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NASA set to launch astronauts again - 3BA
The two astronauts who will end a nine-year launch drought for NASA have arrived at Kennedy Space Center, exactly one week before their historic SpaceX flight to the International Space Station.
The two astronauts who will end a nine-year launch drought for NASA have arrived at Kennedy Space Center, exactly one week before their historic SpaceX flight to the International Space Station.It will be the first time a private company, rather than a national government, sends astronauts into orbit. NASA test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to Florida from Houston aboard one of the space agency's jets. "It's an incredible time for NASA and the space program, once again launching US crews from Florida and hopefully in just a week from about right now," Hurley told reporters minutes after arriving. Hurley was one of the four astronauts who arrived at Kennedy on July 4, 2011, for the final space shuttle flight, "so it's incredibly humbling to be here to start out the next launch from the United States." "We feel it as an opportunity but also a responsibility for the American people, for the SpaceX team, for all of NASA," Behnken added. The two are scheduled to blast off next Wednesday afternoon atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, bound for the International Space Station. They'll soar from the same pad where Atlantis closed out the shuttle program in 2011, the last home launch for NASA astronauts. Since then, the only way to the space station for astronauts has been on Russian rockets launched from Kazakhstan. Greeting the astronauts at Kennedy's former shuttle landing strip were the centre's director, former shuttle commander Robert Cabana, and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "You really are a bright light for all of America right now," Bridenstine told them. The welcoming committee was reduced drastically in size because of the coronavirus pandemic. There were no handshakes for the astronauts, who did not wear masks but kept their distance at separate microphones. Both Cabana and Bridenstine wore masks except while addressing the crowd; so did the approximately 20 journalists standing more than six metres away. During these tough times, Bridenstine said, "this is a moment when we can all look and be inspired as to what the future holds." NASA's commercial crew program has been years in the making. Boeing, the competing company, isn't expected to launch its first astronauts until next year. © AP 2020
Aussies grow heat, bleach resistant coral - 3BA
Australian scientists have bred a heat-resistant coral which could help preserve the country's iconic reefs for generations to come by restoring areas devastated by mass bleaching.Coral reefs are in decline worldwide due to increasingly frequent and severe bleaching events. A survey of the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland's coast last month revealed bleaching had, for the first time, struck all three regions of the world's largest coral reef system. CSIRO researcher Patrick Buerger says climate change is threatening the future of remaining reefs. "Climate change has reduced coral cover, and surviving corals are under increasing pressure as water temperatures rise and the frequency and severity of coral bleaching events increase," Dr Buerger said. With three mass bleaching over the past five years the barrier reef has not had enough time between events to recover. Scientists hope by improving coral's natural heat tolerance they can reduce the impact of reef bleaching during summer marine heat waves. The team isolated tiny algae which live inside coral tissue and exposed it to increasingly warmer temperatures over four years. Called "directed evolution" the technique assisted the microalgae to adapt and survive in hotter conditions. "Once the microalgae were reintroduced into coral larvae, the newly established coral-algal symbiosis was more heat tolerant compared to the original one," Dr Buerger said. Fellow University of Melbourne researcher Madeleine van Oppen, of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, said the evolved microalgae was better at photosynthesis, which in turn improved the resistance of the coral animal. "These exciting findings show that the microalgae and the coral are in direct communication with each other," Professor van Oppen said. The next step will be to test the heat resistance of microalgae strains in adult colonies across a range of different species. © AAP 2020