was taken, NASA officials said. Infrared data gathered by another NASA Earth-observation spacecraft, the Aqua satellite, further showed that the tops of Marie's clouds had warmed, meaning that the storm's clouds aren't getting as high up into the atmosphere as they did before.
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.
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.
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.
When looking for a place to settle down, these animals use chemical cues to avoid reefs that are littered with seaweed and flock to healthy habitats instead, according to a new study. Scientists have seen corals decline around the world over the past several decades, and the new findings help explain why some reefs aren't recovering or recruiting new corals, despite conservation efforts. "The reefs in Fiji have such a stark contrast between the healthy areas and the degraded areas," said Danielle Dixson, an assistant professor of biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, who led the study. Dixson and colleagues studied the waters off of three villages along the southern side of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, which each managed a small marine protected area, or MPA, next to another area where fishing was allowed.
A new atomic clock is due for installation on the International Space Station in 2016, ushering in a new age of physics experiments probing the relationship between space and time. Once there, the space station's robotic arm will install it on a payload platform outside the Columbus Laboratory, one of the station's research modules. Another atomic clock called SHM, or Space H-Maser will also be on the orbiting outpost. Together the two clocks will make up the Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space (ACES), a device that will be so accurate that it will lose only one second every 300 million years.
When researchers first discovered the fossil worm Hallucigenia in the 1970s, they were so perplexed they identified its head as its tail and its legs as its spines. The finding is surprising because it rewrites the evolutionary history of spiders, insects and crustaceans, said study researcher Javier Ortega-Hernandez, a paleobiologist at the University of Cambridge. Most genetic studies have found that these arthropods are close relatives of today's velvet worms, Ortega-Hernandez said in a statement. "The peculiar claws of Hallucigenia are a smoking gun that solves a long and heated debate in evolutionary biology," said study researcher Martin Smith, an earth scientist at the University of Cambridge.
By Sharon Begley NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. government scientist working with bird flu rushed through lab procedures in order to get to a staff meeting, setting off what could have been a fatal mishap, health officials said on Friday. They said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab worker, who was not identified, allotted only about half the time necessary to carry out the procedures safely, and as a result samples of mild avian flu were tainted with a highly deadly strain and sent from CDC to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. CDC released the report of its investigation of the avian flu incident and said disciplinary action is under consideration. CDC did not report the incident until July.
Lionfish, an invasive Pacific Ocean species, have been wiping out native fish populations in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean for the past couple of decades. Now, research reveals the "terminator"-style approach to hunting that has likely made them so successful: When other predatory fish quit stalking their prey to look for easier targets, lionfish just keep on killing. "Lionfish seem to be the ultimate invader," study researcher Kurt Ingeman, a doctoral student at Oregon State University, said in a statement. Ingeman, who presented his research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento, California, studied populations of the fairy basslet, a common lionfish prey, at reefs in the Bahamas.
Clouds cruise through the skies of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, in striking new imagery captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. In a rare sight for scientists, Cassini captured views of methane clouds drifting across Ligeia Mare, a big hydrocarbon sea near Titan's north pole, from July 20 through July 22. Few clouds had been seen on Titan since the dissipation of a major storm in 2010, so researchers are trying to gauge the significance of the new observations. "We're eager to find out if the clouds' appearance signals the beginning of summer weather patterns, or if it is an isolated occurrence," Cassini imaging team associate Elizabeth Turtle, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, said in a statement.
At just 99 million base pairs of nucleotides (DNA's building blocks), the midge's genome is smaller than that of the body louse — and far more miniscule than the human genome, which has 3.2 billion base pairs. "It's a pretty exciting fly," Washington State University genomics researcher Joanna Kelley, who worked on the project to sequence the midge's genome, said in a statement. It's the only true insect that lives on the Antarctic continent, and at 0.23 inches (6 millimeters) long, it actually qualifies as the largest terrestrial animal in Antarctica, according to Miami University of Ohio's Laboratory for Ecophysiological Cryobiology. Antarctic midge larvae exist in a deep freeze for two winters.
For the first time ever, physicists have mapped the path that particles are most likely to take when moving from one quantum state to another. In physics, a concept called the "path of least action" describes the trajectory that an object is most likely to follow, similar to the familiar concept of the "path of least resistance." For example, a tossed football follows a parabolic arc through the air instead of spinning off in crazy loops or zigzags. However, physicists didn't know whether quantum particles, like electrons, neutrinos or photons, follow the same rule. Instead, they are governed by the weird rules of quantum mechanics that even Einstein called "spooky." [Wacky Physics: The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]
An astronomer and a graphic artist have teamed up to turn powerful explosions in distant galaxies into spellbinding music and animations. Known as gamma-ray bursts, these explosions of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation are the brightest events known to occur in the universe. Sylvia Zhu, a graduate student in physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, studies gamma-ray bursts at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, using the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. "I figured it would be fun to 'hear' what these explosions might sound like, if we converted each photon into a musical note," Zhu told Live Science.
Scientists in South Korea say they have found a way of converting used cigarette butts into a material capable of storing energy that could help power everything from mobile phones to electric cars. In a study published on Tuesday in the journal Nanotechnology, researchers from Seoul National University outlined how they transformed the used filters, which are composed mainly of cellulose acetate fibres and are considered toxic and a risk to the environment when discarded. "Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one-step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society," said professor and study co-author Jongheop Yi. According to anti-smoking campaigners Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded item worldwide, contributing more than 765,000 tonnes of waste annually.
Global warming has been going on for so long that most people were not even born the last time the Earth was cooler than average in 1985 in a shift that is altering perceptions of a "normal" climate, scientists said. Decades of climate change bring risks that people will accept higher temperatures, with more heatwaves, downpours and droughts, as normal and complicate government plans to do more to cut emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. "Because the last three decades have seen such a significant rise in global and regional temperatures, most people under the age of 30 have not lived in a world without global warming," Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told Reuters. February 1985 was the last month when global temperatures were below the 20th century average, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a leading source of global temperature data.
Yoshiki Sasai was the co-author of the high-profile research that had seemed to offer hope for replacing damaged cells or even growing new human organs. He was found dead early on Tuesday at the Riken institute where he worked in Kobe, Japan, police and the institute said. "It was a hanging." Sasai, 52, had been hospitalised in March for stress and become less receptive to media inquiries during the controversy over the team's research, Riken spokesman Satoru Kagaya said. As deputy director of Riken's Center for Developmental Biology, Sasai supervised the work of lead author Haruko Obokata, which took the world of molecular biology by storm when it was published in the British journal Nature in January.