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HomeScientiFixNASA unveils document to guide behaviour on the moon and in space

NASA unveils document to guide behaviour on the moon and in space

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to their sources.

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NASA has come out with a legal framework that lays out a set of principles for countries and companies in space and on the moon to follow. The document, Artemis Accords, includes the creation of “safety zones” around sites where mining and exploration would take place on the lunar surface.

As the US space agency aims to send astronauts back on the moon by 2024, the new legal framework reiterates the country’s long-held stand that companies should be allowed to extract and use resources on the moon.

NASA is likely to make it compulsory to sign these accords as a requirement for allied countries to participate in its lunar exploration programme. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the proposed framework is in line with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits nations from laying claim to the moon and other celestial bodies. More on Washington Post.

Part of Chinese rocket crashes, narrowly missing New York City

The Long March-5B rocket was launched into space on 5 May from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the Hainan province in South China.

The spacecraft has been in development for 10 years with the intention to carry large payloads into low-Earth orbit. The latest prototype was more than 50 metres long and weighed 849 tonnes when it took off.

The rocket reportedly had difficulty breaking out of Earth’s atmosphere. Experts suggest that this may have been the most massive object to make an uncontrolled re-entry since the 39-tonne Salyut-7 in 1991. More on Independent.

Hundreds of fossilised human footprints found in Africa 

Scientists have discovered hundreds of fossilised human footprints made between 5,760 and 19,100 years ago in Africa. The findings represent the largest collection of fossilised footprints found in Africa to date and may shed light on what life was like in ancient communities.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, described 408 footprints, which form 17 different tracks. Researchers believe that the footprints belonged to 14 adult females, two adult males and one juvenile male.

About 56 human footprints had become visible at the site in 2009 due to natural erosion. Excavations between 2009 and 2012 uncovered the rest. The 17 tracks were all made moving at the same walking speed in a southwesterly direction.

The footprints are a snapshot, offering windows into anatomy, locomotion and group behaviour. Skeletal fossil data is also rare in this area, which makes the footprints even more intriguing, researchers said. More on CNN.

Scientists ‘find way to make coral more heat-resistant’

Researchers in Australia have created heat-resistant corals that could make reefs more resilient to the devastating effects of bleaching.

Increasing ocean temperatures compel corals to expel tiny algae that live inside them, effectively starving the corals. Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia created a strain of microalgae that is more tolerant to heat. These microalgae are injected back into the coral.

The findings may help in the effort to restore coral reefs. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffered back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. This year the corals experienced the third bleaching event in five years.

The next step is to further test the algal strains across a range of coral species. More on the BBC.

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