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New Technique for Imaging mRNA Molecules Allows Study of RNA Synthesis in Brains of Live Mice

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By ANI | Updated: 7 July 2022

Scientists have developed a new technique for imaging mRNA molecules in the brains of living mice. The research reveals new insights into how memories are formed and stored in the brain and could allow scientists to learn more about diseases such as Alzheimer’s in the future.
The paper is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the process of how memory is physically created and stored in the brain. It is well known that mRNA a type of RNA involved in the creation of proteins is produced during the process of forming and storing memories, but the technology for studying this process on the cellular level has been limited. Previous studies have often involved dissecting mice in order to examine their brains.

A team of researchers led by a University of Minnesota Twin Cities faculty member has developed a new technique that gives scientists a window into RNA synthesis in the brain of a mouse while it is still alive.

“We still know very little about memories in the brain,” explained Hye Yoon Park, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the study’s lead author. “It’s well known that mRNA synthesis is important for memory, but it was never possible to image this in a live brain. Our work is an important contribution to this field. We now have this new technology that neurobiologists can use for various different experiments and memory tests in the future.”

The University of Minnesota-led team’s process involved genetic engineering, two-photon excitation microscopy, and optimised image processing software. By genetically modifying a mouse so that it produced mRNA labeled with green fluorescent proteins (proteins derived from a jellyfish), the researchers were able to see when and where the mouse’s brain generated Arc mRNA, the specific type of molecule they were looking for.

Since the mouse is alive, the researchers could study it for longer periods of time. Using this new process, the researchers performed two experiments on the mouse in which they were able to see in real time over a month what the neurons – or nerve cells – were doing as the mouse was forming and storing memories.

Historically, neuroscientists have theorised that certain groups of neurons in the brain fire when a memory is formed, and that those same cells fire again when that moment or event is remembered. However, in both experiments, the researchers found that different groups of neurons fired each day they triggered the memory in the mouse.

Over the course of several days after the mouse created this memory, they were able to locate a small group of cells that overlapped, or consistently generated the Arc mRNA each day, in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) region of the brain, a group which they believe is responsible for the long-term storage of that memory.

“Our research is about memory generation and retrieval,” Park said. “If we can understand how this happens, it will be very helpful for us in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related diseases. Maybe people with Alzheimer’s disease still store the memories somewhere – they just can’t retrieve them. So in the very long-term, perhaps this research can help us overcome these diseases.”

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NASA’s Artemis 1 Space Launch System Moon Rocket Rolls Out for Launch on August 29

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By Reuters | Updated: 17 August 2022

NASA’s gigantic Space Launch System moon rocket, topped with an uncrewed astronaut capsule, is set to begin an hours-long crawl to its launchpad Tuesday night ahead of the behemoth’s debut test flight later this month.

The 322-foot-tall (98-meter-tall) rocket is scheduled to embark on its first mission to space — without any humans — on August 29. It will be a crucial, long-delayed demonstration trip to the moon in NASA’s Artemis programme, the United States’ multibillion-dollar effort to return humans to the lunar surface as practice for future missions to Mars.

The Space Launch System, whose development in the past decade has been led by Boeing Co, is scheduled to emerge from its assembly building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday (0100 GMT on Wednesday) and begin the four-mile-long (6-km) trek to its launchpad. Moving less than a mile per hour (1.6 km per hour), the rollout take roughly 11 hours.

Sitting atop the rocket is NASA’s Orion astronaut capsule, a pod built by Lockheed Martin. It is designed to separate from the rocket in space, ferry humans toward the moon’s vicinity and rendezvous with a separate spacecraft that will take astronauts down to the lunar surface.

But for the August 29 mission, called Artemis 1, the Orion capsule will launch atop the Space Launch System without any humans and orbit around the moon before returning to Earth for an ocean splashdown 42 days later.

If bad launch weather or a minor technical issue triggers a delay from August 29, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has backup launch dates on September 2 and September 5.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launched Falcon 9 With 46 Starlink Satellites to Low-Earth Orbit

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A SpaceX Falcon 9, with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Dragon crew capsule, lifts off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday. David J. Phillip/AP
By ANI | Updated: 13 August 2022

Billionaire tycoon Elon Musk-led SpaceX launched another batch of Starlink satellites into orbit on Friday.Taking to his official Twitter account, Musk, the founder of American spacecraft manufacturer, and satellite communications corporation SpaceX shared the details about the new satellite launch.

According to the SpaceX reports, Falcon 9 launched 46 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California.

Nine minutes after the launch, the rocket first landed over a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean and it was liftoff in a short time. The second stage was expected to deploy the satellites 63 minutes after launch after the livestream concluded.

The new satellites are part of Group 3, which orbits in a shell that might be prone to debris “squalls” from a Russian anti-satellite test that took place in November last year, according to SpaceNews report.

A space-tracking company COMSPOC recently revealed a conjunction squall event, in which the 841 Starlink satellites representing about 30 percent of the SpaceX constellation are affected by 6,000 close approaches.

A conjunction, by COMSPOC standards, is defined as two orbiting objects being within 6 miles (10 kilometres) of each other. SpaceX hasn’t commented on whether any Starlinks were affected, but in past discussions about space junk, the company has emphasized that its satellites can manoeuvre to dodge close-approaching spacecraft or debris.

COMSPOC stated in a report that, Group 3 of Starlink’s five layers spacecraft are in a similar orbit to other sun-synchronous satellites that have come close to the Russian ASAT debris before.

Group 3 is at an inclination of 97.6 degrees and at an altitude of 347 miles (560 kilometres), according to Teslarati.

SpaceX has already sent two other Group 3 collections into orbit, on July 10 and July 22, both from Vandenberg.

SpaceX’s 36th launch of 2022 added to its ever-growing record for launches in a year. The company also concluded its 62nd consecutive landing of a first stage, and a 34th reflight of a booster in 2022.

Friday’s flight was the 10th for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, according to reports, it was a SpaceX mission.

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Earth’s Continents Formed by Gigantic Meteorite Impacts, Claims New Research

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By ANI | Updated: 11 August 2022

The continents of Earth were formed by gigantic meteorite impacts that were particularly prevalent during the first billion years of our planet’s four and a half billion year history, according to new Curtin research, which has presented the strongest proof to yet.

Dr Tim Johnson, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the idea that the continents originally formed at sites of giant meteorite impacts had been around for decades, but until now there was little solid evidence to support the theory.

“By examining tiny crystals of the mineral zircon in rocks from the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which represents Earth’s best-preserved remnant of ancient crust, we found evidence of these giant meteorite impacts,” Dr Johnson said.

“Studying the composition of oxygen isotopes in these zircon crystals revealed a ‘top-down’ process starting with the melting of rocks near the surface and progressing deeper, consistent with the geological effect of giant meteorite impacts.”

“Our research provides the first solid evidence that the processes that ultimately formed the continents began with giant meteorite impacts, similar to those responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs, but which occurred billions of years earlier.”

Dr Johnson said understanding the formation and ongoing evolution of the Earth’s continents was crucial given that these landmasses host the majority of Earth’s biomass, all humans and almost all of the planet’s important mineral deposits.

“Not least, the continents host critical metals such as lithium, tin and nickel, commodities that are essential to the emerging green technologies needed to fulfil our obligation to mitigate climate change,” Dr Johnson said.

“These mineral deposits are the end result of a process known as crustal differentiation, which began with the formation of the earliest landmasses, of which the Pilbara Craton is just one of many.

“Data related to other areas of ancient continental crust on Earth appears to show patterns similar to those recognised in Western Australia. We would like to test our findings on these ancient rocks to see if, as we suspect, our model is more widely applicable.”

Dr Johnson is affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), Curtin’s flagship earth sciences research institute.

The paper, ‘Giant impacts and the origin and evolution of continents’, was published in Nature.

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ISRO’s Faces SSLV-D1 Data Loss at Terminal Phase of the Mission, Placed in Wrong Orbit

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By ANI | Updated: 8 August 2022

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday said its Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) placed satellites into elliptical orbit instead of a circular orbit. Sharing the updates of its satellite launch, ISRO said “SSLV-D1 placed the satellites into 356kx76km elliptical orbit instead of 356km circular orbit. Satellites are no longer usable. The issue is reasonably identified. Failure of a logic to identify a sensor failure and go for a salvage action caused the deviation. A committee would analyse and recommend. With the implementation of the recommendations, ISRO will come back soon with SSLV-D2.”

Earlier in the day, ISRO launched its first new rocket the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) and a student-made satellite-AzaadiSAT from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

To mark the country’s celebrations of “Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, the SSLV, co-passenger satellite called “AzaadiSAT” comprising 75 payloads built by 750 students from 75 rural government schools across India was launched.

ISRO Chairman S Somanath on Sunday said that both Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV-D1) carrying Earth Observation Satellite (EOS-02) were injected but the “orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable.”

“All stages performed normal. Both satellites were injected. But the orbit achieved was less than expected which makes it unstable,” the ISRO chief said.

He further said that the SSLV-D1 suffered data loss at the terminal phase of the mission.

“In the terminal phase of the mission, some data loss is occurring. We are analysing the data to conclude the final outcome of the mission with respect to achieving a stable orbit,” Somanath added.

Girls who designed the satellite also witnessed the SSLV-D1 launch. The general public also witnessed the launch from the viewing gallery of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

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SpaceX Launches South Korea’s First Lunar Orbiter Danuri on Falcon 9 Rocket

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 August 2022

South Korea’s first lunar orbiter successfully launched on a year-long mission to observe the Moon, Seoul said Friday, with the payload including a new disruption-tolerant network for sending data from space.

Danuri — a portmanteau of the Korean words for “Moon” and “enjoy” — was on a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida by Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX. It aims to reach the Moon by mid-December.

“South Korea’s first lunar orbiter ‘Danuri’ left for space at 8:08am on August 5, 2022,” Seoul’s science ministry said in a tweet, sharing a video of the rocket blasting off trailing a huge column of smoke and flames.

“Danuri will be the first step towards the Moon and the farther universe,” it said, apparently referring to the country’s ambitious space programme, which includes plans for a Moon mission by 2030.

SpaceX tweeted that the launch had been a success.

“Deployment of KPLO confirmed,” it said, referring to Danuri using an acronym of its official name, the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter.

During its mission, Danuri will use six different instruments, including a highly sensitive camera provided by NASA, to conduct research, including investigating the lunar surface to identify potential landing sites.

One of the instruments will evaluate disruption-tolerant, network-based space communications, which, according to South Korea’s science ministry, is a world first.

BTS in space

Danuri will also try to develop a wireless Internet environment to link satellites or exploration spacecraft, they added.

The lunar orbiter will stream K-pop sensation BTS’ song “Dynamite” to test this wireless network.

Another instrument, ShadowCam, will record images of the permanently shaded regions around the poles of the Moon where no sunlight can reach.

Scientists also hope that Danuri will find hidden sources of water and ice in areas of the Moon, including the permanently dark and cold regions near the poles.

“This is a very significant milestone in the history of Korean space exploration,” said Lee Sang-ryool, head of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute, in a video shown before the launch.

“Danuri is just the beginning, and if we are more determined and committed to technology development for space travel, we will be able to reach Mars, asteroids, and so on in the near future.”

South Korean scientists say Danuri — which took seven years to build — will pave the way for the nation’s more ambitious goal of landing on the Moon by 2030.

“South Korea will become the seventh country in the world to have launched an unmanned probe to the Moon,” an official at the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told AFP.

“We hope to continue contributing to the global understanding of the Moon with what Danuri is set to find out.”

Lunar ambitions

Danuri was launched by a private company — SpaceX — but South Korea recently became one of a handful of countries to successfully launch a one-tonne payload using their own rockets.

In June, the country’s homegrown three-stage rocket nicknamed Nuri — a decade in development at a cost of $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 11,864 crore) —launched successfully and put a satellite into orbit, on its second attempt after a failure last October.

That launch — coupled with Danuri’s launch Friday — helps bring South Korea ever closer to achieving its space ambitions.

In Asia, China, Japan and India all have advanced space programmes — and the South’s nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea has also demonstrated satellite launch capability.

Ballistic missiles and space rockets use similar technology and Pyongyang put a 300-kilogram (660-pound) satellite into orbit in 2012 in what Washington condemned as a disguised missile test.

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IIT-M Students Conduct First Student Council Election Using Blockchain Technology

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 4 August 2022

Students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M), here, have conducted a students council election using blockchain technology which is claimed to be the first of its kind to be used in the poll process, an official said on Thursday. Students of Webops and Blockchain Club from the Centre for Innovation (CFI), IIT-Madras, developed the software to conduct the election through the blockchain technology.

A blockchain is an unchangeable, distributed digital ledger. The transactions or records on the ledger which are stored individually are referred to as a ‘block’ and the information in a block is usually linked to the information in a previous block. This, over time, forms a chain of transactions, which is what the word blockchain refers to.

This technology can also be used by governments to improve both efficiency and traceability in the process. Back in May, the Brazilian government unveiled a blockchain network in a bid to combat corruption in public expenses by tracking them efficiently. The Brazilian Blockchain Network is still in development but will be used by a number of governmental institutions

In view of the conduct of the election, the India Book of Records presented IIT-Madras students with the record of ‘Blockchain Software for Students Body Election.’

“This student-led project has the transformative potential to positively disrupt the way elections are held. By harnessing the inherent trust and immutability offered by blockchain technologies, this work demonstrates their impact on conducting elections…” said IIT-Madras, faculty-in-charge, Webops and Blockchain Club, professor Prabhu Rajagopal.

According to the officials, some of the key advantages of using blockchain technology for elections include considerable cost reduction, offering a tamper-proof process that is verifiable and bringing an innate trust in the election process.

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