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Space station crew returns to Earth after 195-day mission - CBS News
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two cosmonauts head home to close out action-packed space flight.
One week after two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut arrived at the International Space Station, the three crew members they're replacing strapped into their Soyuz spacecraft and undocked Wednesday for a fiery plunge back to Earth to close out a 196-day mission. NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, the outgoing commander of Expedition 63, turned the station over to cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov Tuesday, handing him a ceremonial "key" to the lab complex. Ryzhikov, Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and Kate Rubins arrived at the station last Wednesday aboard their own Soyuz ferry ship. The Soyuz MS-16/62S spacecraft backs away from the International Space Station Wednesday evening, kicking off a three-and-a-half hour flight to bring NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner back to Earth after a 196-day mission. NASA "Expedition 63 has gone by super fast," said Cassidy, a former Navy SEAL. "We joke around that there's only Mondays and Fridays and it's a big blur of time between." Cassidy's departure comes less than two weeks before the 20th anniversary of the first station crew's arrival on November 2, 2000. Since then, the lab has been continuously staffed by rotating international astronaut-cosmonaut crews. In a tweet Tuesday, Cassidy noted the lab's first commander was also a veteran SEAL. "Twenty years ago my astro-SEAL mentor, Captain Bill Shepherd, assumed command of Expedition 1," Cassidy said. "Now we are book-ending those two decades of manned ISS operations with @us_navyseals astronauts in space." It has been an honor to have command of @Space_Station for Expedition 63. Twenty years ago my astro-SEAL mentor, Captain Bill Shepherd, assumed command of Expedition 1. Now we are book-ending those two decades of manned ISS operations with @us_navyseals astronauts in space. pic.twitter.com/ZJiWd2jtfM — Chris Cassidy (@Astro_SEAL) October 20, 2020 Cassidy, Soyuz MS-16/62S commander Anatoly Ivanishin and flight engineer Ivan Vagner were launched to the station on April 9. They strapped into the same Soyuz and undocked at 7:32 p.m. ET Wednesday to begin the three-and-a-half hour trip back to Earth and a landing on the steppe of Kazakhstan. "Mama, I'm coming home!" Vagner tweeted. ‘Mama, I'm coming home!’ Tonight we, the #ISS-63 crew are returning to Earth. This was a busy and very interesting flight! Hope that was interesting! More detailed — https://t.co/McfMJoEqsv (in English, see the first comment) pic.twitter.com/a8FOC38RCL — Ivan Vagner (@ivan_mks63) October 21, 2020 After donning their pressure suits and moving a safe distance away from the station, the Soyuz crew planned to monitor an automated 4-minute 40-second rocket firing starting at 10 p.m., slowing the ship by about 286 mph to drop the far side of the orbit into the atmosphere. Twenty five minutes later, the Soyuz spacecraft's central crew module was expected to slam into the discernible atmosphere at an altitude of about 62 miles, enduring the scorching heat of re-entry before deploying a large parachute and setting to touchdown near the town of Dzhezkazgan at 10:55 p.m. (8:55 a.m. Thursday local time). As always, Russian recovery forces, flight surgeons and NASA personnel were deployed near the landing site to help the station fliers out of their cramped descent module as they begin re-adjusting to the unfamiliar tug of gravity after 196 days four hours and 13 minutes off the planet. After a quick round of medical checks, the crew was to be flown by helicopter to Dzhezkazgan where Cassidy planned to board a waiting NASA jet for the long flight back to Houston. Ivanishin and Vagner were expected to head for Star City near Moscow. The Soyuz MS-16/62S crew during a final check of their ferry ship: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, left, vehicle commander Anatoly Ivanishin, center, and flight engineer Ivan Vagner. NASA Including two previous flights, Cassidy's total time in space will total 378 days, moving him up to fifth on the list of most experienced NASA astronauts. Ivanishin, also completing his third flight, will have logged 476 days in space while Vagner was completing his first space flight. During their stay aboard the space lab, Cassidy's crew welcomed three unpiloted cargo ships, one Soyuz crew — Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins — and the first piloted SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken. Cassidy completed four spacewalks during his time aloft, totaling 23 hours and 37 minutes, pushing his overall total to nearly 55 hours across 10 excursions. Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins will have the station to themselves until mid November when NASA plans to launch a three-man one-woman crew to the lab aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon ferry ship, boosting the station's crew to seven.
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.
NASA expert identifies mystery object once thought an asteroid - CBS News
Asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, appears to be a Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded.
The jig may be up for an "asteroid" that's expected to get nabbed by Earth's gravity and become a mini moon next month. Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that's finally making its way back home, according to NASA's leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity. "I'm pretty jazzed about this," Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. "It's been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I've been doing it for decades now." Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now. This September 20, 1966, photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center's tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark. The object is estimated to be roughly 26 feet based on its brightness. That's in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less than 32 feet long including its engine nozzle and 10 feet in diameter. What caught Chodas' attention is that its near-circular orbit around the sun is quite similar to Earth's — unusual for an asteroid. "Flag number one," said Chodas, who is director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The object is also in the same plane as Earth, not tilted above or below, another red flag. Asteroids usually zip by at odd angles. Lastly, it's approaching Earth at 1,500 mph, slow by asteroid standards. As the object gets closer, astronomers should be able to better chart its orbit and determine how much it's pushed around by the radiation and thermal effects of sunlight. If it's an old Centaur — essentially a light empty can — it will move differently than a heavy space rock less susceptible to outside forces. That's how astronomers normally differentiate between asteroids and space junk like abandoned rocket parts, since both appear merely as moving dots in the sky. There likely are dozens of fake asteroids out there, but their motions are too imprecise or jumbled to confirm their artificial identity, said Chodas. Sometimes it's the other way around. A mystery object in 1991, for example, was determined by Chodas and others to be a regular asteroid rather than debris, even though its orbit around the sun resembled Earth's. Asteroid hunter Carrie Nugent of Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, said Chodas' conclusion is "a good one" based on solid evidence. She's the author of the 2017 book "Asteroid Hunters." "Some more data would be useful so we can know for sure," she said in an email. "Asteroid hunters from around the world will continue to watch this object to get that data. I'm excited to see how this develops!" Chodas predicts the object will spend about four months circling Earth once it's captured in mid-November, before shooting back out into its own orbit around the sun next March. He doubts the object will slam into Earth — "at least not this time around."
Inside a British facility that could mass produce a COVID-19 vaccine within weeks - CBS News
The facility could start filling vials with a vaccine as early as November, maybe even before a vaccine has been approved.
The number of reported coronavirus cases around the world has just topped 30 million. The World Health Organization says "alarming rates of transmission" can be seen again in Europe, which brings new urgency to the global search for a vaccine. There are 36 vaccines for COVID-19 currently in human trials, according to WHO.In a rare look inside a Wockhardt UK facility in Britain, CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams saw how a vaccine would be produced for widespread use. At the facility, a sterile production line could be mass producing a vaccine within weeks. Right now, they're training staff by filling glass vials with water. They could start filling vials with a vaccine as early as November, maybe even before a vaccine has been approved. That's because as soon as they get that final approval, they want to be sending it out to the public. "These are unprecedented times and require unprecedented initiatives," said managing director of Wockhardt UK Ravi Limaye. Limaye told Williams his facility can produce up to 240 million doses of a new vaccine in a year. But if the vaccine they start producing doesn't get approved for safety, they'll simply have to throw it out. Asked if it is a gamble to start packaging millions of doses of a vaccine before it has final approval, Limaye said, "I won't say it's a gamble. I would say this is investment in public health." The Oxford vaccine, arguably the front-runner in the race to stop the new virus despite a recent pause in its trial, will likely be produced at the facility. The U.S. government has given more than $1 billion to the drug company behind it, AstraZeneca, to secure at least 300 million doses. The world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, based in India, warned this week that production isn't being ramped up quickly enough, and it could take until 2024 to produce enough doses of vaccine to cover the entire world.
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."
An asteroid will pass extremely close to Earth the day before the election - CBS News
The object has only a tiny chance of reaching Earth's atmosphere — but NASA isn't worried.
An asteroid is due to pass extremely close to Earth, just ahead of Election Day in November. But there's no reason to worry — NASA says this space rock poses no risk to our planet. Asteroid 2018 VP1 will zoom past Earth on November 2, one day before Americans vote for the next president. In a year where unpredictable disasters have seemingly become routine, NASA is working hard to calm fears of a potential collision. According to the space agency, even if this asteroid did hit Earth's atmosphere, it would be too small to do any damage. "Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth!," NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted Sunday. "It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet's atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size." Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approx. 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth! It currently has a 0.41% chance of entering our planet’s atmosphere, but if it did, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size. — NASA Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) August 23, 2020 Scientists at the Zwicky Transient Facility at Caltech's Palomar Observatory discovered the asteroid in 2018. Since then, they've struggled to track its location and trajectory due to its small size. NASA researchers have been formally cataloging "near-Earth objects" since 1998, discovering around 19,000 of them so far. None of the known objects that could be potentially hazardous to the planet are on track to pass Earth in the near future. In fact, asteroids fly past Earth all the time — sometimes without us even knowing it. Just last week, an asteroid became the closest ever recorded, flying within 1,830 miles of Earth, and scientists weren't even aware of its existence until hours it had already passed our planet.
Mars helicopter reaches "big milestone" on flight to planet - CBS News
NASA announced that the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is alive and well and was successfully recharged while in mid-spaceflight.
So far, so good for the small helicopter that is poised to become the first to fly in outer space. NASA announced that the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is alive and well and was successfully recharged while in mid-spaceflight. Ingenuity is currently positioned in the belly of the Perseverance rover, which launched last month on a historic mission to the red planet. NASA announced that the rover's power supply successfully brought the rotorcraft's six lithium-ion batteries to a charge of 35% -- the optimal level to keep the batteries healthy during the cruise to Mars. "This was a big milestone, as it was our first opportunity to turn on Ingenuity and give its electronics a 'test drive' since we launched on July 30," said Tim Canham, the operations lead for Mars Helicopter. "Since everything went by the book, we'll perform the same activity about every two weeks to maintain an acceptable state of charge." Once Perseverance touches down on Mars, the batteries will be charged by the helicopter's solar panel, NASA said. If Ingenuity can withstand the cold Martian nights, the team will go forward with test flights. The Mars Ingenuity helicopter in a NASA video demonstration. NASA "This charge activity shows we have survived launch and that so far we can handle the harsh environment of interplanetary space," said project manager MiMi Aung. "We have a lot more firsts to go before we can attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet, but right now we are all feeling very good about the future." The 4-pound helicopter will attempt to fly solo a few months after the rover touches down on Mars. It will first try to rise 10 feet into the planet's extremely thin atmosphere and fly forward up to 6 feet. With each attempt, it will try to go a little higher and farther. "It really is like the Wright brothers' moment," Aung said last month before the launch.
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."