China will expand its presence in Antarctica by building a fourth research base and finding a site for a fifth, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday, as the country steps up its increasingly far-flung scientific efforts. Chinese scientists are increasingly looking beyond China for their research, including sending submersibles to explore the bottom of the ocean and last weekend landing the country's first probe on the moon. Workers will build a summer field camp called Taishan and look for a site for another research station, the official China Daily reported. "As a latecomer to Antarctic scientific research, China is catching up," the report cited Qu Tanzhou, director of the State Oceanic Administration's Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, as saying.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Astronauts aboard the International Space Station prepared for an unexpected series of spacewalks by fabricating spacesuit snorkels they can use for breathing in case of another helmet water leak, NASA officials said on Wednesday. The spacewalks, the first of which is slated to begin at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT) on Saturday, are needed to replace one of two cooling pumps outside the $100 billion complex, which flies about 250 miles above Earth. U.S. spacewalks have been suspended since July after a spacesuit helmet worn by Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano filled with water, causing him to nearly drown.
China aims to launch its next unmanned lunar probe in 2017, with the key aim of collecting and bringing back lunar samples, an official said on Monday, after the country's first probe landed successfully on the moon over the weekend. China's leaders have set a priority on advancing its space program, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power. The development of the Chang'e 5 probe, tasked with the moon sampling mission, is well underway and it is expected to be launched around 2017, a spokesman for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said. "After the success of the Chang'e 3's mission, the lunar exploration program will enter the third phase, with the main goal being to achieve unmanned automatic collection of samples and returning them (to the earth)," spokesman Wu Zhijian told a news conference.
Full recovery of the ozone layer, which shields Earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, should occur around 2070, atmospheric scientist Natalya Kramarova, with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco last week. "Currently, we do not see that the ozone hole is recovering," she said. "It should become apparent in 2025." Researchers report puzzlingly large variations in the size of the annual ozone hole over Antarctica. In 2012 for example, the ozone hole was the second smallest on record, an apparently positive sign that the 1989 Montreal Protocol agreement - which called for the phasing out of Freon and other damaging chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs - was working.
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) - A kind of rock that often contains diamonds has been found in Antarctica for the first time, hinting at mineral riches in the vast, icy continent where mining is banned. "It would be very surprising if there weren't diamonds in these kimberlites," Greg Yaxley of the Australian National University in Canberra, who led the research, said in a telephone interview. Writing in the journal Nature Communications, an Australian-led team reported finding the kimberlite deposits around Mount Meredith, in the Prince Charles Mountains in East Antarctica. Kimberlite is a rare rock where diamonds are often found;
Luke Tonachel is a vehicles analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Tonachel contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. In its new Fuel Economy Trends report the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finds that new automobiles sold in model year 2012 averaged a record-high 23.6 miles per gallon (mpg) — sticker value — and that model year 2013 is expected to continue the upward trend to reach a new record of 24 mpg. In recent years, automakers have been boosting fuel economy across classes of conventional gasoline cars and trucks, enhancing choices for consumers.
Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the world's pioneering cognitive ethologists, a Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. He contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
NASA has pushed back its first crewed flights to the International Space Station (ISS) from 2015 to 2017 — after Congress allocated less money to the Commercial Crew program than President Barack Obama's administration says the space agency needs. That's two extra years the United States must pay Russia to taxi American astronauts to the ISS, two years when that same money could instead support American jobs back home. In the Commercial Crew Development program (or Commercial Crew), NASA is helping companies develop launch vehicles and spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS with partial financing while the companies pay the remainder of the development costs themselves.
A NASA asteroid-hunting spacecraft has opened its eyes in preparation for a renewed mission, beaming home its first images in more than 2.5 years. The Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft, or NEOWISE, has taken its first set of test images since being reactivated in September after a 31-month-long hibernation, NASA officials announced today (Dec. 19). The space agency wants NEOWISE to resume its hunt for potentially dangerous asteroids, some of which could be promising targets for future human exploration. "The spacecraft is in excellent health, and the new images look just as good as they were before hibernation," Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement.
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have proved for the first time that the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus that has killed 71 people can also infect camels, strengthening suspicions the animals may be a source of the human outbreak. Researchers from the Netherlands and Qatar used gene-sequencing techniques to show that three dromedary, or one-humped camels, on a farm in Qatar where two people had contracted the MERS coronavirus (CoV) were also infected. But the researchers cautioned it is too early to say whether the camels were definitely the source of the two human cases - in a 61-year-old man and then in a 23-year-old male employee of the farm - and more research is needed. Both the men infected in Qatar recovered.
The existence of a mysterious ancient human lineage and the genetic changes that separate modern humans from their closest extinct relatives are among the many secrets now revealed in the first high-quality genome sequence from a Neanderthal woman, researchers say. Although modern humans are the world's only surviving human lineage, others also once lived on Earth. These included Neanderthals, the closest extinct relatives of modern humans, and the relatively newfound Denisovans, whose genetic footprint apparently extended from Siberia to the Pacific islands of Oceania. Both Neanderthals and Denisovans descended from a group that diverged from the ancestors of all modern humans.
Whether it was developing stem cells from cloned human embryos or tracking down assault claims at archaeological field sites, scientists and people advocating science had a busy 2013. To highlight some of these accomplishments, editors at the journal Nature selected 10 scientists and other people who they said made a difference in 2013. Certain kinds of bacteria can slash the DNA in viruses for protection, leading researchers — such as neuroscientist Feng Zhang, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — to wonder whether similar DNA-nip-and-cut techniques could have applications in humans. In January, Zhang co-authored a paper published in Science (led by one of his graduate students, Le Cong), showing that their alteration process works in higher-level eukaryotic cells, which are found in plants and animals.
If a solar flare is on its way to the Mars Desert Research Station in January, Joseph Jessup wants to make sure Crew 133 is prepared to react if necessary. That's why he's driving from Arizona to the Mars Society facility in Utah with a radio telescope in the back of his car. His portable telescope can not only detect solar particles at a range of 20 megahertz, but at night (after the sun has set) could be turned to Jupiter to spot electromagnetic radiation emanating from the immense planet. Utah, of course, is safely underneath Earth's atmosphere, but the research would have applications for a future Mars colony.
Last year, LiveScience reached out to scientists in different fields and asked them for their science wishes for 2013. All Tara Shears wanted for 2013 was to see the Standard Model of particle physics take a few hits. The Standard Model is the dominant theory of how fundamental particles interact. Researchers had hoped the Higgs boson, which was predicted by the Standard Model but not confirmed until this year, would buck expectations and give physicists some fresh mysteries to uncover.
Warming of the climate isn't directly causing the decline in frog populations in the Andes mountains. Instead, the frogs are falling victim to a killer fungus that is decimating amphibian species worldwide: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or chytrid fungus. But the warming trend has extended the range where chytrid fungus can thrive, leading to widespread infections of the disease known as chytridiomycosis. Chytrid fungus outbreaks make bubonic plague look like a slight cough," study researcher Vance Vredenburg, associate professor of biology at San Francisco State University, said in a statement.
Yellowstone National Park grizzly bears could be removed from the Endangered Species list after a new federal report revealed that the bears are not threatened by the loss of one of their main foods, whitebark pine nuts. "It does not take into account the situation, the realities of the conditions on the ground in whitebark pine forests," said Jesse Logan, the retired head of the U.S. Forest Service's bark beetle research unit. The bears were temporarily removed from the Endangered Species list in 2007, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared that the animals' numbers had recovered sufficiently not to need federal protection. The judge cited concerns that the USFWS had failed to consider the decline in whitebark pine in its decision.
By Irene Klotz SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope show jets of water vapor blasting off the southern pole of Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter that is believed to hold an underground ocean, scientists said on Thursday. If confirmed, the discovery could affect scientists' assessments of whether the moon has the right conditions for life, planetary scientist Kurt Retherford, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco. Researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope found 125-mile-high (200-km-high) plumes of water vapor shooting off from Europa's south polar region in December 2012. The jets were not seen during Hubble observations of the same region in October 1999 and November 2012.
Sasha Lyutse is a policy analyst for the NRDC. Lyutse contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, 41 leading scientists sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling on the agency to protect U.S. forests from the growing sucking sound created by biomass power plants. As power plants look for alternatives to fossil fuels, some are turning to burning wood or other plant materials — known as biomass — to generate electricity.
By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - Leading countries set a goal of finding a cure or effective treatment for dementia by 2025 on Wednesday and ministers said the world needed to fight the spread of the memory-robbing condition just as it fought AIDS. The move by the Group of Eight (G8) nations matches the date set by the United States last year for beating Alzheimer's - but the target is ambitious, considering there is no obvious cure on the horizon. Global cases of dementia are expected to treble by 2050, yet scientists are still struggling to understand its basic biology, and the current medicine cupboard is bare. The London meeting - the first G8 summit on a specific illness since HIV and AIDS - was hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said it was vital to show that dementia was not a normal part of ageing.
SAN FRANCISCO — It's time to accept reality: Comet ISON is dead. "At this point, it seems like there's nothing left," comet expert Karl Battams, of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., said here today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. "Comet ISON is dead; Comet ISON, which was discovered by two Russian amateur astronomers in September 2012, was making its first trip to the inner solar system from the distant and frigid Oort Cloud.
By Ben Hirschler LONDON (Reuters) - The world needs to fight the spread of dementia in the same way it mobilised against AIDS, a British government minister told a special summit on the disease on Wednesday, saying failure to tackle it would wreck state health budgets. Global cases of dementia are expected to treble by 2050, yet scientists are still struggling to understand the basic biology of the memory-robbing brain condition, and the medicine cupboard is bare. "In terms of a cure, or even a treatment that can modify the disease, we are empty-handed," World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan told ministers, campaigners, scientists and drug industry executives from the Group of Eight leading economies at the summit in London. British Health Minister Jeremy Hunt said there were lessons to be learnt from the fight against AIDS, where a 2005 G8 summit played a key role in pushing for better and more widely available drugs.