NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs
NASA workers look on as space shuttle Atlantis is towed back to its hangar on July 21 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
July 26th, 2011
03:40 PM ET

NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs

NASA is holding a career fair in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday to help its former contract employees to find new jobs now that the shuttle program is ending.

Among those who will be rubbing elbows with government and private recruiters are some of the engineers NASA hired to maintain the shuttle's 20 different systems – "every part of the shuttle that required a team of engineers and technicians to get it ready for the next flight," said Lisa Malone, a NASA spokeswoman."

Over the years, NASA has been downsizing those teams, with Cape Canaveral seeing the most layoffs, including 1,500 on Friday, Malone said.

"I would say the lion's share of (the layoffs) has been in Florida," she said.

According to a fact sheet from NASA, the agency plans to lay off 2.223 Florida "shuttle prime contractors" in fiscal 2011, for a total of 4,371 layoffs in Florida since 2008. At the end of the year, NASA expects to have laid off 9,425 shuttle contractors nationwide since 2008.

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Filed under: News
July 26th, 2011
11:10 AM ET

Driving on the Moon

"Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin loaded the lunar rover with tools and equipment in preparation for the first lunar spacewalk at the Hadley-Apennine landing site. The Lunar Module 'Falcon' appears on the left in this image. The undeployed Laser Ranging Retro-Reflector lies atop Falcon's Modular Equipment Stowage Assembly.

Apollo 15 launched 40 years ago today on July 26, 1971, from Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Feeling like a Neanderthal? Here's why
Research shows many humans are part Neanderthal, like this reconstruction at a German museum.
July 26th, 2011
10:47 AM ET

Feeling like a Neanderthal? Here's why

(CNN) - Apparently, there's a bit of Neanderthal in many of us, according to a newly released study.

Research says modern humans of non-African heritage have distant genetic ties to Neanderthals - cousins of modern humans who went extinct 30,000 years ago.

Published in Oxford Journals' "Molecular Biology and Evolution," the study backs up previous theories that humans and Neanderthals mated and had offspring.

The research is based on analysis of more than 6,000 DNA samples gathered from all populated continents.

In most of the samples, part of the human X chromosome called the haplotype shared a DNA sequence with the Neanderthal genome, said University of Montreal Professor Damian Labuta, who lead the study for CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center. But the Neanderthal sequence was not present in haplotype taken from people with sub-Saharan African heritage.

Neanderthals lived in what is now western Eur-Asia including parts of Germany, France, Spain, Russia and Croatia. Their ancestors left Africa at least 400,000 years ago, which likely explains why humans with African heritage don't have Neanderthal-linked chromosomes.

So is sharing DNA with Neanderthals a good thing?

Neanderthals: Less creative than us?

Possibly, said Labuta. The mixing of genetic material between humans and Neanderthals 50,000 years ago may have helped modern day humans ward off dangerous diseases, funguses or viruses.

"Diversity is very important for long-term survival of a species," Labuda said on the phone from his Montreal office. "Whether this diversity in this case was useful, we don't know yet."

More study has to be done to find out if the genetic material gained from Neanderthals is simply "junk DNA" or served a useful purpose, he said.

Study: Neanderthals cooked, ate veggies

Popular culture hasn't been kind to our ancient cousins, leading to the misperception that Neanderthals weren't intelligent. In fact, experts believe they were just as smart as modern humans.

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Filed under: Discoveries • Human ancestors • News • On Earth

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