By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - The U.S. space program should save more than $12 million a seat flying astronauts to and from the International Space Station on commercial space taxis rather than aboard Russian capsules, the NASA program manager said on Monday. In September, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded contracts worth up to a combined $6.8 billion to Boeing and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to fly crew to the station, a $100 billion research laboratory about 260 miles above Earth. Since retiring the space shuttles in 2011, the United States has depended on Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, to ferry astronauts to the orbital outpost. NASA expects to pay an average of $58 million a seat when its astronauts begin flying on Boeing?s CST-100 and SpaceX?s Dragon capsules in 2017, Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA?s Commercial Crew program, told reporters during a news conference in Houston and via conference call.
Scientists said on Thursday an analysis of fossil hand bones of the species Australopithecus africanus that lived in southern Africa about 3 million to 2 million years ago indicated this human forerunner could use its hands in ways very much like modern people. "Forceful precision grips have been linked specifically to stone tool use and tool making, and so it is possible that Australopithecus africanus was using stone tools as well," said Tracy Kivell of Britain's University of Kent, who helped lead the study published in the journal Science with fellow University of Kent paleoanthropologist Matthew Skinner. This species appeared roughly a half million years before the first evidence of stone tools. The traditional view of scientists is that a species called Homo habilis that appeared about 2.4 million years ago was the pioneer in stone tool use in the human lineage.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - An asteroid measuring about a third of a mile (half a kilometer) in diameter will make a relatively close, but harmless pass by Earth Monday night, NASA said. The asteroid will pass about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth, roughly three times farther away than the moon. "While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it's a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more," astronomer Don Yeomans, with NASA?s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, said in a statement. The asteroid, which orbits the sun every 1.84 years, was discovered 11 years ago by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research, or LINEAR, telescope in New Mexico.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists using Europe?s comet-orbiting Rosetta spacecraft have discovered that the complicated ancient body is coated with surprisingly simple organic molecules and surrounded by a changing cloud of gases, according to new research released on Thursday. In November it released a piggyback-riding spacecraft, which descended to the comet?s surface for a series of independent studies. The Rosetta mission is intended to shed light on the solar system?s early days by studying one of its pristine comet remnants.