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Odysseus passes over the near side of the Earth's Moon following lunar orbit insertion on February 21, 2024.

The spacecraft Odysseus passed over the Moon on 21 February before successfully landing on 22 February.Credit: Intuitive Machines/NASA CLPS

Private Moon lander makes history

For the first time, a private lunar lander has made it safely to the Moon. Odysseus, built by the US company Intuitive Machines, touched down yesterday. There were some nail-biting moments: the laser rangefinders malfunctioned and mission engineers had to jury-rig the spacecraft to use a secondary laser to guide itself to the surface. The condition of the spacecraft is not yet known, but a faint signal indicates that at least some of it survived. “Odysseus has found its new home,” said mission director Tim Crain.

Nature | 5 min read

Engineered cells for multiple sclerosis

The first US trials of CAR T cells to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) have started. These engineered cells could reset the malfunctioning immune system, halting the brain damage that defines MS. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but there’s a prospect here for a one-and-done therapy,” says neurologist Jeffrey Dunn, who is running a trial for Kyverna, a US biotech company. Safety is a concern because CAR T treatments can cause brain toxicity, which can result in confusion, seizures and death.

Nature | 5 min read

Global eDNA project gears up for big day

In a first-of-its-kind global project, hundreds of community scientists in 101 countries will sample environmental DNA from the world’s lakes. Volunteers will receive instructions and a water-sampling filter to gather their samples on 22 May, the International Day for Biological Diversity. Researchers are hoping to detect the DNA of lake-dwelling animals and plants, as well as species that live upriver — possibly from the entire local region.

Nature | 5 min read

Sampling sites: World map showing the locations of potential sampling lakes for the LeDNA project.

Source: LeDNA.

Features & opinion

How to ensure vaccine equity now

This week, World Health Organization members are negotiating a proposed treaty that could ensure access to life-saving medicines during a future pandemic. The need is clear: nearly one-third of the world’s population has still not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A collective of 290 scientists from 36 countries come together to support the adoption of a ‘science-for-science’ approach in the treaty. They argue that pathogen samples and data shared by scientists in the global south should be fairly reciprocated with a discount on vaccines or therapeutics.

Nature | 7 min read

Futures: Backdoor

A hunter who chases fugitive androids learns to question everything he believed to be true in the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 6 min read

The love of pets grew from a culture clash

Indigenous Americans’ relationships with animals have influenced how Europeans have thought about animals since 1492, argues historian Marcy Norton in her book The Tame and the Wild. Many Indigenous peoples of the Americas consider all beings to be interconnected. Europeans saw animals “as creatures to be penned and farmed” — and viewed caring relationships with animals with suspicion, writes science historian and reviewer Surekha Davies. Norton argues that the emergence of the modern pet was in part a result of the entanglement of these views and reveals how modern science has global roots.

Nature | 7 min read

Podcast: Why are we nice?

Compared with other animals, humans are remarkably altruistic. Did this behaviour evolve because future interactions incentivise cooperation or because of group competition, meaning more cooperative groups are more likely to succeed? It’s a combination of both. Researchers asked members of Perepka and Ngenika groups in Papua New Guinea, who are less influenced by state rules, to play a cooperation game. “What the group competitions do is they counteract the individuals’ incentives to cheat a little bit,” economist and study co-author Ernst Fehr tells the Nature Podcast.

Nature Podcast | 31 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

Go deeper with an expert analysis by evolutionary anthropologist Sarah Mathew in the Nature News & Views article. (8 min read, Nature paywall)

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Quote of the day

“Don’t confuse ageing and death.”

Biologist Judith Campisi, who established the role of cellular senescence in cancer and ageing, told MIT Technology Review in 2018 that she was optimistic about the potential to maintain health further into old age. Campisi has died, aged 75. (Nature | 5 min read)