Spacewalk to fix space station leak
May 10th, 2013
08:56 AM ET

Spacewalk to fix space station leak

The International Space Station crew is preparing for a spacewalk to address the leak of ammonia from a cooling system, the commander said Friday.

NASA said the crew is preparing for a "possible" spacewalk and that a decision on whether to go ahead with it is likely to come late Friday.

Cmdr. Chris Hadfield of Canada announced the plan to venture outside the space station via his Twitter account.

"Good Morning, Earth! Big change in plans, spacewalk tomorrow, Chris Cassidy and Tom Marshburn are getting suits and airlock ready. Cool!" he posted Friday.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space
May 7th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Buzz Aldrin: Get to Mars within 20 years

By Buzz Aldrin, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Buzz Aldrin, best known for his Apollo 11 moonwalk, holds a doctoral degree in astronautics and, at the age of 83, continues to wield influence as an international advocate of space science and planetary exploration. Aldrin’s new book "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration," co-authored with space journalist Leonard David, is a blueprint and strategy for American-led presence of human beings from Earth on the Red Planet Mars. He is on Twitter at @therealbuzz.

We need to get the world excited again about space exploration and have the pioneering spirit to reach beyond our boundaries and current capabilities.

I want a new generation of space explorers to feel as I did when it was my privilege to take part in the Apollo program that landed the first humans on the surface of the Moon. This is important, not only for the USA but for the rest of the world.

Let me tell you why.


Buzz Aldrin's new book is called "Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration."

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Filed under: In Space • Mars
LAGEOS I, 1976
May 6th, 2013
11:26 AM ET

LAGEOS I, 1976

"The LAGEOS I, Laser Geodynamics Satellite, was launched on May 4, 1976 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The two-foot diameter, 900-pound satellite orbited the Earth from pole to pole and measured the movements of the Earth's surface relative to earthquakes, continental drift, and other geophysical phenomena.

The mirrored surface of the satellite precisely reflected laser beams from ground stations for accurate ranging measurements. Scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. came up with the idea for the satellite and built it at the Marshall Center."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
Why gamma-ray burst shocked scientists
An X-ray telescope image of GRB130427A.
May 6th, 2013
10:50 AM ET

Why gamma-ray burst shocked scientists

By Meg Urry, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the department of physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics

On April 27, NASA's Fermi and Swift satellites detected a strong signal from the brightest gamma-ray burst in decades. Because this was relatively close, it was thousands of times brighter than the typical gamma-ray bursts that are seen by Swift every few days. Scientists are now scrambling to learn more.

We already knew that when the biggest stars run out of fuel, they don't fade quietly away. Instead, they explode in a blaze of glory known as a supernova. These stellar explosions are often bright enough to be seen by us even though they are in galaxies billions of light-years from our own Milky Way galaxy home.

In very rare cases - such as GRB130427A (tagged with the date of its discovery) - astrophysicists are lucky enough to see energetic gamma-rays from hyperfast jets of outflowing material consisting of charged particles created during a massive star's violent death throes.

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Filed under: In Space
May 6th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

They’re baaack! Bugs emerge after 17 years

By Jacque Wilson, CNN

They emerge from the ground after 17 years, their worm-like bodies creating hundreds of peanut-sized holes near the base of your tree. As they begin to climb, their dark brown skin starts to shed. Two beady red eyes appear.

By the time they reach a steady branch their transparent wings have stretched, opened and closed. Within an hour their white bodies will turn black.

Soon the males will start to sing.

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Filed under: On Earth
Skin color is ‘bone-deep’
This is a sculptor's rendering of Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient human relative that lived 3.2 million years ago.
May 4th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Skin color is ‘bone-deep’

By Kelly Murray, CNN

From the darkest brown to the pastiest white and every shade in between, humans display a tremendous variety of skin colors. Human skin color is directly linked to our survival as a species as we lost our fur and developed a need for protection from the sun, and then migrated into cloudier regions of the globe. Over the course of evolution, scientists argue, skin color was influenced, among other factors, by our need for healthy bones.

To begin to explain this, we turn to Nina Jablonski, professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She is a well-recognized researcher in primate evolution, and specifically the evolution of human skin, and she was the subject of a Science Seat on CNN Light Years.

The story of human skin color begins with our furry ancestors about 6 to 7 million years ago in Africa, the last time that humans and chimpanzees shared an ancestor. Jablonski says that these ancestors, called Australopithecus, still had ape-like body proportions: fairly long arms and relatively short legs.

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Filed under: Human ancestors • On Earth
Graphene has massive future
May 3rd, 2013
05:04 PM ET

Graphene has massive future

By Eoghan Macguire and Matthew Knight, CNN

Ever since it was discovered in 2004, graphene has been hailed as a natural wonder of the materials world destined to transform our lives in the 21st century.

Graphene's amazing properties excite and confound in equal measure. How can something one million times thinner than a human hair be 300 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon?

CNN Labs asked the head of MIT's graphene research department, Tomas Palacios, to explain why graphene is such a special material and what we can expect it to do for us in the future.

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Filed under: On Earth
May 3rd, 2013
04:36 PM ET

Parkinson's didn't stop his space walk

By Rich Clifford, Special to CNN

It had been a little more than four months since completing my second space shuttle mission, STS-59, on the shuttle Endeavour.

I was finishing my annual flight physical at the Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. The words from the flight surgeon were as expected: I was in great condition with nothing of note. Then I asked the doctor to look at my right shoulder because my racquetball game was suffering.

He asked if I had pain. I told him I wasn't in pain, but my right arm did not swing naturally when I walked. This comment must have set off some alarm, because he observed my walk down the hall and quickly said he would take me downtown to the Texas Medical Center the next day.

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Filed under: In Space
Science Seat: Saving the birds
The California condor is a rare and endangered species.
May 3rd, 2013
11:37 AM ET

Science Seat: Saving the birds

Editor's note: The Science Seat is a feature in which CNN Light Years sits down with movers and shakers from different areas of scientific exploration. This is the 10th installment.

By Matthew Rehbein, CNN

For more than 30 years, Susan Haig’s mission has been to ensure that endangered bird species don’t become extinct.

Haig’s professional achievements are beyond impressive:  She is a supervisory research wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, a full-time professor at Oregon State University and president of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the largest professional society of ornithologists in the world.

Her current work seeks to find the best methods to preserve specific bird populations — often, populations that are endangered — with a combination of lab-based genetic research and field-based behavioral study. She also examines the effects of climate change and other environmental stressors on water birds and the places they live.

Haig’s efforts to reintroduce the California condor in the Pacific Northwest are detailed in her upcoming book “The California Condor in the Pacific Northwest,” which she cowrote with Jesse D’Elia, one of her Ph.D. students. The book comes out next month.

CNN Light Years caught up with Haig last week to talk about how we protect endangered species — especially in the face of climate change — and even how we might one day bring some back from extinction. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth • Science Seat
Beware the Frankenfish!
Robert Burstein is among several fishermen searching for the Northern Snakehead in Central Park.
May 2nd, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Beware the Frankenfish!

By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @SKastenbaumCNN

(CNN) – The Northern Snakedhead fish is not going to win any beauty contests.

With a mouth full of sharp teeth beneath bulging eyes, the invasive predator – native to waters in China and Russia – may be threatening the balance of the ecosystem of the  Harlem Meer, a man-made lake in New York’s Central Park.

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Filed under: On Earth
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