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Happy anniversary, Curiosity! NASA rover marks 8 years on Mars – Space.com

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NASA would be thrilled if its newly launched Mars rover ended up matching its predecessor’s longevity.

The agency’s car-sized Curiosity rover celebrates eight (Earth) years on the Red Planet today (Aug. 5), less than a week after the Perseverance rover took flight toward Mars

The synergy in timing is appropriate; Perseverance shares Curiosity’s chassis and “sky crane” landing strategy, among other features. And the new rover will build upon the many discoveries that Curiosity has made over the years.

Related: Amazing Mars photos by NASA’s Curiosity rover (latest images) 

Curiosity launched in November 2011 and touched down inside the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater on the night of Aug. 5, 2012, kicking off a surface mission designed to last at least one Martian year (which is equivalent to 687 Earth days).

The main goal of Curiosity’s $2.5 billion mission, officially known as Mars Science Laboratory, involves assessing whether Gale could ever have supported Earth-like life. The nuclear-powered robot has returned exciting news on this front, finding that the crater hosted a potentially habitable lake-and-stream system for long stretches in the ancient past, perhaps millions of years at a time.

Curiosity has also detected complex organic chemicals, the building blocks of life as know it, in Gale Crater rocks. In addition, the rover has rolled through several plumes of methane and discovered a seasonal pattern in the concentration of this gas, which here on Earth is primarily produced by living organisms. (Abiotic processes can generate methane as well, however, and the source of the stuff within Gale is unclear.)

In September 2014, Curiosity reached the base of Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the sky from Gale’s center. For the past six years, the rover has been climbing through the mountain’s foothills, reading the rocks for clues about Gale’s past habitable environments and how Mars transitioned into the cold, dry desert planet we know today.

During its eight years on Mars, Curiosity has drilled 27 rock samples, scooped up six soil samples and put more than 14 miles (23 km) on its odometer, NASA officials said. (The Mars surface-distance record is held by another NASA rover, Opportunity, which covered 28.06 miles, or 45.16 km, between 2004 and 2018.)

Perseverance’s $2.7 billion mission, called Mars 2020, aims to extend Curiosity’s findings. The new rover will hunt for signs of ancient life in Mars’ 28-mile-wide (45 km) Jezero Crater, which was home to a lake and a river delta long ago. 

Perseverance will also collect and cache samples for future return to Earth and test out several new exploration technologies, including a tiny helicopter named Ingenuity and an instrument that generates oxygen from the thin, carbon dioxide-dominated Martian atmosphere.

Mars 2020 is scheduled to touch down on Feb. 18, 2021. Maybe Curiosity will take a short break from its work in Gale Crater that day, look up at the Martian sky, and send well wishes to the new arrival.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Florida man survives alligator attack while walking dog, gets 65 stitches – FOX 5 Atlanta

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Florida man out walking his dog was attacked by an alligator and nearly dragged into a canal behind his home.

Mark Johnson, 61, said he was walking along the canal last Sunday in Port. St. Lucie with his 8-year-old golden retriever when he saw a gator turn towards them.

Johnson said his foot got stuck in mud moments before he saw “the lunge” as the alligator grabbed his leg.

HURRICANE SALLY: MASSIVE ALLIGATOR CAPTURED SWIMMING IN ALABAMA STORM SURGE

“He starts clamping down pretty tight, and he started to pull, and the next thing I do … I poke [the gator] through the eye,” he told WPLG-TV.

Johnson told Treasure Coast Newspapers that after he stuck his finger in the gator’s eye, the reptile immediately let go and swam away.

After limping home with blood dripping from his leg, Johnson’s wife cleaned the wound and wrapped the leg in a towel before taking him to a hospital.

Johnson said he suffered 12 puncture wounds that required 60 stitches, plus another five to mend the index finger that was cut on the gator’s eye socket.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a trapper captured the gator involved in the attack on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIAN RANGERS TRAP 770-POUND CROCODILE NEAR OUTBACK TOURIST SPOT

Officials said the alligator measured 8 feet, 6 inches and weighed nearly 250 pounds. The reptile has since been relocated to an alligator farm.

Johnson said that even though the reptile was trying to drag him into the water, staying calm was what helped him survive.

“You cannot panic,” he told the paper. “I bass fish all the time, too. I’ll reach down and lift up the bass with my hand. I just got lucky.”

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Johnson said when he’s able to walk his dog again, he’ll probably carry some sort of weapon for protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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China volcanic eruption discovers 125 million-year-old dinosaur – haveeruonline

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A new kind of burrowing dinosaur was found in the Lu Jiatun Bed, the oldest floor of the famous Xian layer in northeastern China. According to the press release. Scientists believe they were trapped in a volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of the cave.

Pascal Gode Freud, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said: “These animals were quickly covered with microscopic sediments during life and shortly after death.”

Two conserved skeletons of Changmiania liaoningensis (A/B and C). Red arrows indicate gastric or stone clusters.

The scientist said the effect would be very similar to what happened in Pompeii. According to the press release, the new species was named Changmiania liaoningensis. Changmian means “eternal sleep” in Chinese.

Scientists deduce that ornithopods lived in the Cretaceous Period and were small herbivores that could run very quickly, depending on the length of the tail and the composition of the legs. It was about 1.2 meters (about 4 feet) long.

“However, certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that the spear mia can be burrowed like a rabbit today,” Godefroit said.

“The neck and forearm are very short, but they are sturdy, the scapula excavates the spine, and the upper part of the snout is shovel-shaped.

A complete study of their findings PeerJ Scientific Journal.

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A Florida woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator while trimming trees – CNN

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The 27-year-old woman was trimming by the edge of a lake near a country club in Fort Myers on September 10 when the alligator bit her.
She was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital and treated for injuries to both legs, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
The alligator was later caught by a contracted nuisance alligator trapper and taken to an alligator farm, according to the commission
The FWC said it is are still investigating the incident.
A few days later on September 13, a man suffered injuries to his leg when he was bitten by an alligator while walking his dog along a residential canal in Port St. Lucie, FWC said. The 8-foot, 3-inch alligator that bit him was removed and transferred to an alligator farm.
CNN affiliate WPTV reported that Mark Johnson, 61, said the alligator clamped onto his leg and was trying to drag him under water. When Johnson poked the alligator in the eye, the reptile let go, he said.
“I kind of slide and my foot is stuck in the mud, and the next thing I know, I see the lunge,” Johnson told WPTV. “He starts clamping down pretty tight and he started to pull, and the next thing I do, I instantly, here’s my fingers, I poke through the eye.”
Johnson received 62 stitches and his dog was unhurt, WPTV reported.
Alligator bites are serious, but injuries caused by the massive reptiles are rare in Florida, according to the FWC.
“FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP),” FWC said in a statement to CNN. “The goal of SNAP is to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur.”
SNAP uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers across Florida to find and remove alligators who may pose a threat to people or pets.

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