Astronaut prepares for one-year space mission

Updated 13 December 2012
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Astronaut prepares for one-year space mission

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is already bracing for an unprecedented one-year mission aboard the International Space Station. He figures it will be as grueling as climbing Mount Everest.
“It’s fun when you’re done with it, not while you’re doing it,” Kelly said Wednesday, barely a week after being named to the marathon flight along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. The mission, which is set to begin in 2015, is intended as a medical test bed for even longer Mars expeditions in the decades ahead.
Space station life can be routine, Kelly noted during a news conference. “In the morning, you wake up, you’re at work. When you go to sleep, you’re also at work. So imagine being in your office for a whole year and you never get to leave,” he said. “That is a challenge and it presents its own set of issues, but I think I’m up for it.” As for being off the planet for that long, Kelly said he already knows how he reacts to horrific news while in orbit.
During his five-month space station mission that spanned 2010 and 2011, his sister-in-law, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona. She is married to Kelly’s identical twin, Mark, who retired as a NASA astronaut last year.
“Certainly, nothing good comes out of anything like this. But as a result, I do know how I respond to something along those lines,” he said.
Kelly, 48, a Navy captain, has two daughters from a previous marriage, ages 9 and 18. The youngest, Charlotte, screamed “awesome” when she learned her father was selected for the one-year mission.
Brother Mark was all for it. So was Giffords. When Mark told his wife, she said, “a year in space, that’s great,” Scott Kelly said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Kornienko’s wife wept at the news. The 52-year-old cosmonaut, a rocket engineer with one daughter, said he initially had some doubts about taking on such a challenge. He previously spent six months in space.
“A year is a serious time,” Kornienko said in Russian. But he said his doubts did not last long, “and actually it was my initiative.”
Kelly was among four astronauts on NASA’s short list for the assignment. Each had served as a commander aboard the space station, and was able to perform spacewalks and robot arm operations. Medical information also went into the selection: A crew member could not have exceeded his limit for exposure to cosmic radiation, for instance.
Kelly said he has no idea how or why he ended up being chosen. He will set a US space endurance record with this mission. No American has spent more than seven months in space at a time.


How does a one-ton dino hatch its eggs? Carefully

a reconstruction of oviraptorosour dinosaurs incubating eggs. (AFP/ Nagoya University)
Updated 16 May 2018
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How does a one-ton dino hatch its eggs? Carefully

  • Large species may have not sat directly on their eggs
  • The incubation behavior of birds — such as adults sitting in the nest and possibly brooding — likely evolved from theropod dinosaurs




PARIS: Most dinosaurs buried their eggs and hoped for the best, but some species — including a few hefty ones — built nests and pampered unhatched offspring much as birds do today, researchers reported Wednesday.
Which raises an intriguing question: How did creatures nearly as heavy as a hippo brood eggs without squashing them?
“Large species may have not sat directly on their eggs,” explained Kohei Tanaka, a researcher at Nagoya University Museum and lead author of a study in Biology Letters that details the incubation strategy of feathered carnivores called oviraptorosaurs.
“Eggs are arranged in a circular pattern with a large central opening,” he told AFP, describing clutches of potato-shaped eggs found in China up to half-a-meter (20 inches) long and weighing up to seven kilos (15 pounds) each.
“The dinosaurs likely sat in the middle of the nest so that they didn’t crush the eggs.”
That didn’t keep the unborn dinos warm, but it may have protected them from predators and the elements, Tanaka speculated.
Modern birds descend from a large group of mostly carnivorous dinosaurs called theropods, all of which — including the fearsome T-rex — are thought to have laid eggs.
But very few theropods built nests, which is why the brooding displayed by oviraptorosaurs — a clade of several dozen species ranging from the turkey-sized Caudipteryx to the 1.4-ton Gigantoraptor — is so important.
“The incubation behavior of birds — such as adults sitting in the nest and possibly brooding — likely evolved from theropod dinosaurs,” said Tanaka. “Our research provides additional evidence.”
Oviraptorosaurs lived during the Cretaceous period, the 80 million years leading up to the asteroid or comet strike blamed for wiping out non-avian, terrestrial dinosaurs.
They had short snouts and beak-like jaws with few or no teeth, and some sported bony crests on their heads. Evidence of generous plumage — especially on the tail — has been found on several species.
Besides the spoke-like arrangement of the fossilized eggs, the eggshell itself provided further evidence that large oviraptorosaurs sat near their unborn progeny, not on top of them.
The eggs of big dinos, the researchers discovered, were more fragile than the eggs of smaller ones, which were clearly designed to carry more weight.
How big is too big to park a dino butt on top of unhatched eggs?
“That’s hard to say,” said Tanaka. “There is a gap in the data, but the threshold should be between 200 and 500 kilos (440 and 1,110 pounds).”
Oviraptorosaurs were falsely accused by early paleontologists of stealing the eggs so often found along side their fossil remains, giving rise to their name: “egg-thief lizards.”