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NASA Says Farewell to Mars Opportunity Rover

Opportunity Rover dead on Mars

NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover traversed the red planet for more than a decade. Its photography—simultaneously detailed and panoramic—made a hostile environment seem almost familiar, revealing the nature of a neighbor to which both the agency and several billionaires want to send humans.

On Wednesday, after seven months during which NASA was unable to establish contact with the machine, its 15-year mission was declared complete.

The solar-powered craft’s last communication was received on June 10 as a massive dust storm was enveloping the planet. On Tuesday night, after more than 600 electronic pings aimed at Opportunity since last summer, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory sent their final commands to the rover, hoping to spark a response.

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Trump picks climate change skeptic for EPA science board

Trump picks climate change skeptic for EPA science board

A well-known skeptic of the seriousness of climate change will join the Environmental Protection Agency’s science advisory board. Alabama climatologist John Christy has been a favorite of Republican lawmakers who disagree with the science that shows humans are heating the planet and causing an environmental crisis.

Christy was a lead author of a section of a 2011 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But that year he testified to a House panel that “it has become popular to try and attribute certain extreme events to human causation.”

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Climate scientists close to forecasting near-term global warming impacts

Scientists close to forecasting climate change warningsOne of the biggest challenges of modeling climate change is making near-term and localized predictions.

But according to a new study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, scientists are finally starting to accurately simulate the influence of long-term climate change on short-term seasonal forecasts.

"There is a lot of work still to do, but just as weather forecasts became a regular operational activity in the 20th century, we are now approaching a similar point for near term climate predictions and these are now being made at a number of scientific institutes worldwide," Adam Scaife, professor at the University of Exeter and a climate scientist with the Met Office, said in a news release.

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NASA invite to sanctioned Russian official postponed indefinitely

 Dmitry Rogozin disinvited by NASA

The Trump administration has indefinitely postponed a proposed visit by a sanctioned Russian official to the U.S., a spokeswoman for NASA said on Friday.

The indefinite postponement could throw a wrench in U.S.-Russia space cooperation and represents a setback for Vladimir Putin’s efforts to undermine U.S. sanctions.

The proposed visit, which was supposed to have taken place some time early this year, faced mounting backlash this week from Senate Democrats who threatened congressional action to block it in response to a Tuesday POLITICO report about plans for the visit.

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New Horizons has a successful flyby of the Kuiper Belt’s bowling pin

New Horizons has a successful flyby

While people around the world were celebrating the arrival of 2019, people at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland were hard at work. Billions of miles away, the New Horizons probe was flying past Ultima Thule, a small object in the Kuiper Belt. By Tuesday morning, the hardware had sent back a status report that indicated the flyby went as planned, and New Horizons now has lots of data from Ultima Thule that it will slowly send back to Earth over the coming months.

While we don't yet have any of the data that will tell us details about this relic of the Solar System's formation, images taken during the approach solved one of the mysteries that had arisen as New Horizons closed in. But one of the key questions—is Ultima Thule one object or two?—remains unanswered.

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Blind creature that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump

Blind creature that buries head in sand named after Trump

A newly discovered blind and burrowing amphibian is to be officially named Dermophis donaldtrumpi, in recognition of the US president’s climate change denial.

The name was chosen by the boss of EnviroBuild, a sustainable building materials company, who paid $25,000 (£19,800) at an auction for the right. The small legless creature was found in Panama and EnviroBuild’s Aidan Bell said its ability to bury its head in the ground matched Donald Trump’s approach to global warming.

Trump’s distinctive hair has already led to comparisons to a poisonous furry caterpillar and a golden-plumed pheasant, while a yellow-crowned moth was called Neopalpa donaldtrumpi in 2017.

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NASA’s InSight successfully lands on Mars after ‘seven minutes of terror’

Nasa's InSight lands on Mars

NASA’s latest Mars lander, InSight, successfully touched down on the surface of the Red Planet this afternoon, surviving an intense plunge through the Martian atmosphere. It marks the eighth picture-perfect landing on Mars for NASA, adding to the space agency’s impressive track record of putting spacecraft on the planet. And now, InSight’s two-year mission has begun, one that entails listening for Marsquakes to learn about the world’s interior.

After six and a half months of traveling through space, InSight hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere a little before 3PM ET. It then made a daring descent to the surface, performing a complex multi-step routine that slowed the lander from more than 12,000 miles per hour to just 5 miles per hour before it hit the ground. To get to the surface safely, InSight had to autonomously deploy a supersonic parachute, gather radar measurements, and ignite its thrusters all at the right time. Altogether, the landing took just under seven minutes to complete, prompting the nickname “seven minutes of terror.”

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