Wednesday's science stories

Bryan Walsh
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 24, 2021 - Science

How to program biology like a computer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The growing synthetic biology industry is developing tools to allow companies to program living cells the way we program computers.

Why it matters: Turning cellular engineering from an art to an industry could open the door to more sustainable energy, food and materials, but it carries the risk of making it much easier to create the biological equivalent of malware.

Pentagon forms group to investigate UFO reports

The Pentagon. Photo: NIck Kirkpatrick/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that it would establish a new group to investigate reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, sometimes referred to as UFOs, in restricted airspace.

The big picture: The announcement follows a widely anticipated report released in June that found 143 sightings of unexplained objects.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Nov 24, 2021 - Science

NASA probe launches on mission to redirect an asteroid

Photo: NASA

A NASA spacecraft called DART has launched on a journey to change the orbit of an asteroid in deep space.

Why it matters: The mission is designed to test technology that could one day be used to change the course of a dangerous asteroid if one is ever found on a collision course with Earth.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 23, 2021 - Science

Last blasts of a dying star

The white dwarf KPD 0005+5106 seen in X-ray. Photo: NASA/CXC/ASIAA/Y.-H. Chu, et al.

A white dwarf star 1,300 light-years from Earth is blasting out radiation and ripping apart a companion in its orbit.

Why it matters: One day, scientists think the Sun will burn through its fuel and become a dense white dwarf. By learning more about this star, astronomers might be able to get a better sense of the future of our solar system.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 23, 2021 - Science

How space sticks in the minds of amateur astronauts

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Coming back to Earth from orbit has been marked by a loss of anonymity, packed days and little time for reflection for the all-civilian Inspiration4 crew.

Why it matters: The astronauts' celebrity status is a sign amateur spacefaring hasn't arrived. The public still reveres those who take on the risks and rewards of space travel.

Nov 23, 2021 - Science

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to send Michael Strahan to space

“Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan at the 90th Academy Awards in March 2018. Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin announced Tuesday it will send former NFL player and “Good Morning America” co-host Michael Strahan to space along with another honorary guest and four paying customers during an upcoming flight.

Why it matters: The mission, set for Dec. 9, will add the list of celebrities Blue Origin has flown into suborbital space in high-profile launches, coming just weeks after the company carried actor William Shatner and three other astronauts during its second human mission.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Nov 23, 2021 - Science

NASA's 911 for asteroids

Illustration: Trent Joaquin/Axios

SpaceX is set to launch a NASA spacecraft on a mission to learn how to change the course of an asteroid in deep space.

Why it matters: The mission — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) — will test the technology needed to redirect a dangerous asteroid if one is ever found on course with Earth.

British Columbia bracing for "parade of storms" amid flood recovery

Satellite images taken last Friday of flooding in Sumas Prairie to the east of Abbotsford in British Columbia, Canada, near the border with the U.S. Photo: Maxar Technologies

Canadian officials warn a "parade of storms" is set to pummel British Columbia with more heavy rains this week.

Why it matters: The province is still reeling from last week's "atmospheric river event" that hit the Pacific Northwest, triggering record rainfall, extensive flooding and mudslides. The deadly storm displaced thousands of people, CBC News notes.