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SpaceX launches 14th batch of Starlink internet satellites in fast-growing fleet - CBS News
It was the first of two planned Starlink launchings in just three days.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fired 60 more Starlink internet relay satellites into orbit Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center with another set awaiting launch Wednesday from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. With Sunday's flight, SpaceX has now launched 835 Starlinks in a rapidly-expanding global network that eventually will feature thousands of commercial broadband beacons delivering high-speed internet to any point on Earth. To reach that goal, the company plans to launch at least 120 new Starlinks every month. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center early Sundayt carrying another 60 Starlink internet satellites to orbit. William Harwood/CBS News The latest Starlink mission, SpaceX's 14th, got underway at 8:26 a.m. EDT when the Falcon 9's nine first stage engines ignited with a burst of flame, pushing the slender rocket away from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center atop 1.7 million pounds of thrust. Making it's sixth flight, the first stage propelled the rocket out of the dense lower atmosphere and then fell away and headed for landing an offshore droneship. Touchdown marked SpaceX's 62nd successful booster recovery since December 2015, its 42nd at sea. Less than a minute after stage separation, the two halves of the rocket's nose cone fairing, both veterans of two earlier missions, fell away for parachute descents to capture netting aboard waiting recovery ships. Both were successfully recovered, although one appeared to break through its netting, possibly hitting the deck of its ship. The second stage, meanwhile, pressed ahead to orbit and after two firings of its vacuum-rated Merlin engine, all 60 Starlinks were released to fly on their own about an hour after liftoff. None the worse for six trips to space and back, a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage carried out a pinpoint landing on a company droneship after helping launch another batch of Starlink internet satellites. SpaceX Sunday's launch marked SpaceX's second Falcon 9 flight since October 2 when a last-second abort blocked launch of a Space Force Global Positioning System navigation satellite. That flight remains on hold while company engineers assess an apparent issue with engine turbopump machinery. SpaceX has not provided any details about how the engines used Sunday and those used during a Starlink flight October 18 might be different from those used for the GPS mission. Likewise, there's been no word from SpaceX or NASA on whether the engine issue poses any threat to the planned launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station atop a Falcon 9 next month. Sunday's launch was the 18th Falcon 9 flight so far this year, the 95th since the rocket's debut in 2010, the 98th counting three launches of the triple-core Falcon Heavy. The Falcon 9 has suffered two catastrophic failures, one in flight and one during pre-launch testing.
SpaceX to attempt historic back-to-back Falcon 9 flights - CBS News
Two Florida launches nine hours apart, plus a polar orbit, mark new records for SpaceX
SpaceX is gearing up for back-to-back launches on Sunday just nine hours apart, the shortest span between two Florida orbit-class flights since 1966. The launches are a dramatic bid to put 60 more Starlink internet relay stations into orbit followed by an Argentine remote sensing satellite. The planned launchings follow on the heels of a last-second "hot-fire abort" of a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station early Saturday that grounded a classified National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite. At least one of the heavy-lift Delta 4's three first stage engines was in the process of igniting when computers commanded a shutdown just three seconds before the planned liftoff. It's not clear what triggered the abort, but the flight will be delayed at least a week pending inspections and corrective action. Fire erupts from the base of a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket as the engine start sequence began and then shut down in a "hot-fire abort," grounding the booster for at least a week. ULA webcast SpaceX already had clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Eastern Range to attempt back-to-back launches Sunday. But the weather could play a role in the historic double header, with forecasters calling for a 50-50 chance of acceptable weather for the morning Starlink launch, declining to 40 percent "go" for the evening launch of Argentina's SAOCOM 1B satellite. If the weather cooperates, the Starlink flight will take off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center at 10:12 a.m. ET. It will mark SpaceX's 100th flight since the company's first launch of a Falcon 1 in 2006 and the 94th flight of its workhorse Falcon 9. Three triple-core Falcon Heavies also have been launched. The 60 Starlinks set for launch Sunday will boost SpaceX's constellation to 713. The rocket's first stage, making its second flight, will attempt to land on an off-shore droneship after boosting the vehicle out of the lower atmosphere. Nine hours and six minutes after the Sunday morning launch, another Falcon 9 is scheduled for takeoff from pad 40 at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to put SAOCOM 1B into an orbit around Earth's poles, the first such flight from Florida since 1969. The Falcon 9's first stage, making its fourth flight, will attempt a landing back at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If the Starlink and SAOCOM landings are successful, SpaceX's record will stand at 60 first stage recoveries, 18 at the Air Force station, 40 on droneships and two at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. To reach a polar orbit from Cape Canaveral, the Falcon 9 will take off on a southerly trajectory and then carry out a "dogleg" maneuver once clear of Florida's coast to bend the trajectory more directly south. The flight path will carry the rocket over Cuba. A Falcon 9 rocket takes off from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the most recent Starlink mission last August. Another Starlink flight is planned for Sunday, along with launch of an Argentine remote-sensing satellite. SpaceX In 1960, falling debris from a malfunctioning rocket reportedly killed a cow in Cuba, prompting protests in the island nation. All polar orbit missions since 1969 have taken off from Vandenberg where rockets remain above the Pacific Ocean all the way to orbit. SpaceX initially planned to launch SAOCOM 1B from Vandenberg, but sought permission to move the flight to Cape Canaveral to ease ground processing issues. The company presumably won government approval for the move in part because of the dogleg maneuver, which minimizes overflight of populated areas, the rocket's high altitude by the time it reaches populated areas farther downrange and because the Falcon 9 features an automated flight safety system. The AFTS is designed to quickly terminate a flight if an impending catastrophic problem is detected. The 6,720-pound SAOCOM 1B requires a polar orbit to enable its cloud-penetrating radar to observe the entire planet as it rotates below. The spacecraft will work in concert with an identical L-band radar mapper launched in 2018 along with Italy's COSMO-SkyMed X-band satellites. Bound for a 360-mile-high orbit, the $600 million SOACOM system is designed to monitor soil moisture and a range of other factors affecting the agricultural sector, collecting high-resolution data around the clock regardless of cloud cover. "One of the main targets of the SAOCOM satellites is to provide information for the agriculture sector," Raúl Kulichevsky, executive and technical director of CONAE, Argentina's space agency, told Spaceflight Now. "One of the things we develop is soil moisture maps, not only of the surface, but taking advantage of the L-band capabilities we can measure the soil moisture 1 meter below the surface of the land. So this is very important information."
Iconic observatory seen in James Bond film "GoldenEye" goes dark after massive telescope found mysteriously broken - CBS News
"The cable didn't really break it, you know, in the sense of a cable kind of snapping, but it just sort of, you know, slipped from its socket," Observatory Director Francisco Cordova said.
A massive radio telescope made famous as the backdrop for a pivotal scene in James Bond film "GoldenEye" and other Hollywood hits was found suddenly out of commission after cables mysteriously snapped and smashed into the facility's main dish. The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is home to one of the world's largest radio telescopes, acting as a giant ear to the universe. Located in the middle of a forest, the telescope listens for radio signals from other galaxies and has contributed to numerous breakthroughs in astronomy. Aside from tracking asteroids that could endanger the planet, the telescope played a major role in the "SETI" program — the search for intelligent life. It was notably used by astronomer Carl Sagan to send an interstellar message. Earlier this week, the facility was forced to close down after a cable supporting a metal platform above the telescope fell, tearing a 100-foot gash in its giant reflector dish. "The cable didn't really break in the sense of a cable kind of snapping, but it just sort of slipped from its socket, which is you know, an even weirder condition," Arecibo Observatory Director Francisco Cordova told CBS News' Jeff Glor. Technicians working around the clock to get the telescope back online say they are still making assessments to find what exactly happened, storing the machine's "structure of capabilities," and making sure it could not lead to more problems in the future. "So at this point, we're not, you know, we don't really have a bigger timeline of when that is going to happen," Cordova said. The telescope, a pivotal part of the ongoing search to find other planets capable of sustaining life, has survived terrestrial hazards like hurricanes, tropical storms and earthquakes. Now, the scientific community hopes it can recover from the mysterious damage. "We'll find a way to repair this particular issue and continue to move forward," Cordova said. "We've overcome a lot in our 50-year history, from Hurricane Maria to very recent rash of earthquakes to now this. So we're a pretty resilient bunch down here and we're going to figure out a way to continue to move forward, doing exciting science for the world."
New dinosaur closely related to the Tyrannosaurus rex discovered in England - CBS News
The rare bones were found by amateur fossil hunters on the Isle of Wight.
Scientists have discovered what they believe to be a new species of theropod dinosaur — making it a close relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex. A group of researchers said they recently uncovered rare bones in the U.K. that appear to be related to the iconic species. Paleontologists at the University of Southampton said they recently analyzed four bones on the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast of mainland England. The bones are from the neck, back and tail of the new dinosaur, named Vectaerovenator inopinatus. The Vectaerovenator inopinatus, which is believed to have grown to around 13 feet long, roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous period, about 115 million years ago. Scientists believe it is a theropod, a group of carnivorous dinosaurs that typically walked on two legs rather than four. An artist's impression of the dinosaur's final moments. Trudie Wilson The dinosaur was named for the large spaces of air in some of its bones — a trait that helped scientists connect it to theropods, the researchers said. The "air sacs," which are also found in modern-day birds, were extensions of the animals' lungs that likely aided in breathing while making the skeleton lighter. "We were struck by just how hollow this animal was — it's riddled with air spaces," lead author Chris Barker, a PhD student at the university, said in a press release. "Parts of its skeleton must have been rather delicate." Researchers said all of the fossils found are likely to be from the same individual animal, belonging to a previously unknown genus of dinosaur. They called the discovery a "rare find." "The record of theropod dinosaurs from the 'mid' Cretaceous period in Europe isn't that great, so it's been really exciting to be able to increase our understanding of the diversity of dinosaur species from this time," Barker said. Silhouette showing the positions of the bones. Darren Naish The university said the bones were discovered in 2019 by individuals and families, all of whom donated their findings to the nearby dinosaur museum. "The joy of finding the bones we discovered was absolutely fantastic," Robin Ward, an amateur fossil hunter who found one of the fossils, told the university. "I thought they were special and so took them along when we visited Dinosaur Isle Museum. They immediately knew these were something rare and asked if we could donate them to the museum to be fully researched." "It looked different from marine reptile vertebrae I have come across in the past," James Lockyer, who found another one of the fossils, told the university. "I was searching a spot at Shanklin and had been told and read that I wouldn't find much there. However, I always make sure I search the areas others do not, and on this occasion, it paid off." The new fossils will be displayed at the Dinosaur Isle Museum at Sandown on the Isle of White, which is well-known as one of the best locations in Europe to find dinosaur remains. The researchers' findings will be published in the journal Papers in Palaeontology. New species of dinosaur discovered on Isle of Wight - University of Southampton. by UoS News Desk on YouTube
Ancient "terror crocodiles" used banana-sized teeth to eat everything in sight, even dinosaurs - CBS News
The massive beasts could eat even the largest of dinosaurs — putting them at the top of the food chain.
Crocodiles may seem intimidating in the year 2020, but millions of years ago, they were so large, they were capable of eating dinosaurs. These massive North American crocodiles, scientists said, had teeth the "size of bananas." According to a new study of Deinosuchus fossils published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the creatures lived between 75 million and 82 million years ago. Deinosuchus, which means "terror crocodile," used their ginormous teeth to eat even the largest of dinosaurs — putting them at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem. Researchers studied fossils and bite marks on turtle shells and dinosaur bones to create a full picture of Deinosuchus. They said the animal, which grew up to 33 feet in length, was actually more closely related to alligators than crocodiles. Researchers said nearly everything in their habitat was up for grabs to be eaten by the massive predators. An illustration of Deinosuchus from the journal's cover. Tyler Stone "Deinosuchus was a giant that must have terrorized dinosaurs that came to the water's edge to drink," lead author Adam Cossette, a paleontologist at the New York Institute of Technology, said in a press release Monday. "Until now, the complete animal was unknown. These new specimens we've examined reveal a bizarre, monstrous predator with teeth the size of bananas." Cossette and co-researcher Christoper Brochu, a paleontologist at the University of Iowa, identified three known species of Deinosuchus: Deinosuchus hatcheri, Deinosuchus riograndensis and Deinosuchus schwimmeri. All three roamed various parts of the U.S., which at the time was cut in half by a shallow sea. Many aspects of the ancient beasts remain mysterious. They didn't look like a crocodile or an alligator, and their extremely large noses had huge holes at the tips that are completely unique and without a known purpose. The animals were wiped out before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, but the reason for their disappearance remains unknown. "It was a strange animal," said Brochu. "It shows that crocodylians are not 'living fossils' that haven't changed since the age of dinosaurs. They've evolved just as dynamically as any other group."
Rare "boomerang" earthquake detected under the Atlantic Ocean for the first time - CBS News
"This was completely opposite to how we expected the earthquake to look before we started to analyze the data," one scientist said.
For years, scientists have been attempting to track an extremely rare "boomerang" earthquake. Now, they've recorded one in the ocean for the first time — and it's even more bizarre than they expected. Earthquakes are the result of rocks breaking on a fault, which is a boundary between two plates. A "boomerang" earthquake, also known as a "back-propagating supershear rupture," means the fracture travels away from the initial crack before returning to it at even faster speeds, scientists said. Large earthquakes are capable of destroying buildings and triggering tsunamis, so understanding how they work is imperative to assessing potential hazards and implementing warning systems for future quakes. According to a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team, led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Imperial College London, successfully recorded a magnitude 7.1 earthquake on August 29, 2016. It ran along the Romanche fracture zone, a 560-mile-long fault line under the Atlantic Ocean near the equator, between Brazil and Africa. Scientists say that large — meaning magnitude 7 or higher — quakes are difficult to study because they often set off a series of chain reactions along intricate networks of faults. Faults under the ocean have simple shapes, but they are located far away from seismometer networks on land, so an underwater network of seismometers is needed. Researchers said the quake traveled in one direction between the South American and African tectonic plates, then boomeranged back to the start at ultra-fast speeds — breaking the "seismic sound barrier" — a sonic boom of sorts. Reconstructed image of the fracture zone. Hicks et al An analysis revealed the quake had two distinct phases. The rupture traveled upward and eastward first, before suddenly reversing and heading back west to the center of the fault at an accelerated speed of 3.7 miles per second. Scientists aren't exactly sure how this occurred, but they believe the first phase somehow triggered its more aggressive counterpart. Only a handful of boomerang earthquakes have ever been recorded — the phenomenon has mostly been theoretical, until now. "Whilst scientists have found that such a reversing rupture mechanism is possible from theoretical models, our new study provides some of the clearest evidence for this enigmatic mechanism occurring in a real fault," lead author Dr. Stephen Hicks, from the Department of Earth Sciences and Engineering at Imperial College London, said in a press release. "Even though the fault structure seems simple, the way the earthquake grew was not, and this was completely opposite to how we expected the earthquake to look before we started to analyze the data." Scientists said that if a similar type of quake occurred on land, it would drastically affect the amount of ground shaking — and possibly widen the affected area. Successfully tracking more boomerang quakes would allow researchers to better predict and assess the hazards from such events, improving impact forecasts.
NASA drops "insensitive" nicknames for cosmic objects - CBS News
The space agency will no longer use nicknames like "Eskimo Nebula" or "Siamese Twins Galaxy."
NASA is joining the ever-growing list of organizations and companies reexamining its naming system, removing names that are "insensitive" and "harmful" from its vocabulary. Aunt Jemima, The Chicks, Lady A, Mrs. Butterworth's, the Washington Football Team — and now, celestial objects — are all undergoing a rebrand. "Eskimo Nebula" and "Siamese Twins Galaxy" are just two examples of nicknames that will be retired, the space agency announced this week. "Often seemingly innocuous nicknames can be harmful and detract from the science," it said. Celestial objects such as planets, galaxies and nebulae are often given unofficial nicknames, since their official names are typically a series of letters and numbers. However, NASA said some of the names are offensive, and they plan to retire them. "As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful," the agency said. "NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion." NASA said it will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a sun-like star near the end of its life, as the "Eskimo Nebula." It acknowledged the term's racist origins. Many indigenous people consider Eskimo a derogatory term because non-native colonizers used it to mean "eater of raw meat," connoting barbarism. In June, Dreyer's Ice Cream dropped the name "Eskimo Pie" after nearly 100 years. Why America can't escape its racist roots14:49 Additionally, the agency will no longer refer to the spiral galaxies NGC 4567 and NGC 4568 as the "Siamese Twins Galaxy." "Siamese twins" is an outdated expression used to refer to conjoined twins, originally inspired by brothers Chang and Eng Bunker, who were born in Siam, modern-day Thailand. The twins performed in "freak shows" in the 19th century for European and American audiences. NASA said that it will only use official International Astronomical Union designations to refer to the objects that previously had "inappropriate" nicknames. "Our goal is that all names are aligned with our values of diversity and inclusion, and we'll proactively work with the scientific community to help ensure that. Science is for everyone, and every facet of our work needs to reflect that value," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The agency said it is working with diversity, inclusion and equity experts to recommend other nicknames and terms for objects moving forward. "These nicknames and terms may have historical or culture connotations that are objectionable or unwelcoming, and NASA is strongly committed to addressing them," said Stephen T. Shih, Associate Administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity. "Science depends on diverse contributions, and benefits everyone, so this means we must make it inclusive."
SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts describe thrilling return to Earth - CBS News
With a piloted test flight complete, NASA hopes to certify the SpaceX capsule for operational missions.
Plunging back to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Sunday amounted to a high-speed thrill ride, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken reported Tuesday. The fiery, flawlessly-controlled descent to splashdown went off without a hitch — a major step toward certifying the vehicle for operational flights. "What a ride!" Behnken tweeted, sharing long-range tracking camera footage of the Crew Dragon's dramatic descent. Tracking footage of Crew Dragon’s descent, parachute deployments and splashdown pic.twitter.com/pzbm1iXCC6 — SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 4, 2020 The Crew Dragon splashed down south of Pensacola, Florida, amid dozens of boaters, some motoring close to the gently rocking capsule despite earlier Coast Guard warnings to stay clear. The spacecraft, with Hurley and Behnken still strapped in their seats, was hauled aboard a SpaceX recovery ship without incident. It was the first water landing for astronauts or cosmonauts returning from orbit since the final Apollo capsule closed out a joint flight with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft 45 years ago. Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle flights each, said the ride down was possibly more exciting than either expected. Behnken provided a blow-by-blow description Tuesday during a virtual news conference at the Johnson Space Center. Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley answer phoned-in questions from reporters during a news conference two days after their historic return to Earth aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. NASA "Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise. You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle," he said. "And as the vehicle tries to control (its orientation), you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body, and our bodies were much better attuned to the environment (after two month in weightlessness) so we could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws," he added. "As we descended through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously ... But it doesn't sound like a machine," Behnken explained. "It sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise. It just continues to gain magnitude." When the capsule's stabilizing drogue parachutes deployed, followed by four large main chutes inflating, it felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken said. "It was a pretty significant jolt." "If you've seen an old movie that happened to have some guys who'd been in a centrifuge, that's what we felt like," he said. "When the time came to splash down ... we felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows. It was just a great relief." They did not say whether they felt any nausea before the gently bobbing spacecraft was recovered and pulled onto the recovery ship Go Navigator, something they mentioned before launch as a possibility. Behnken and Hurley had nothing but praise for SpaceX and NASA's Commercial Crew Program, thanking SpaceX for the extensive training they received and for audio recordings and video from an unpiloted Crew Dragon test flight last year that let them know what to expect during the trip back to Earth. The Crew Dragon descending under parachutes Sunday, moments before splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola, Florida. NASA/Bill Ingalls "When it performed as expected, and we could check off those events, we were really, really comfortable coming through the atmosphere, even though, you know, it felt like we were inside of an animal," Behnken said. Hurley and Behnken were launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30. The spacecraft carried out an automated rendezvous to catch up with the International Space Station and, after the astronauts tested its manual control system, docked with the lab complex using the same forward port that once accommodated visiting space shuttles. The Crew Dragon astronauts were welcomed aboard by Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Over the next two months, Hurley and Behnken assisted Cassidy with a full slate of U.S. and partner agency research, logging 114 hours carrying out experiments that would not otherwise have gotten done with a single U.S. astronaut aboard. Behnken also participated in four spacewalks with Cassidy to wrap up installation of replacement batteries in the station's solar power system. Including six excursions during two previous shuttle missions, Behnken now ranks fourth on the list of most experienced spacewalkers, with 61 hours and 10 minutes spent outside the station. Hurley, who piloted two shuttle missions, including the winged orbiter's final flight to the space station in 2011, said he expected some surprises during the Crew Dragon's reentry. "I expected there to be some divergence and attitude control, because it's a real tough problem for the ship as it gets into the thicker air to maintain perfect attitude and control," he said. "And ... the vehicle was rock solid." The Crew Dragon is the first American spacecraft to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil since the space shuttle's final flight in 2011. For the past nine years, NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. and partner agency astronauts to and from the station, paying more than $80 million per seat under recent contracts. The Crew Dragon and, eventually, Boeing's Starliner CST-100 capsules are intended to end that sole reliance on Russia while opening up low-Earth orbit to private-sector development. Robert Behnken, left, and spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley, greet recovery crews moments after the hatch of their Crew Dragon capsule was opened. NASA/Bill Ingalls SpaceX launched and recovered an unpiloted Crew Dragon capsule last year and carried out a dramatic in-flight abort, again unpiloted, earlier this year. That cleared the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off on the program's first piloted mission, a test flight known as Demo 2. The spacecraft performed in near-flawless fashion throughout its first piloted mission and, if a detailed post-flight review confirms that, NASA managers hope to certify the spacecraft for operational crew rotation missions to and from the space station starting this fall. That instant at splashdown when we knew we did it. Congratulations to @SpaceX and @NASA on an incredible mission! It's great to have such an uplifting story at the intersection of innovation and humanity’s desire to do great things. #LaunchAmericapic.twitter.com/iUkzqyX6gU — Christina H Koch (@Astro_Christina) August 4, 2020 "They do need to look at the data from our entry," Behnken said. "They will do a very thorough review, both on the SpaceX side and the NASA side, to make sure that they're comfortable. But from a crew perspective, I think that it's definitely ready to go." That will be good news for Behnken's wife, astronaut Megan McArthur. She's one of four astronauts scheduled to blast off next year aboard the same Crew Dragon capsule that carried Behnken and Hurley back to Earth. "My wife is assigned to a SpaceX mission, and we have a young son," Behnken said. "So I'll definitely be focused on making sure that her mission's as successful as possible and supporting her just as she did for me over the last five years." SpaceX splashdown marks a milestone03:29
Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial results "extremely encouraging," U.K. government says - CBS News
AstraZeneca says the trial data "increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale."
A senior British official has called the latest news on an Oxford University team's potential coronavirus vaccine "extremely encouraging." The results of the Phase I/II trial of the vaccine being developed by Oxford's Jenner Institute, in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, showed that it is safe and "produced strong immune results," according to the research published on Monday in The Lancet medical journal. The vaccine caused a 2-pronged immune response, a news release from the Jenner Institute at Oxford said. First, within 14 days, it triggered a T cell response, generating white blood cells that can attack infected cells. Second, within 28 days, it provoked an antibody response. Antibodies are able to prevent the virus from infecting cells when it is initially contracted, according to the release. "Those are two parts of the immune system that ideally work together to protect against viral infections," Professor Sarah Gilbert, who heads up the Oxford team, explained to CBS News' Charlie D'Agata. A photo provided by the COVID-19 Vaccine Team at the University of Oxford's Vaccine Centre in England shows a researcher working on the manufacture of a potential vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Sean Elias/Oxford Vaccine Centre The U.K. Phase I/II trial began in April and involved more than 1,000 healthy volunteers who were between 18 and 55 years old. Some of those volunteers received a second, booster dose of the vaccine, and they appeared to benefit most. "We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination," Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford University and co-author of the study, said. Crucially the trial also showed that the candidate vaccine produced no serious side effects, causing only minor headaches, fatigue and some soreness around the point of injection. "We're all getting a sigh of relief," CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus told D'Agata of the trial results. "We're getting the immune responses that science hoped for. Oxford is working with AstraZeneca to develop, manufacture, and produce a coronavirus vaccine on a large scale. The unprecedented effort aims to make some 2 billion doses of the vaccine available globally, through partnerships with manufacturers in several countries, by early next year. Lead scientist Gilbert told the BBC on Tuesday morning that while the hope was still to be able to make millions of doses available by this autumn, there was still "absolutely no certainty" of that timeline, as the final, Phase III trials were still ongoing, and the roll-out of the vaccine on a large scale was also contingent on the manufacturing process and individual nations' safety regulators approving it for emergency use. Coronavirus vaccine tests begin in South Afri...01:43 While the latest results are encouraging, they show that the trial vaccine creates the reaction in the body that should give immunity to the disease. The Phase III trials, to prove it actually gives people that immunity in the real world, are already ongoing, involving a far larger sample of people, in the U.K., Brazil, and South Africa. A Phase III human trial of the Oxford vaccine involving some 30,000 people will begin in the United States in August. "While there is more work to be done, today's data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world," Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneca, said. The U.S. government has invested a whopping $1 billion in Oxford's trial vaccine already, gambling on it being a success to secure millions of doses as soon as possible. Britain has also poured about $90 million into the work by Oxford's Jenner Institute for vaccine research. On Monday, British government Business Secretary Alok Sharma called the latest trial results "extremely encouraging, taking us one step closer to finding a successful vaccine to protect millions in the U.K. and across the world." The Oxford vaccine has been out in front of about 15 serious global competitors for months, but a few others are hot on the team's heels. Moderna advances potential COVID-19 vaccine03:48 Just last week, officials announced similarly hopeful results from Phase I trialing of a vaccine being developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The experimental vaccine will move to its most important step around the end of July: A 30,000-person study to prove the shots are effective at stopping coronavirus infection. The U.K. vaccine news was published Monday in The Lancet along with another study on a Chinese vaccine trial. That vaccine also showed promise, creating a strong antibody and T cell response in more than 90 percent of those given the injection after 28 days.
Saturn's largest moon is drifting off into space 100 times faster than researchers previously thought - CBS News
Titan, which could support life, is quickly distancing from its host planet.
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is distancing itself from its planet at a rapid speed, astronomers announced this week. The moon is drifting away into space much faster than previously predicted, the scientists said, possibly altering their understanding of our solar system. Titan, which scientists believe could support life, is moving about 100 times faster than researchers previously thought, according to a study published this week in the journal Nature Astronomy. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which observed Saturn for more than 13 years, astronomers found Titan is migrating at a rate of about four inches per year. It's not unusual for moons to slowly drift from their host planets — in fact, our own moon is constantly floating away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year. However, due to Titan's distance from Saturn, scientists thought it was moving away from the planet more slowly. According to NASA, as a moon orbits, its gravity creates a temporary bulge in the planet, causing tides as oceans move from side to side. Over time, the energy created by this interaction transfers from the planet to its moon, pushing it further away. But don't worry about our moon. "Earth will not 'lose' the moon until both the earth and moon are engulfed by the sun in roughly six billion years," according to researchers at Caltech. Larger than the planet Mercury, Titan is seen here as it orbits Saturn in 2012. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute While scientists know that Saturn formed 4.6 billion years ago, the details on the formations of its rings and its system of more than 80 moons are less certain. Knowing that Titan is currently 759,000 miles from the planet, this new discovery suggests the whole system expanded relatively quickly. "This result brings an important new piece of the puzzle for the highly debated question of the age of the Saturn system and how its moons formed," lead author Valery Lainey said in a news release. "Most prior work had predicted that moons like Titan or Jupiter's moon Callisto were formed at an orbital distance similar to where we see them now," said co-author Jim Fuller. "This implies that the Saturnian moon system, and potentially its rings, have formed and evolved more dynamically than previously believed." For nearly 50 years, scientists estimated how fast a moon drifts from its planet under the assumption that outer moons migrate more slowly than closer moons because they are further away from the host planet's gravity. Four years ago, Fuller countered those theories, publishing research suggesting that a new orbit pattern would allow outer moons to migrate at a similar rate to inner moons. To reach their new findings on Titan, researchers mapped background stars in images captured by Cassini in order to track the moon over a period of 10 years. They then compared their findings to an independent radio science dataset measuring Cassini's velocity as it was affected by the moon. "By using two completely different datasets, we obtained results that are in full agreement, and also in agreement with Jim Fuller's theory, which predicted a much faster migration of Titan," said co-author Paolo Tortora. Spectacular raw images of Saturn's moons12 photos With a diameter of 5,149 km, Titan is the second-largest moon in the entire solar system, larger even than the planet Mercury. It's the only moon with a dense atmosphere, and it's covered in rivers and seas made of liquid methane and ethane. Under those bodies of liquid is a thick layer of ice. Data from Cassini revealed that a liquid water ocean lies even deeper, meaning Titan could potentially sustain life. In 2026, NASA plans to further study the moon with its Dragonfly mission, which will arrive at Titan by 2034. The drone will monitor the moon for nearly three years to figure out if it could one day be habitable.