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If a SpaceX rocket launches as expected — at 20:33 UTC today, depending on the weather — it will be the first time a private company has put a human in orbit. It will also mark the first US launch of astronauts in almost a decade. Since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, NASA — like all other space agencies — has relied on Russian Soyuz craft, originally designed in the 1960s, to take people to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has been taking cargo to and from the ISS since 2019 — this flight just adds two humans, experienced NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. Fingers and toes crossed.
Mining company Rio Tinto has expanded an iron-ore mine to include a cave in Western Australia that was continually occupied for 46,000 years and is sacred to local Indigenous Australians. A dig in 2014 unearthed more than 7,000 artefacts and provided evidence that this was the only known site in inland Australia that was occupied throughout the last Ice Age. Burchell Hayes, director of the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation, says the blasts might make it impossible to show future generations their links to their heritage. “We can tell them stories but we can’t show them photographs or take them out there to stand at the rock shelter and say: this is where your ancestors lived, starting 46,000 years ago.”
Features & opinion
Systems biologists are learning to build models of the intricate networks in communities such as the gut microbiome, where bacteria of some 1,000 different species both compete and collaborate with one another. Genome-scale metabolic models use gene sequencing to map thousands of interconnected biochemical reactions, involving many enzymes whose precise roles or structures are unknown. Trying to understand these relationships by analysing the chemicals they produce would be similar to guessing children’s snack preferences by what’s left on the table after a birthday party, says systems microbiologist Karsten Zengler. “You might observe the table and say, ‘Look at all those apples — that’s what children must like to eat.’ But that is not the case.”
I’ll be glued to NASA Television later watching — weather permitting and fate willing — astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken travel to the ISS.
While we wait with bated breath, here are guaranteed soothing views: a Eurasian eagle-owl, Europe's biggest owl species, is raising three huge fluffy chicks in a nest in this fellow’s window box.
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With contributions by Davide Castelvecchi and David Cyranoski