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Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
Space shuttle Columbia's second life - as a cautionary tale
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Space shuttle Columbia's flying days came to an abrupt and tragic end on February 1, 2003, when a broken wing gave way, dooming the seven astronauts aboard. Although Columbia now lies in pieces, its mission is not over.
Ahmadinejad says he is ready to be first Iranian in space
DUBAI (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday he was ready to be the first human sent into orbit by Iran's fledgling space program, Iranian media reported. Iran declared last week that it had successfully launched a monkey into space and retrieved it alive, which officials hailed as a major step towards their goal of sending humans into space.
Arctic nations' oil spill plans too vague: environmentalists
OSLO (Reuters) - Plans by Arctic nations to start cooperating over oil spills are vague and fail to define corporate liability for any accidents in an icy region opening up to oil and gas exploration due to global warming, environmentalists said on Monday. A 21-page document by the eight-nation Arctic Council, seen by Reuters and due to be approved in May, says countries in the region "shall maintain a national system for responding promptly and effectively to oil pollution incidents."
South Korea launches first civilian rocket amid tensions with North
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea launched its first space rocket carrying a science satellite on Wednesday amid heightened regional tensions, caused in part, by North Korea's successful launch of its own rocket last month. It was South Korea's third attempt to launch a civilian rocket to send a satellite in orbit in the past four years and came after two previous launches were aborted at the eleventh hour last year due to technical glitches.
Rocket blasts off with new NASA communications satellite
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - An unmanned Atlas 5 rocket blasted off on Wednesday to put the first of a new generation of NASA communications satellites into orbit, where it will support the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft. The 191-foot (58-metre) rocket lifted off at 8:48 p.m. (0148 GMT Thursday), the first of 13 planned launches in 2013 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just south of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
Dung beetles look to the stars
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A species of South African dung beetle has been shown to use the Milky Way to navigate, making it the only known animal that turns to the galactic spray of stars across the night sky for direction. Researchers have known for several years that the inch-long insects use the sun or moon as fixed points to ensure they keep rolling dung balls in a straight line - the quickest way of getting away from other beetles at the dung heap.
Scientists find genetic clue to severe flu among Chinese
LONDON (Reuters) - British and Chinese scientists have found a genetic variant which explains why Chinese populations may be more vulnerable to the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. The discovery of the variant could help doctors find those people at high risk of severe flu and prioritize them for treatment, researchers said.