TIME A Year In Space

SpaceX Rocket Explodes Moments After Launch

"And the range has confirmed, the vehicle has broken up"

A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule broke up shortly after launch on a mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Sunday morning. The failure is the latest setback for SpaceX’s program to transport astronauts to the space station.

Video of the @SpaceX CRS-7 explosion moments ago.

A video posted by @airlineflyer on

The shipment was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of cargo, including food for astronauts, spare parts and an adapter built to allow future manned missions to dock at the space station.

The adapter, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds by itself, was built by Boeing and plays an essential role in the government’s plan to send astronauts to space via manned rockets instead of shuttles. The astronauts have enough supplies to survive past September and two more shipments are scheduled to arrive before they would need to revert to reserves.

The company, founded by billionaire PayPal founder Elon Musk, had tried twice before to guide the rocket, which is only in use for a few minutes following launch, back to a barge where it could be safely collected, but both prior attempts had ended in failure. Collecting the rocket after launch would have been a significant advance, but instead the company will be dealing with a significant setback to its efforts to pioneer privatized space flight. SpaceX and Boeing both have contracts with NASA to develop a rocket to take astronauts to the space station.

The cause of the mission failure was not immediately clear, and Musk said on Twitter that his company would “review the data” and provide updates. Video shows the craft smoking and then exploding just a few minutes after launch.

Astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Scott Kelly had been slated to install the adapter during their first-ever spacewalk. TIME is following the historic yearlong mission to the International Space Station. See a trailer for A Year in Space here.

TIME Paleontology

Meet the New Dinosaur That Scientists Just Discovered

sefapanosaurus
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg

The bones were hidden in plain sight

Scientists have discovered a new dinosaur that they’ve named Sefapanosaurus.

On Wednesday, researchers announced that palaeontologists discovered a new 200 million-year-old dinosaur from South Africa. The catch? The bones had actually been found in the 1930s and were hiding in plain sight in the large fossil collection at the Evolutionary Studies Institute (ESI) at Wits University.

Researchers had previously thought the remains were from a dinosaur called Aardonyx, but upon further study, they learned it was actually an entirely different dinosaur. This new dinosaur is believed to be a medium-sized sauropodomorph, which is a group that gave rise to the familiar long-necked dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era, the researchers say.The researchers published their findings in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society.

“Sefapanosaurus constitutes a member of the growing list of transitional sauropodomorph dinosaurs from Argentina and South Africa that are increasingly telling us about how they diversified,” study author and Argentinian palaeontologist Alejandro Otero said in a statement.

TIME A Year In Space

6 Ways Medicine in Space is Completely Different from on Earth

Preparing to make a house call: Scott Kelly, currently aboard the space station for a one-year stay, checks out spacewalk suit of space doc Kjell Lindgren, who blasts off next month
NASA Preparing to make a house call: Scott Kelly, currently aboard the space station for a one-year stay, checks out spacewalk suit of space doc Kjell Lindgren, who blasts off next month

Everything's different in zero-g

You may or may not want to go to space, but here’s something certain: you definitely don’t want to get sick there. Ask the crew of Apollo 7, the 1960s mission in which the commander contracted a cold, spread it to the other two astronauts and all three of them spent the entire mission trapped inside a cramped spacecraft, sneezing, hacking and griping at the ground.

And that was just 11 days in Earth orbit. What about a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS)? What about a two-and-a-half-year mission to Mars. And what about something a wee bit more serious than a cold—like appendicitis or a heart attack or a severe injury? Zero-gravity plays all manner of nasty games with the bones, muscles, organs, eyeballs, the brain itself—never mind the infectious risks that come from sealing half a dozen people inside a self-contained vessel, where a virus or bacterium could simply circulate ’round and ’round, from person to person indefinitely.

These are some of the things that will be on the mind of rookie astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who will spend nearly six months aboard the ISS when he lifts off in late July as part of the station’s next three-person crew. Lindgren is not just a well-trained astronaut, but a specialist in aerospace and emergency medicine—just the kind of expert who will increasingly be needed as the human presence in space becomes permanent.

“If we want to go to Mars some day,” Lindgren said in a recent conversation with TIME, “if we want to get further and deeper into the solar system, we need to start thinking about these things, thinking about the capabilities we need to do an appendectomy or take out a gall bladder.”

There will be no gall bladder or appendix takings while Lindgren is aloft. For now, he and the ISS flight doctors back on Earth are taking only space-medicine baby steps, learning the basics about the radical differences between medical care on the Earth and medical care off it. Here are a few of the most vexing problems they have to learn to solve:

1. Where is that kidney again? On Earth, your organs settle into predictable positions. A doctor palpating your liver or thumping your chest knows exactly where things ought to be. In zero-g, not so much. “The organs may be displaced a little bit,” says Lindgren. “They tend to shift up a little more. The heart may have a little bit of a different orientation, which may be reflected on an EKG.” Other kinds of shifting or compression—of the lungs, stomach, bladder and more—can cause problems of their own.

2. Your bones hate space: Without the constant tug of gravity, your skeleton doesn’t work nearly as hard, which causes it to weaken and decalcify. Astronauts spend many hours a week exercising to counteract some of that, but nothing can reverse it completely. When Russia’s Mir space station was still flying, newly arriving cosmonauts were warned not to exchange traditional bear hugs with crew members who had been there for a while. The risk: broken ribs.

3. Your eyes do too: Astronauts who have been in space for long-term stays often find that their vision grows worse, and it doesn’t always bounce completely back when they return to Earth. The problem is caused by fluid shifting upward from the lower body into the head, compressing the optic nerve and distorting the shape of the eyeball. Eye infections and irritation are more common too—for decidedly ick-inducing reasons. “Dust doesn’t settle in the vehicle like it does on Earth,” says Lindgren. “So things that are liberated, little pieces of metal from equipment or maybe dead skin just float around and cause eye irritation.”

4. But your feet will thank you: You know all of those callouses that you’ve built up on your heel and the ball of your foot after a lifetime of walking around? Say goodbye too them. They serve a purpose, which is to cushion your foot against the shock of walking, but since you’re not walking in space, you don’t need them. Just beware when you remove your socks. The callouses don’t tell you when they’re going to slough off, so the wrong move at the wrong time could leave unsightly chunks of you floating around the cabin. (See, e.g., “ick-inducing,” above.)

5. Try not to need stitches: Suturing wounds is one of the most basic things doctors and other medical caregivers learn how to do, but it will take a little extra work in space. On Earth, sutures are simply laid on a tray along with the other equipment. In space, that’s not possible. “Instead of your sterile suture thread laying in a sterile field, now it’s floating around and running into everything,” says Lindgren. While aloft, Lindgren plans to experiment with different techniques to address this problem; no word on which of his five crewmates will volunteer to be the patient.

6. Eat your roughage: Easily the least glamorous part of space travel is the simple business of, well, doing your business. The space toilets aboard the ISS and the shuttle have come a long way from the bags and tubes of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo era. But the human body hasn’t changed much in that time, and when it comes to keeping the intestines operating, a little gravity can help. One lunar astronaut who, for the sake of legacy and dignity will not be identified here, claimed that one of the best parts about landing on the moon was that things that hadn’t been working at all when he was in zero-g, got moving right away in the one-sixth gravity of the moon. History is made by mortals, and no matter where they are, mortals gotta’ do what mortals gotta’ do.

TIME the brain

Why You’re Pretty Much Unconscious All the Time

Nobody's home: There's less of you here than you think
Getty Images Nobody's home: There's less of you here than you think

A surprising new paper argues that consciousness is just a bit player in the human brain

Your body has a lot of nifty parts, but it’s the brain that’s the it organ of the summer. The brain’s all-the-rage moment is mostly a result of the box office hit Inside Out, from Pixar, the animation company that had previously limited itself to such fanciful questions as “What would happen if your toys could come alive?” or “Are there really monsters in my closet?” With Inside Out, the filmmakers raised their game, taking on a rather more vexing issue: How does the brain work?

The answer—which involves five colorful characters living inside your head and operating a giant control panel—was perfect at a lot of levels, equal parts fairy tale, metaphor, and sort-of, kind-of, pretty good science. But no sooner did the problem get solved, than the real scientists came along and spoiled the party. And they did it in a big way.

In a new paper published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a group of researchers led by associate professor of psychology Ezequiel Morsella of San Francisco State University, took on the somewhat narrower question of exactly what consciousness is—and came up with a decidedly bleaker view: It’s pretty much nothing at all. Never mind the five characters controlling your thoughts, you barely control them. It’s the unconscious that’s really in charge.

Morsella’s paper was not based on any breaking experimental work. There were no new brain scans or questionnaires or subjects being asked to respond to flashing lights or flickering images on a computer screen. Rather, the work involved little more than a group of really, really smart people thinking really, really hard about things. That, for better or worse, is how most questions about consciousness have been answered since humans began considering them, and the answers have often been pretty compelling.

The one Morsella and his colleagues came up with is something they call “Passive Frame Theory,” and their provocative idea goes like this: nearly all of your brain’s work is conducted in different lobes and regions at the unconscious level, completely without your knowledge. When the processing is done and there is a decision to make or a physical act to perform, that very small job is served up to the conscious mind, which executes the work and then flatters itself that it was in charge all the time.

The conscious you, in effect, is like a not terribly bright CEO, whose subordinates do all of the research, draft all of the documents, then lay them out and say, “Sign here, sir.” The CEO does—and takes the credit.

“The information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious thought,” Morsella said in a statement accompanying the release of the paper. “Nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”

There are deep evolutionary reasons for things to work that way. Humans, like all animals, operate as parsimoniously as possible; if we could be run entirely by our reflexes and instincts with no conscious thought at all, we would. There’s a reason you don’t stop to contemplate whether you should pull your hand off a hot stove, and instead simply do it. Consciousness in that case would just slow things down.

But as we became complex, social organisms, capable of speech and emotion and tool-making and more, we needed a bit of the brain that could step in not so much to run things, but to guide the body or choose between two or three very simple options. Take the experience of holding your breath underwater or carrying a hot dish. Your musculoskeletal system wants you to take a breath in the first case and drop the dish in the second. However, the part of your unconscious brain that is aware of consequences knows why both of those choices are bad ideas. So the conflict is served up to the conscious mind that keeps you in control until you’ve reached the surface of the water or put the dish on the table.

But the unconscious mind is far more powerful and creative than that. The authors cite language in particular—a human faculty that is considered perhaps our highest and most complex gift—as one more area in which consciousness is just a bit player. You may be the world’s finest raconteur, but when you’re speaking you’re only consciously aware of the few words you’re saying at any one moment—and that’s only so you can direct the muscles that make it possible to form and express the words in the first place. All of the content of your speech is being pre-cooked for you before you say it.

Things are a bit different if you’re, say, delivering a rehearsed toast or speaking in a language that is not your own; in these cases, the conscious mind has either mastered a script or is continually consulting an inner dictionary, reminding itself to convert, say, the English cat to the Spanish gato. But the whole goal of language fluency is to eliminate that step, to think in the second language and thus, once again, put the conscious mind out of work.

Morsella goes heavy on the acronyms to make his case. The brain’s guiding principle in mediating between the conscious and unconscious is described as EASE—for Elemental, Action-based, Simple and Evolutionary-based. The system for speaking one word instead of another or holding onto a hot dish even when you don’t want to is PRISM—for Parallel Responses into Skeletal Muscle. But those utilitarian terms do a very good job of capturing the utilitarian way the human system works.

We are, like it or not, biological machines, and the simpler we keep things, the less chance there is for a mistake or a breakdown. The mind, as the most complex part of us, needs the streamlining more than anything else. None of this changes the fact that our brains are the seat of our greatest achievements—our poetry, our inventions, our compassion, our art. It’s just that it’s the unconscious rather than the conscious that should take the bow. The only thing that should have any quarrel with that is one of our lesser impulses: our vanity.

TIME space travel

Watch Explosive New Video of SpaceX’s Rocket Landing Test

The April test ended unsuccessfully

SpaceX on Thursday released new video of an April landing test of the Falcon 9 rocket that nearly ended in success — until it tipped over and exploded.

Unlike previous footage, this video comes from a tracking camera that followed the first stage Falcon 9, or the part of the rocket that detaches from the cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station, according to SpaceX. A rocket’s first stage normally falls back into the ocean — a harmless but expensive loss. If the Falcon 9 could land successfully, it would mark a huge step towards SpaceX’s goal of more efficient spaceflight.

Another landing test is scheduled for June 28 shortly after the Falcon 9 launches at 10:21 a.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The event is subject to weather and other delays.

TIME Archaeology

Scientists Have Finally Found the Face on This Fossilized Critter—And It’s Weird

Hallucigenia sparsa worm
Danielle Dufault—AP This image provided by Danielle Dufault shows a rendering of a Hallucigenia sparsa worm which lived 508 million years ago.

"It looks completely surreal. It is like something from another world."

Scientists studying the fossilized remains of Hallucigenia, a 508-million-year-old worm-like sea creature, say they finally have located the specimen’s face — and it’s not a beauty.

The prehistoric crawler has a spoon-shaped head, a deck of teeth that extends all the way down the creature’s throat, and, when seen under the microscope, researchers reported, “a tiny pair of eyes” and a “really cheeky semi-circular smile.”

Dr. Martin Smith of Cambridge University and Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron of the University of Toronto published their findings Wednesday in the weekly science journal Nature. “It looks completely surreal,” Smith told BBC News. “It is like something from another world.”

A bulging feature previously mistaken for the Hallucigenia’s head, meanwhile, has been revealed to be fluid excreted from the creature’s gut as it was fossilized. The scientists say this new information about the Hallucigenia represents one more piece toward solving the puzzle of how the Cambrian period’s unusual life forms turned into the creepy crawlies we know today.

TIME public health

Leading Health Experts Call For Fossil Fuel Divestment to Avert Climate Change

climate change singapore
Getty Images

'Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health'

More than 50 of the world’s leading doctors and health researchers called on charities to divest from fossil fuel companies in an open letter Thursday. The letter, published in the Guardian, argues that climate change poses a dire risk to public health and that fossil fuel companies are unlikely to take action to reduce carbon emissions without prodding.

“Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health,” the health experts wrote. The case for divestment brings “to mind one of the foundations of medical ethics—first, do no harm.”

The letter is the latest show of support for efforts to halt climate change from the medical community. Recent research has outlined a variety of public health issues caused by climate change, from heath stroke deaths to increased asthma rates. Just this week a study in The Lancet outlined how climate change could erode 50 years of health advances.

Read More: How College Kids Helped Divest $50 Billion From Fossil Fuels

The open letter alluded to those impacts and suggested that divestment would be the best way for global charities to address them. Engaging with fossil fuel companies’ boards has not been shown to work, the researcher wrote, likening the oil industry to the tobacco industry.

“Our primary concern is that a decision not to divest will continue to bolster the social licence of an industry that has indicated no intention of taking meaningful action,” researchers wrote.

The long list of signatories include the editors of The Lancet and BMJ, leading medical journals, as well as medical professors from across the United Kingdom.The letter specifically calls on the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation, two nonprofits that are leading contributors to global health causes, to divestment their multi-billion endowments from fossil fuel companies. Together the companies control total endowments worth more than $70 billion.

TIME Environment

Lake Mead Reservoir Hits Record Low

Prompting concerns about a possible water shortage

Lake Mead, the Arizona-Nevada reservoir that stores water for some western U.S. states and Mexico, reached a record low on Tuesday, falling below the level that could trigger a water supply shortage.

If the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts that the lake won’t rise above 1,075 ft. by January—it just hit 1,074.99—then it will announce a shortage in August, The Arizona Republic reports. Water managers are optimistic that won’t happen thanks to an unexpectedly wet spring, but the record low suggests water users are taking more from the Colorado River than it can really provide.

“This is the check-engine light,” Drew Beckwith, water-policy manager with the Western Resource Advocates, told the paper. “It really does [make critical] the fact that we have to start changing.”

[The Arizona Republic]

 

 

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