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Daily briefing: Homo sapiens fossil is the oldest ever found outside Africa

Skull found in Greece might rewrite history of humans in Europe, Hayabusa2 probes an asteroid’s interior for the first time and rewatching the Apollo 11 landing with space legend Wally Funk.

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Images taken before and after touchdown of Hayabusa2 on Ryugu

Hayabusa2 descended to asteroid Ryugu to collect material from underneath the surface.Credit: JAXA

First ever sample taken from asteroid’s guts

Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission has descended on an asteroid to collect material from inside. Earlier today, the spacecraft touched down on the asteroid Ryugu to take samples from a crater it gouged out in April by bombarding the body’s surface with a projectile. The mission will return any material it grabbed back to Earth next year, where it can be compared with a sample that the probe collected from the surface in February.

Nature | 4 min read

Homo sapiens fossil oldest found in Europe

A 210,000-year-old skull seems to be the oldest Homo sapiens fossil ever found outside Africa by 30,000 years. It was discovered, along with another fossil skull nearby, in the Apidima cave in southern Greece in the 1970s, but has only now been analysed using modern techniques. The second skull is that of a Neanderthal, who lived more recently, potentially upending some theories about the order in which Neanderthals and modern humans came to Europe. “Our findings support multiple dispersals of early modern humans out of Africa,” say the researchers, and highlight just how complex the human story is.

The Atlantic | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper


Rewatch Apollo with space legend Wally Funk

Aviator Wally Funk was the youngest of the Mercury 13 — a group of female pilots who did much of the same training as the Apollo 11 astronauts. She joins lunar researchers Sara Russell and Marissa Lo to rewatch the highlights of the Apollo 11 landing, reflecting on the missions’ huge importance to humanity and to science.

Nature | 6 min read

Why ‘earthshots’ are harder than moonshots

If we can send a person to the Moon, why can’t we sort out our problems on Earth? The ambitious ‘moonshot’ framework cannot be applied to issues such as cancer and the climate crisis until it is adapted to the messy and difficult challenges of life on the ground, argues a Nature editorial. Vested interests, profit-seeking companies and conflicts of interest all add hurdles that ‘earthshots’ must overcome to succeed.

Nature | 4 min read

Two millennia of lunar literature

Fireworks, wild swans and super-cannons were propelling people mentally Moonwards long before 1969. Science-fiction specialist David Seed explores how the Moon has sparked the imaginations of writers and scientists for centuries.

Nature | 7 min read

Our disabilities made us better scientists

“We feel that we can be better scientists because of our challenges, not in spite of them,” write Gabi Serrato Marks and Skylar Bayer. They explore the benefits that come from people’s differences and outline how the scientific community can help disabled scientists at all levels.

Scientific American Voices blog | 6 min read


“Everyone is most awfully nice, but I had to overcome the usual annoyance men have when women are about on scientific expeditions.”

Lady Rachel Workman MacRobert, one of the first eight female fellows of the Geological Society elected 100 years ago, wrote to her husband about doing fieldwork in Lapland and northern Sweden. (Geological Society of London blog)

Sometimes, getting your writing done is hard. If you can’t get a few hundred thousand people to motivate you every day like I do (thanks, Briefing readers!) here some top tips for getting that dissertation or manuscript down on paper from evolutionary biologist Katie Grogan. Let me know what works for you (I love a good Pomodoro myself) — plus any other feedback on this newsletter — at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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