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Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA's 'space junk' plans
Out of space in outer space: Special report on NASA's 'space junk' plansA 182-page report issued September 1 by the United States National Research Council warns that the amount of debris in space is reaching "a tipping point", and could cause damage to satellites or spacecraft. The report calls for regulations to reduce the amount of debris, and suggests that scientists increase research into methods to remove some of the debris from orbit, though it makes no recommendations about how to do so.

NASA sponsored the study.

A statement released along with the report warns that, according to some computer models, the debris "has reached a tipping point, with enough currently in orbit to continually collide and create even more debris, raising the risk of spacecraft failures". According to the Satellite Industry Association, there are now about 1,000 working satellites in Earth orbit, and industry revenues last year were US$168 billion (£104.33 billion, €119.01 billion).
SETI Institute set to re-open
AstronomyThe SETI Institute, shut down since mid-April due to budget cuts, has announced that it will reopen in mid-September due to a recent influx of funds from several donors.


SETI's Allen Telescope Array
Image: Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill.


Over 2,500 donors, including actress Jodie Foster who popularized SETI ("Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence") in the movie Contact, provided $220,000 to keep the Institute's telescopes functioning.
Shell reports oil leak at North Sea platform
Engineering and TechnologyOil producer Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed that the Gannet Alpha oil platform, located 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, has suffered a leak from an underwater pipeline between the wellhead and platform.

Shell issued a statement regarding the incident, saying that "We can confirm we are managing an oil leak in a flow line that serves the Gannet Alpha platform. [...] We have stemmed the leak significantly and we are taking further measures to isolate it. The subsea well has been shut in, and the flow line is being depressurised." The company has thus far refused to comment on the exact size of the leak, saying that was "not a significant spill."

New drug may treat virtually all viral infections
New drug may treat virtually all viral infectionsIn a recently published article in the journal PLoS One, researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory claim to have developed a new drug that has the potential to cure nearly all types of viral infections ranging from the common cold to highly deadly hemorrhagic fevers.

The new drug, known as DRACO (double-stranded RNA activated caspase oligomerizer), is able to discriminate between healthy cells and those infected by viruses. It essentially signals the infected cells to die, preventing the virus from replicating and moving into other cells, all while leaving adjacent healthy cells completely unaffected. Furthermore, scientists believe that it would be difficult for viruses to develop a resistance to this kind of treatment.

DNA components found in meteorites
BiologyA recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America indicates that the essential building blocks for early life on Earth may have indeed been delivered through extraterrestrial material such as meteorites. These molecules, known as nucleobases, are key components of DNA and have been found in meteorites several times before.

However, until now, scientists could never be certain that these compounds were native to the meteorites or if they were simply contamination from the terrestrial environment in which they landed.
Space Shuttle Endeavour launches for final time
AstronomyThe Space Shuttle Endeavour launched on its final mission, STS-134, at 8:56 AM EDT Monday. The mission's primary objectives are to deliver Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2 and ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 3, as well as other materials and supplies, to the International Space Station (ISS).

The shuttle launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with six crewmembers aboard, including mission commander Mark Kelly, pilot Gregory Johnson, and mission specialists Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel, and Gregory Chamitoff.
Solar-powered airplane makes first international flight
Solar-powered airplane makes first international flightThe solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse touched down at the Brussels National Airport late Friday night, after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in Payerne, Switzerland. It was the first international flight by a fully solar-powered aircraft.

The experimental aircraft was piloted by André Borschberg, co-founder and chief engineer for the Solar Impulse project, which hopes to circumnavigate the globe using only the sun's energy in 2013. "Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people...to promote solar energies -- not necessarily a revolution in aviation," Bertrand Piccard, the group's other co-founder, said in an interview after the flight.
Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's spaceflight marks fifty years of human space travel
AstronomyOn April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin lifted off on Vostok 1, the first human spaceflight in history, completing one orbit of the Earth in just under two hours. Tuesday marks the anniversary of Gagarin's flight and fifty years of human space travel.

Celebrations were to take place all over the world and aboard the International Space Station. Yuri's Night, started in 2001 for fortieth anniversary celebrations, is a global celebration of the history of spaceflight, including the first Space Shuttle launch on April 12, 1981, the twentieth anniversary of Gagarin's flight. There were to be more than 400 events in 71 countries celebrating Yuri's Night this year.
NASA celebrates 30th anniversary of first shuttle launch; annouces new homes for retired shuttles
AstronomyNASA celebrated the launch of the first space shuttle Tuesday at an event at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. On April 12, 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on STS-1, the first space shuttle mission.

NASA held a ceremony commemorating the date outside the hangar, known as Orbiter Processing Facility-1, for Space Shuttle Atlantis, which is being prepped for its final mission which will be STS-135, which will be the last Space Shuttle mission.

At the ceremony, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced the locations that would be given the three remaining Space Shuttle orbiters following the end of the Space Shuttle program.
Genetically modified dairy cows produce 'human milk'
BiologyA team from the China Agricultural University is reporting success after transferring human genes into a herd of 300 dairy cows. The cows now produce milk containing proteins associated with human breast milk.

Human milk is beneficial to infants due to its high nutrient concentration. Formula milk offers an alternative to breastfeeding, but critics feel it is inferior and the research team hopes genetically modified cows could provide a solution. "Within 10 years, people will be able to pick up these products at the supermarket," claims Professor Ning Li, research leader and head of the university's State Key Laboratory for AgroBiotechnology. "We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years."
First images received from orbit around Mercury
First images received from orbit around MercuryThe first images of Mercury taken from orbit around the planet have been received from NASA's MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) probe. The images come after the spacecraft entered an orbit around the closest planet to the sun on March 17.

After various system examinations, the first images from the spacecraft were sent at 0520 EDT (0920 UTC).