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Stories by JR Minkel

Meet Makemake, the fourth dwarf planet

Astronomers have upgraded a distant rock discovered in 2005 to the category of dwarf planet, the controversial designation created two years ago by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to deal with planetlike bodies far out in the solar system.

July 21, 2008 — JR Minkel

A constellation of problems for shuttle's replacement

Problems are mounting for the Orion spacecraft that is supposed to replace the retiring space shuttle fleet and carry U.S. astronauts to the moon by 2020. Among the most severe, according to a 117-page internal NASA report posted on Nasawatch.com this week: an $80-million overrun on development of a single motor; a hard-to-open hatch door; and the potential that the stack (craft and Ares 1 rocket) will vibrate itself to pieces during takeoff. Constellation's official launch date for practice flights remains March 2015, but NASA had envisioned a best-case scenario of summer 2013. An agency spokesperson told the Associated Press that in principle a launch could now occur no earlier than August 2014. Some NASA watchers say the setbacks are signs of agency mismanagement, but others say they are par for the course for an attempt to return to the moon in an era of uncertain funding.
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin Corp

July 18, 2008 — JR Minkel

Grunting, humming fish joins ancient chorus

Next time you're at a loud singles bar, thank a fish for inspiration. Here's why: When a male midshipman fish [ above ] eyes a competitor swimming too close, he chases off the interloper with an audible grunt.

July 18, 2008 — JR Minkel

Space shuttle: 10 flights to go before retirement

NASA has set target launch dates for the final eight space shuttle flights before the program is mothballed in 2010. That makes a total of 10 flights between now and retirement: one mission in October to upgrade and repair the Hubble Space Telescope, followed by nine more to finish assembly of the International Space Station (ISS), starting in November with a mission to repair faulty rotary joints in the station's movable solar panels.

July 11, 2008 — JR Minkel

Lizards grow up so fast these days

A new chameleon species has what may be the briefest, oddest life cycle of any four-legged animal. Researchers were puzzled to find during repeated trips to southwestern Madagascar, home to Labord's chameleon ( Furcifer labordi ), that the lizards quickly went from adulthood to dead, with no juveniles or other stragglers.

July 4, 2008 — JR Minkel

GLAST Gamma-Ray Satellite Powered up

Less than a month after entering orbit, NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is powered up and ready to go. Project scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California have begun receiving data from the satellite's Large Area Telescope, one of two instruments it will use to scan the sky for energetic gamma rays, the space agency reported today.

July 3, 2008 — JR Minkel

Why Do Facts Fail?

Why Do Facts Fail?

Deconstructing Denial