Sunday’s Touchdown of ‘Curiosity’ –“The 14-Minute Mars-to-Earth Radio Gap”

 

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NASA's most daring and expensive Mars mission yet begins this Sunday with the touchdown of the smartest, most advanced interplanetary rover ever built. The touchdown NASA for the Curiosity rover is so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror" — the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph (20,920 kph) to a complete landing.

Scientists at the NASA mission center won't know for 14 minutes whether Curiosity lands safely as radio signals from Mars travel to Earth. If it succeeds, a video camera aboard the rover will have captured dramatic footage of the first landing on another planet.

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Image of the Day: First X-Rays from Supernova Beyond Milky Way Discovered

 

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Over fifty years ago, a supernova was discovered in M83, a spiral galaxy about 15 million light years from Earth. Astronomers have used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the first detection of X-rays emitted by the debris from this explosion.

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Astrobiologists Resurrect a 500-Million-Year-Old Gene –New Insights into Evolution

 

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Using a process called paleo-experimental evolution, Georgia Tech researchers have resurrected a 500-million-year-old gene from bacteria and inserted it into modern-day Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria. This bacterium has now been growing for more than 1,000 generations, giving the scientists a front row seat to observe evolution in action.

“We think that this process will allow us to address several long standing questions in evolutionary and molecular biology,” said Betül Kacar, a NASA astrobiology postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s NASA Center for Ribosomal Origins and Evolution. “Among them, we want to know if an organism’s history limits its future and if evolution always leads to a single, defined point or whether evolution has multiple solutions to a given problem.”

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Image of the Day: The Vast Molecular Clouds of a Stunning ‘Edge-On’ Galaxy –‘Engines of Life’

 

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The many bright, pinkish clouds in NGC 4700 are known as H II regions, where intense ultraviolet light from hot young stars is causing nearby hydrogen gas to glow. H II regions often come part-and-parcel with the vast molecular clouds that spawn fresh stars, thus giving rise to the locally-ionized gas. In 1610, French astronomer Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc peered through a telescope and found what turned out to be the first H II region on record: the Orion Nebula, located relatively close to our Solar System here in the Milky Way.

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The Weird Neuroscience of Immortality –Uploading the Human Mind

 

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Neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth, 41, recently of Harvard and a veteran of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, believes that he can live forever, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. "The human race is on a beeline to mind uploading: We will preserve a brain, slice it up, simulate it on a computer, and hook it up to a robot body." Hayworth wants his 100 billion neurons and more than 100 trillion synapses to be encased in a block of transparent, amber-colored resin—before he dies of natural causes. Why?  Because Hayworth believes that he can live forever.

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