These Engineers Have Invented an Entirely New Approach to Recycling Plastic
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By DAVID NIELD, Science Alert.

Our planet and everything that lives on it is buckling under the weight of all the plastic waste we’re producing. The volume of these non-biodegradable materials discarded after use is only increasing, so we need new ways to tackle them, and fast.

A new study demonstrates the proof-of-concept of an entirely new approach to plastic recycling, inspired by the way nature naturally ‘recycles’ the components of organic polymers present in our environment.

The approach takes guidance from the fact that proteins within organic polymers are constantly broken down into parts and reassembled into different proteins, without losing the quality of the building blocks. In essence, when it comes to recycling plastic – a synthetic polymer – without degrading it, we have to think smaller.

Proteins are one of the main organic compounds that act as building blocks for everything biological. They’re long chains of molecules (or monomers) known as amino acids, and researchers think that the way these molecules can be broken up and reconfigured suggests a potential strategy for recycling synthetic polymers.

“A protein is like a string of pearls, where each pearl is an amino acid,” says materials scientist Simone Giaveri, from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

“Each pearl has a different color, and the color sequence determines the string structure and consequently its properties. In nature, protein chains break up into the constituent amino acids, and cells put such amino acids back together to form new proteins – that is, they create new strings of pearls with a different color sequence.”

The researchers have called their approach “nature-inspired circular-economy recycling”, or NaCRe for short.

In lab tests, the team was able to divide selected proteins into amino acids, then assemble them into new proteins with different structures and uses. In one case, they turned the proteins from silk into green fluorescent protein, which is a glowing tracer used in biomedical research. Despite this deconstruction and reconstruction, the quality of the proteins remains constant.

Click here to read the full article on Science Alert.

How NASA’s Lucy asteroid mission will help tell the story of our solar system
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How NASA’s Lucy asteroid mission will help tell the story of our solar system

By Emily DeCiccio, CNBC

Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, explained how the agency’s Lucy asteroid mission will help illuminate the solar system’s formation.

“The Lucy mission is really exciting, it’s going out to visit these special asteroids that are, they orbit the sun at about the same distance as Jupiter … and they’re special remnants that are probably about 4 billion years old, made up of that material that made all of the planets in the outer part of the solar system Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune,” said Glaze on CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith.” “And so, by studying these special asteroids we can learn more about what those planets are made of and that whole early story of that part of the solar system.”

The Lucy spacecraft blasted off Saturday from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and is expected to travel 4 billion miles through space to fly by and study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. While the launch was successful and the spacecraft is stable, NASA said on Sunday that one of the spacecraft’s two solar arrays “may not be fully latched.”

Glaze delivered an update to host Shepard Smith regarding the Lucy spacecraft’s two massive solar panels.

“They both deployed, one of them we got confirmation that it completely deployed and locked into place,” said Glaze. “The second one deployed, but we didn’t get confirmation that it locked into place, so we’re collecting information now over the next day or so…Hopefully, we’ll be able to remedy this and fix the situation but right now we’re still in data-gathering mode.”

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

Russian Film Crew Returns to Earth Safely After 12 Days of Shooting on the ISS
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Russian space agency rescue team members help actress Yulia Peresild out from the capsule shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-18 space capsule from iss

By Jody Serrano, Gizmodo

The Russian film crew that traveled to the International Space Station to film scenes for the first movie shot partially in space returned to Earth safely on Sunday. The milestone will potentially give Russian film industry a small win over Hollywood, which also aims to shoot a movie on the ISS featuring Tom Cruise in the future.

On Saturday, actress Yulia Peresild, director Klim Shipenko, and Oleg Novitsky—a real-life cosmonaut who’s been on the ISS since April and also played a part in the movie—headed back to Earth on a Russian Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft. They landed with no incidents in the Kazakhstan desert at 10:35 a.m. local time after a roughly three-hour trip.

In total, Peresild and Shipenko spent 12 days in space filming scenes for their movie The Challenge, in which Peresild portrays an operating surgeon who prepares for a flight to the ISS to save an ailing cosmonaut’s (reportedly played by Novitsky) life.

“The descent vehicle of the crewed spacecraft Soyuz MS-18 is standing upright and is secure. The crew are feeling good!” the Russian space agency Roscosmos, which is part of the joint film project, said on Twitter, according to a translation by AFP.

In fact, the crew sort of had to feel good, because they weren’t done filming. The film crew on Earth got right to work while Russian officials helped Peresild, Shipenko, and Novitsky out of the MS-18 capsule. The New York Times reported that a producer could be seen shouting instructions on the livestream of the landing provided by Roscosmos and NASA.

“Guys, please, let us do some shooting,” the producer said. “Please, do not do any filming on your smartphones. Do not take any videos, because right now, this is actually the future end of the movie.”

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

Solar storm hits Earth, bringing northern lights to New York
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An aurora spotted from the International Space Station. An Oct. 11 geomagnetic solar storm created auroras that stretched as far south as New York. (Image credit: NASA)

By , Space.com

A solar storm hit Earth and brought with it a spectacular light show visible as far south as New York.

A massive solar flare, or coronal mass ejection (CME), was spotted on the sun Saturday (Oct. 9) on its Earth-facing side and the flare hit our planet yesterday (Oct. 11). This event comes as Earth enters a period of heightened solar activity known as the solar maximum (solar activity increases and decreases about every 11 years.) The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned that the storm would be a category G2 event, which is moderately strong.

Solar storms of this magnitude can affect satellites in orbit around Earth, cause disruptions in power grids and more. But they can also spark a magnificent aurora, a natural light show that’s typically only seen in high-latitude regions near the north or south poles. But this storm was so powerful that it was visible as far south as New York and as far across the United States as Wisconsin and Washington state, NOAA reported.

NOAA put out a geomagnetic storm watch for Oct. 11 that was extended into Tuesday (Oct. 12). On Monday NOAA warned that satellite orientation irregularities, power grid fluctuations and more could occur as a result of the moderate storm. On Tuesday those impacts were reduced to primarily possible fluctuations in wear power grids.

As the storm’s effects linger, auroras may still be visible Tuesday night at high latitudes, in locations like Canada and Alaska, according to NOAA. But skywatchers in other locations who were lucky enough yesterday could have gotten an eyeful in locations like New York where auroras are very rarely visible at all.

In South Dakota in the U.S., photographer Randy Halverson was able to capture an incredible view of the aurora on Oct. 11.

Click here to read the full article on Space.com.

Russian film team boldly shoot towards space station
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Russian film team boldly shoot towards space station

By BBC News

Yulia Peresild, 37, is set to star in the film, directed by Klim Shipenko.

Their Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft took off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and three hours later docked with the International Space Station.

US actor Tom Cruise and Nasa have also been planning to make a film there.

There was more than a touch of show business glamour when the Soyuz crew launched on Tuesday, as the TV cameras focused on Peresild and her 12-year-old daughter Anna, who was watching from a safe distance.

It was from the Kazakh steppes where camels and susliks (ground squirrels) roam, rather than in the studios of Hollywood, that real actors went into space, said Russia’s Komsomolskaya Pravda website. Shipenko’s actress wife Sofia Karpunina noted that the director had had to shed 15kg (33lbs) beforehand.

The launch, led by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, went according to plan at 11:55 Moscow time (08:55 GMT). “The crew is feeling well,” said the commander shortly after take-off.

The Soyuz docked with the ISS a little over three hours afterwards. However, it was a little later than planned as the Soyuz’s automatic Kurs docking system failed and the commander had to switch to manual control.

Shkaplerov would normally have had the help of a flight engineer but his two colleagues would have been unable to help him, despite their fast-track flight training.

Eventually the hatch connecting the Soyuz to the ISS opened and the crew joined the seven others waiting in the Russian section of the ISS.

“The hatch is open! Everything as planned,” tweeted Roscosmos space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin.

Although Shkaplerov will stay on board, director and actress have just 12 days to film their scenes in space, with Peresild playing a cardiac surgeon sent into orbit to save a cosmonaut. Two of the Russian cosmonauts already on board, Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov, will also take part in the film, reports say.

Filming will take part in the Russian section of the ISS and the mission has proved contentious in Russia’s space industry.

The feature film is the brainchild of the Roscosmos chief, who at one point fired the space agency’s head of crewed missions in a row over the project.

Sergei Krikalev, a veteran of space missions, got his job back days later amid widespread anger at his sacking.

Another cosmonaut, Mikhail Kornienko, told BBC Russian he was one of many who were opposed to it. “The ISS is no place for performers, all sorts of clowns or tourists. It’s a huge space lab and you shouldn’t get in the way of professional work.”

The film is being funded by Russia’s Channel One TV, and a Roscosmos subsidiary said it would not require money from the federal budget.

Click here to read the full article on BBC News.

7 ways Einstein changed the world
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By , Live Science

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is one of the most famous scientists of all time, and his name has become almost synonymous with the word “genius.”

While his reputation owes something to his eccentric appearance and occasional pronouncements on philosophy, world politics and other non-scientific topics, his real claim to fame comes from his contributions to modern physics, which have changed our entire perception of the universe and helped shape the world we live in today.

Here’s a look at some of the world-changing concepts we owe to Einstein.

Space-time

One of Einstein’s earliest achievements, at the age of 26, was his theory of special relativity — so-called because it deals with relative motion in the special case where gravitational forces are neglected. This may sound innocuous, but it was one of the greatest scientific revolutions in history, completely changing the way physicists think about space and time. In effect, Einstein merged these into a single space-time continuum. One reason we think of space and time as being completely separate is because we measure them in different units, such as miles and seconds, respectively. But Einstein showed how they are actually interchangeable, linked to each other through the speed of light — approximately 186,000 miles per second (300,000 kilometers per second).

Perhaps the most famous consequence of special relativity is that nothing can travel faster than light. But it also means that things start to behave very oddly as the speed of light is approached. If you could see a spaceship that was traveling at 80% the speed of light, it would look 40% shorter than when it appeared at rest. And if you could see inside, everything would appear to move in slow motion, with a clock taking 100 seconds to tick through a minute, according to Georgia State University’s HyperPhysics website. This means the spaceship’s crew would actually age more slowly the faster they are traveling.

E = mc^2

An unexpected offshoot of special relativity was Einstein’s celebrated equation E = mc^2, which is likely the only mathematical formula to have reached the status of cultural icon. The equation expresses the equivalence of mass (m) and energy (E), two physical parameters previously believed to be completely separate. In traditional physics, mass measures the amount of matter contained in an object, whereas energy is a property the object has by virtue of its motion and the forces acting on it. Additionally, energy can exist in the complete absence of matter, for example in light or radio waves. However, Einstein’s equation says that mass and energy are essentially the same thing, as long as you multiply the mass by c^2 — the square of the speed of light, which is a very big number — to ensure it ends up in the same units as energy.

This means that an object gains mass as it moves faster, simply because it’s gaining energy. It also means that even an inert, stationary object has a huge amount of energy locked up inside it. Besides being a mind-blowing idea, the concept has practical applications in the world of high-energy particle physics. According to the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), if sufficiently energetic particles are smashed together, the energy of the collision can create new matter in the form of additional particles.

Lasers

Lasers are an essential component of modern technology and are used in everything from barcode readers and laser pointers to holograms and fiber-optic communication. Although lasers are not commonly associated with Einstein, it was ultimately his work that made them possible. The word laser, coined in 1959, stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation” — and stimulated emission is a concept Einstein developed more than 40 years earlier, according to the American Physical Society. In 1917, Einstein wrote a paper on the quantum theory of radiation that described, among other things, how a photon of light passing through a substance could stimulate the emission of further photons.

Einstein realized that the new photons travel in the same direction, and with the same frequency and phase, as the original photon. This results in a cascade effect as more and more virtually identical photons are produced. As a theoretician, Einstein didn’t take the idea any further, while other scientists were slow to recognize the enormous practical potential of stimulated emission. But the world got there in the end, and people are still finding new applications for lasers today, from anti-drone weapons to super-fast computers.

Black holes and wormholes

Einstein’s theory of special relativity showed that space-time can do some pretty weird things even in the absence of gravitational fields. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as Einstein discovered when he finally succeeded in adding gravity into the mix, in his theory of general relativity. He found that massive objects like planets and stars actually distort the fabric of space-time, and it’s this distortion that produces the effects we perceive as gravity.

Einstein explained general relativity through a complex set of equations, which have an enormous range of applications. Perhaps the most famous solution to Einstein’s equations came from Karl Schwarzschild’s solution in 1916 — a black hole. Even weirder is a solution that Einstein himself developed in 1935 in collaboration with Nathan Rosen, describing the possibility of shortcuts from one point in space-time to another. Originally dubbed Einstein-Rosen bridges, these are now known to all fans of science fiction by the more familiar name of wormholes.

The expanding universe

One of the first things Einstein did with his equations of general relativity, back in 1915, was to apply them to the universe as a whole. But the answer that came out looked wrong to him. It implied that the fabric of space itself was in a state of continuous expansion, pulling galaxies along with it so the distances between them were constantly growing. Common sense told Einstein that this couldn’t be true, so he added something called the cosmological constant to his equations to produce a well-behaved, static universe.

But in 1929, Edwin Hubble’s observations of other galaxies showed that the universe really is expanding, apparently in just the way that Einstein’s original equations predicted. It looked like the end of the line for the cosmological constant, which Einstein later described as his biggest blunder. That wasn’t the end of the story, however. Based on more refined measurements of the expansion of the universe, we now know that it’s speeding up, rather than slowing down as it ought to in the absence of a cosmological constant. So it looks as though Einstein’s “blunder” wasn’t such an error after all.

Click here to read the full article on Live Science.

NASA’s record-breaking Lucy asteroid mission gearing up for October launch
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An artist's depiction of NASA's Lucy spacecraft studying asteroids. (Image credit: SwRI)

By , Space.com

Lucy’s launch is less than three weeks away.

NASA’s Lucy asteroid probe is set to begin its 12-year space odyssey next month.

Lucy is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Oct. 16. The liftoff will kick off a landmark mission that will see Lucy get up close and personal with eight different space rocks over the next dozen years.

“We’re visiting more asteroids than any other spacecraft in history,” Lucy principal investigator Hal Levison, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said during a news conference on Tuesday (Sept. 28).

“We’re also going to exceed another [record]: We’re going farther from the sun than any other solar-powered spacecraft in history,” Levison added.

Lucy will take the distance crown from NASA’s Juno probe, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016.

Studying the Trojan asteroids
Lucy’s main science targets are Trojan asteroids, space rocks that loop around the sun in Jupiter’s orbit. There are two groups of Trojans: one that “leads” Jupiter around our star and one that “trails” the giant planet.

Astronomers have catalogued more than 7,000 Trojans to date, but the total population of the space rocks is much higher, perhaps even rivaling that of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Levison said. Lucy will be the first spacecraft to get an up-close look at any Trojan, and its observations could be revelatory.

“Planet formation and evolution models suggest that the Trojan asteroids are likely remnant[s] of the same primordial material that formed the outer planets, and thus serve as time capsules from the birth of our solar system over 4 billion years ago,” SwRI representatives wrote in a Lucy mission description. “These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of our solar system and may even tell us about the origins of organic materials — and even life — on Earth.”

Lucy’s trip to Jupiter’s neighborhood will be a long and circuitous one: The probe will make two different speed-boosting flybys of Earth before heading out toward the giant planet. Then, in April 2025, Lucy will perform its first asteroid flyby, an encounter with a rock in the asteroid belt called (52246) Donaldjohanson.

The Lucy team named that asteroid after paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, the co-discoverer of the famous “Lucy” fossil — the bones of a 3.2-million-year-old female of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis. The fossil, in turn, was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The Lucy mission’s diamond-shaped logo is a nod to the song, Levison said.

After eyeing (52246) Donaldjohanson, the spacecraft will trek to the “leading” Trojan swarm, eventually flying by four different asteroids there from August 2027 to November 2028. After that, Lucy will make its way to the “trailing” group, where it will encounter three space rocks in March 2033.

Lucy won’t linger at any of its asteroid targets.

“We aim almost directly at them, flying within 600 miles [1,000 kilometers] of their surfaces, and Lucy doesn’t slow down for these flybys; it’s moving anywhere between 3 and 5 miles [5 to 8 km] per second relative to the Trojan asteroids,” Keith Noll, Lucy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said during Tuesday’s news conference.

Click here to read the full article on Space.com.

NASA Launches New Mission in “Major Milestone” To Monitor Earth’s Landscapes From Space
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Landsat 9, a NASA satellite built to monitor the Earth’s land surface, successfully launched at 2:12 p.m. EDT Monday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

By Nasa

Landsat 9, a NASA satellite built to monitor the Earth’s land surface, successfully launched at 2:12 p.m. EDT Monday from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

A joint mission with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat 9 lifted off on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg’s Space Launch Complex 3E. Norway’s Svalbard satellite-monitoring ground station acquired signals from the spacecraft about 83 minutes after launch. Landsat 9 is performing as expected as it travels to its final orbital altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers).

“NASA uses the unique assets of our own unprecedented fleet, as well as the instruments of other nations, to study our own planet and its climate systems,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “With a 50-year data bank to build on, Landsat 9 will take this historic and invaluable global program to the next level. We look forward to working with our partners at the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of the Interior again on Landsat Next, because we never stop advancing our work to understand our planet.”

“Today’s successful launch is a major milestone in the nearly 50-year joint partnership between USGS and NASA who, for decades, have partnered to collect valuable scientific information and use that data to shape policy with the utmost scientific integrity,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “As the impacts of the climate crisis intensify in the United States and across the globe, Landsat 9 will provide data and imagery to help make science-based decisions on key issues including water use, wildfire impacts, coral reef degradation, glacier and ice-shelf retreat, and tropical deforestation.”

The first Landsat satellite launched in 1972. Since then, NASA has always kept a Landsat in orbit to collect images of the physical material covering our planet’s surface and changes to land usage. Those images allow researchers to monitor phenomena including agricultural productivity, forest extent and health, water quality, coral reef habitat health, and glacier dynamics.

Click here to read the full article on Sci Tech Daily.

Mars Had Liquid Water On Its Surface. Here’s Why Scientists Think It Vanished
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A close-up of Mars taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. New research suggests that the red planet may be too small to have ever had large amounts of surface water.

By , NPR

All evidence points to the fact that Mars once had flowing water, but numerous flybys, orbiters, landers and rovers have confirmed one undeniable fact — any liquid water that was once on its surface is now long gone.

A study out of Washington University in St. Louis might have found the reason: Mars, which is about half the size of Earth, and just over one-tenth the mass of our own watery world, might just be too small.

One idea, the Mars Ocean Hypothesis, suggests that Mars not only had some liquid water, but a lot of it. But the new study’s co-author Kun Wang says his team’s finding, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pours cold water on that notion.

“Mars’ fate was decided from the beginning,” Wang, an assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences, said in a statement. “There is likely a threshold on the size requirements of rocky planets to retain enough water to enable habitability and plate tectonics.”

That’s because the lower mass and gravity of Mars makes it easier for volatile elements and compounds such as water to escape from its surface into space.

Led by Zhen Tian, a graduate student in Wang’s laboratory, the researchers looked at 20 Martian meteorites ranging in age from about 200 million years old to 4 billion years, dating to a time when the solar system was still in the chaos of formation.

The researchers analyzed a somewhat volatile element — potassium — to help understand how water would have behaved on the surface of Mars.

Speaking to NPR, Wang said the team measured the ratio of two isotopes of potassium — potassium-39 and potassium-41 — in the meteorites. In lower gravity environments, such as Mars, the potassium-39 is more easily lost to space, leaving behind a higher ratio of the heavier isotope, potassium-41. Water behaves in much the same way, indicating that most of it would have been lost to space during the formation of Mars.

It’s something Wang and his colleagues saw even in the oldest meteorites, suggesting that this was an issue for Martian water right from the beginning.

The team also looked at samples from the moon and from an asteroid, both much smaller and drier than either Earth or Mars, to study the potassium isotopes in them. They found a direct correlation between mass and the volatiles — or lack thereof — in the samples.

The liquid water that did remain on the Martian surface carved out the now-desiccated canyons, riverbeds and other formations that we see there today, Wang says. But that water, too, would likely have disappeared had it not been trapped as ice at the Martian poles as the climate on the planet became colder, he notes.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

What we’ve been getting wrong about dinosaurs
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Dinosaurs survived and thrived for 165 million years -- far longer than the roughly 300,000 years modern humans have so far roamed the planet.

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Defined by their disappearance dinosaurs might appear to be evolutionary failures. Not so.

Dinosaurs survived and thrived for 165 million years — far longer than the roughly 300,000 years modern humans have so far roamed the planet.

They lived on every continent, munched on plants, snapped their jaws at insects, itched from fleas, suffered from disease, got into fights, snoozed, performed elaborate courtship rituals and looked after their young. The creatures were much more diverse — and downright bizarre — than what we might recall from childhood books.
Were it not for an asteroid strike 66 million years ago, the ancient creatures still might have dominated our world. And they still are here, in the form of birds we see around us today.

Scientists have discovered more in the past two decades than they had in the prior 200 years about how dinosaurs behaved and evolved. Here’s what’s new and different about what is known of dinosaurs.

How many dinosaurs were there?
The short answer: Lots.

Take T. Rex, the predator with banana-sized teeth that is perhaps the best studied dinosaur. Scientists believe that each T. rex generation was 20,000 individuals, and this adds up to a total of 2.5 billion during the 2.4 million years they are thought to have lived.

While it’s only an estimate and relies on lots of assumptions, it’s a good reminder that the fossil record only captures a tiny fraction of ancient life. The same team of researchers purports that for every 80 million adult T. rexs, there is only one clearly identifiable specimen in a museum.

Scientists have definitively identified around 900 dinosaur species — although there are plenty more potential species for which paleontologists don’t quite have enough bones or the fossils aren’t well preserved enough to truly designate them as such. And there are about 50 new dinosaurs discovered each year, inspiring many scientists to think we’re experiencing a golden age of paleontology.

Many, many more species existed — one estimate suggests that there were between 50,000 and 500,000, but we might never find their fossil remains.

So many species could exist because they were highly specialized, meaning different types of dinosaurs had different sources of food and could live in the same habitats without competing. For example, with unusually large eyes and hair-trigger hearing, Shuuvia deserti, a tiny desert-dwelling dinosaur evolved to hunt at night, while Mononykus had perplexingly stunted forelimbs, each of which had only one functional finger and claw — perhaps to eat ants or termites.

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that many of the dinosaurs you might be familiar with did not live together as one community. Stegosaurus and T. rex never co-existed, separated by 80 million years of evolution. In fact, the time separating Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus is greater than the time separating T. rex and you.
What did they look like?

The first dinosaur discoveries, the earliest more than 150 years ago, focused on the sensational: The big bones and skulls we know from museum atriums.

But dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes. In fact, some of the most exciting finds in recent years have been tiny. In 2016, a tail belonging to a sparrow-sized creature could have danced in the palm of your hand was found preserved in three dimensions in a chunk of amber.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Sian Proctor becomes first Black woman to pilot spacecraft with SpaceX launch
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Dr. Sian Proctor has made history as the first Black woman to serve as a pilot of a spacecraft when SpaceX’s Inspiration4 Mission launched on Wednesday.

By , The Grio

Dr. Sian Proctor has made history as the first Black woman to serve as a pilot of a spacecraft when SpaceX’s Inspiration4 Mission launched on Wednesday.

Proctor, who is a geoscientist and professor, will be one of four people in the first-ever all-civilian spaceflight, serving as a Mission Pilot on SpaceX’s Inspiration4. She will be the fourth Black woman to travel into space, but will make history as the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft with the three-day trip circling the earth, the New York Times reports.

Proctor, a Guam native, had her interest in space sparked at an early age due to her father himself being an engineer for NASA. As a child, she was labeled as a “tomboy” because of her love for building planes. It was then when she aspired to be a fighter pilot once she grew up.

After receiving her master’s degree in Geology, and her Ph.D. in Science Education, Proctor embarked on her career as a geoscience professor for South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Arizona where she taught for over 20 years. Proctor also serves as Vice President of Education at Star Harbor Space Academy.

Proctor spoke to The Space Channel — a Local Now partner of theGrio — about how vital astronauts are.

“When we think about astronauts, we don’t really think of them as guinea pigs. They are research subjects and so we submit them to all kinds of medical tests and all those things,” Proctor said.

“You can think of the twin studies like how we’re also investigating technologies and so I brought in this drone study and the whole idea is with that suit I was wearing when you go into these moon and Mars simulation you’re acting like you’re on that planet or that body.”

Years of training and various educational space programs have been key in the preparation of the pilot’s journey set for Wednesday. Her training includes the Mars Desert Research Station, Mars mission at HI-SEAS, and a Moon mission in the LunAres Habitat. Proctor was selected as one of NASA’s astronaut finalists in 2009, KJZZ reports.

Mission Inspiration4 was created by high school dropout turned-billionaire, Jared Isaacman, according to the New York Times. He’s the founder of the highly successful payment processing company called Shift4 Payment, and will also be funding this trip.

Click here to read the full article on The Grio.

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