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Christina Koch and Jessica Meir Execute First All-Woman Spacewalk – Science Times

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(Photo : NASA)

Friday, Oct. 18—NASA makes history once again as astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch become the first to participate in an all-women spacewalk.

The walk, streamed live by NASA on Youtube and on NASA television, lasted for seven hours and seventeen minutes. This included a five-minute call from US President Donald Trump, where he congratulated the two women for this historic achievement.

The pair was successful in replacing a power controller that failed after the installation of new lithium-ion batteries last Oct. 11 in the International Space Station’s truss structure. They also made preparations for future spacewalks.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan assisted the spacewalkers. Morgan provided airlock and spacesuit support while Parmitano controlled the Candarm-2, ISS’s robotic arm.

Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to conduct a spacewalk, about 35 years ago. Now, Koch and Meir make history for being part of the first all-women spacewalk. This occurs more than 50 years after humanity’s first steps on the moon. NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson hopes that this would be just a first and that this instance could become a common occurrence in the future.

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” says Koch in an interview. “It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted when everyone has a role.” Koch also comments on how historical moments like this inspires and motivate people, which is an important aspect of this story.

Koch and Meir were part of NASA’s class of 2013, where there was a total of eight astronaut trainees. This class was notable for having an equal number of males and females in the class—a first for NASA. Six years later, NASA has 12 female astronauts and 26 male astronauts within its ranks.

This historic moment happened later than it’s supposed to be. Back in March, Koch was scheduled to participate in a spacewalk with colleague Anne McClain, but NASA had to postpone the mission after realizing that they didn’t have appropriately sized spacesuits for the two. This story created a lot of buzzes—even inspiring a Saturday Night Live skit. This delay, many believed, highlighted the challenges women face in space exploration, and, to an extent, in the scientific community.

Anne McClain is a classmate of Koch and Meir for NASA’s class of 2013 and is the first openly LGBT astronaut in space. Out of the class’s four female astronauts, their classmate Nicole Mann remains to be the only one who’s yet to participate in a spacewalk. Mann is currently assigned to Boe-CFT, the first test flight of the Boeing CSG-100 Starliner, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

A 30-minute in-space news conference will be held on Monday, Oct. 21, to review the first all-women spacewalk. Both Koch and Meir will participate in this conference while on-orbit. Viewers may watch the conference, which will be aired live on NASA Television and on their website.

©2017 ScienceTimes.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science times.

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China's huge mysterious extinct ape 'Giganto' was an orangutan cousin – The Province

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WASHINGTON — Genetic material extracted from a 1.9 million-year-old fossil tooth from southern China shows that the world’s largest-known ape – an extinct creature dubbed “Giganto” that once inhabited Southeast Asia – was an oversized cousin of today’s orangutans.

The findings, announced on Wednesday, shed light on a species, called Gigantopithecus blacki, that has been shrouded in mystery because its fossil remains are so sparse – just a collection of teeth and remnants of several lower jaws.

By some estimates, Gigantopithecus reached up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall, making it not only the largest-known ape but the biggest primate, the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans.

Scientists were able to obtain genetic material – dental enamel proteins – from a broken molar with thick enamel discovered in Chuifeng Cave in China’s Guangxi region. The researchers concluded the tooth may have belonged to an adult female.

“Our data, for the first time, provides independent molecular evidence that the closest living relative of Gigantopithecus is the modern orangutan,” said University of Copenhagen molecular anthropologist Frido Welker, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

“Not only do proteins survive, but they survive in sufficient quantities to enable resolving the evolutionary relationships between Giganto and extant great apes,” Welker added, referring to the group that includes orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees.

The orangutan and Gigantopithecus evolutionary lineages split about 12 million years ago, the researchers said.

“A long-unresolved issue comes to a solution,” said paleoanthropologist and study co-author Wei Wang of Shandong University in China. “Its origin and evolution have puzzled paleoanthropologists for more than half a century.”

It marked the first time that genetic material this old has been recovered from a fossil found in a warm, humid environment – conditions usually inhospitable to such preservation. The researchers expressed hope the same technique can be used on other fossils, perhaps including species in the human evolutionary lineage.

Wang said Gigantopithecus may have had an orangutan-like appearance and most likely was a ground-dweller, unlike orangutans, which spend most of their time in trees. It likely had a plant-based diet, perhaps eating sweet foods like fruit in forested environments, judging from the cavities seen in its teeth, Wang said.

Gigantopithecus appeared roughly 2 million years ago and went extinct about 300,000 years ago for reasons not fully understood. Wang said environmental and climate changes may be to blame.

Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago in Africa, only later reaching Southeast Asia, meaning it is unlikely the two species met. Wang saw no evidence of other now-extinct human species playing a role in the Gigantopithecus demise.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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China's huge mysterious extinct ape 'Giganto' was an orangutan cousin – Windsor Star

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WASHINGTON — Genetic material extracted from a 1.9 million-year-old fossil tooth from southern China shows that the world’s largest-known ape – an extinct creature dubbed “Giganto” that once inhabited Southeast Asia – was an oversized cousin of today’s orangutans.

The findings, announced on Wednesday, shed light on a species, called Gigantopithecus blacki, that has been shrouded in mystery because its fossil remains are so sparse – just a collection of teeth and remnants of several lower jaws.

By some estimates, Gigantopithecus reached up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall, making it not only the largest-known ape but the biggest primate, the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans.

Scientists were able to obtain genetic material – dental enamel proteins – from a broken molar with thick enamel discovered in Chuifeng Cave in China’s Guangxi region. The researchers concluded the tooth may have belonged to an adult female.

“Our data, for the first time, provides independent molecular evidence that the closest living relative of Gigantopithecus is the modern orangutan,” said University of Copenhagen molecular anthropologist Frido Welker, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.

“Not only do proteins survive, but they survive in sufficient quantities to enable resolving the evolutionary relationships between Giganto and extant great apes,” Welker added, referring to the group that includes orangutans, gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees.

The orangutan and Gigantopithecus evolutionary lineages split about 12 million years ago, the researchers said.

“A long-unresolved issue comes to a solution,” said paleoanthropologist and study co-author Wei Wang of Shandong University in China. “Its origin and evolution have puzzled paleoanthropologists for more than half a century.”

It marked the first time that genetic material this old has been recovered from a fossil found in a warm, humid environment – conditions usually inhospitable to such preservation. The researchers expressed hope the same technique can be used on other fossils, perhaps including species in the human evolutionary lineage.

Wang said Gigantopithecus may have had an orangutan-like appearance and most likely was a ground-dweller, unlike orangutans, which spend most of their time in trees. It likely had a plant-based diet, perhaps eating sweet foods like fruit in forested environments, judging from the cavities seen in its teeth, Wang said.

Gigantopithecus appeared roughly 2 million years ago and went extinct about 300,000 years ago for reasons not fully understood. Wang said environmental and climate changes may be to blame.

Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared about 300,000 years ago in Africa, only later reaching Southeast Asia, meaning it is unlikely the two species met. Wang saw no evidence of other now-extinct human species playing a role in the Gigantopithecus demise.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Mercury spotted passing between Sun & Earth in rare 30-year event – TweakTown

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Just this past Monday, astronomers viewed Mercury sliding past the face of our Sun in quite a rare celestial event.

Astronomers equipped themselves to see the most inner-planet in our solar system go in-between Earth and the Sun. From the above image, we can see a tiny black dot, that’s Mercury in comparison to the size of the Sun. US, Canada, and Central and South America managed to get the transition for around 5.5 hours, while Asia and Australia only got a brief show.

Why is this a rare transition? Due to the orbit of Mercury, astronomers don’t expect to this occur until 2032, and North America, in particular, won’t be able to see it again until 2049. Unfortunately, there was some weather coverage in Maryland for NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young, he said “It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great. Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.” A set of images have been provided in the entirety of this article.

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