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View of the Moon's horizon, with a flat plain on the left and a rocky landscape on the right.

The Moon’s northern hemisphere, the planned touchdown site for the Beresheet lander.Credit: NASA

Private lander jumpstarts lunar space race

If all goes well, an Israeli lander scheduled to launch tomorrow will become the first privately funded craft to land on the Moon. The trip will be short and sweet — a two-day study of magnetism in rocks. But it will pioneer the type of public-private partnership that seems set to kick off a new era of lunar exploration.

Nature | 11 min read

CRISPR as disease hunter

Diagnostic tests based on the gene-editing tool CRISPR could someday diagnose infections faster, cheaper and more easily than can existing methods. The tests rely on CRISPR’s ability to hunt down genetic snippets from viruses that it has been programmed to find. Researchers are working on versions that target Lassa fever, dengue, Ebola and human papillomaviruses linked to certain cancers.

Nature | 6 min read

China sets sights on solar power in space

China wants to be the first country to launch a space-based solar power station, according to reports in Chinese state media. The long-dreamt-of power source would avoid the fluctuations caused by weather, seasons or the pesky patterns of day and night. 3D printing the station in orbit could help overcome some of the challenges of launching such an ambitious object.

Nature | 2 min read

Nearly half of US female scientists ditch full-time research after a child

Forty-three percent of women with full-time jobs in science leave the sector or go part time after having their first child. The equivalent number for new fathers is 23%. This compares to 16% of child-free men and 24% of child-free women who leave full time science, according to data from the US National Science Foundation that looked at a three-year period.

Nature | 4 min read

Source: Ref. 1


“We are building the ship while we are sailing”

In 2016, epidemiologist Chikwe Ihekweazu was working in South Africa when he answered a call from an official in Nigeria, telling him that, in the morning, he would be named the first head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. Ihekweazu hadn’t applied for the job, and didn’t particularly want it — but he took up the challenge and returned home. Nature explores how Ihekweazu has tackled the daunting task of fighting disease outbreaks while building a nascent agency.

Nature | 16 min read

How to count a zillion viruses

Earth probably harbours a million times more virus particles than there are stars in the observable Universe — but we’ve only formally described 4,958 of them. To potentially harness the power of these viruses for good, we need to work on classifying the rest, argues virologist Jens Kuhn and colleagues. They call for more funding for cataloguing efforts and more recognition for the scientists who chip in.

Nature | 9 min read

Enter the ScientistAtWork photo competition

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“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat. But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed.”

Environmental-policy adviser Tim Beshara responds to an Australian government report confirming the extinction of Melomys rubicola, resulting from sea-level rise. (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Read more: Climate change has claimed its first mammal casualty (Nature, from 2016)