Archive by date | August 2014

NASA extends Mars rover and Moon orbiter missions

A false-colour image of the Mars Opportunity rover, taken in March 2014.

NASA is on the verge of releasing its long-awaited prioritization of planetary missions, meant to guide the agency if tight budgets force it to switch off an operating spacecraft. But two missions that had been considered on the verge of closure — the Mars Opportunity rover and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) — have each received a reprieve of another two years of operations, scientists close to the projects have confirmed.  Read more

US government labs plan biohazard-safety sweep

The unexpected discovery of smallpox in a refrigerator at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, on 9 July has apparently sparked some soul searching in the US government. On 27 August, the NIH designated September as “National Biosafety Stewardship Month,” encouraging researchers to inventory their freezers for potentially dangerous agents such as pathogens and toxins, and review their biosafety protocols. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) did the same in a memo released on 28 August, suggesting “a government-wide ‘safety stand‐down,’” and “strongly urging” both federal agencies and independent labs to complete these steps within the month.  Read more

Indian universities ordered to cut length of science courses

Thousands of students and staff at some of India’s leading universities, including the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, have been left in turmoil after the institutions were ordered to cut the length of their undergraduate science courses to fall in line with national policy.  Read more

Ban all ivory sales for 10 years, says conservationist

Ivory seized in the United States and destroyed in 2013.

The international community should ban all sales of ivory — including seized tusks and antique pieces that were created when trade was legal — for at least 10 years, argues a peer-reviewed essay published today in Conservation Biology. Without such measures, the epidemic corruption and high demand will ruin attempts to save African elephants, the author says.  Read more