SpaceX launches rocket in a first of its kind mission

CAPE CANAVERAL – Elon Musk’s SpaceX has sent a fourth manned rocket into space in the pre-dawn hours of Friday; reusing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. This is the first time a recycled rocket has been launched into orbit on a crew mission – bringing Musk’s dream of a reusable space program closer to reality.

The Falcon 9 rocket was launched precisely 2 seconds after 5:49 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center carrying four astronauts on board. It is due to autonomously dock on to the Internation Space station (ISS) within 24 hours.

In addition to being the first recycled rocket, it is also the first time that two SpaceX Crew Dragon capsules will be simultaneously docked at the ISS.

SpaceX Crew-2 CEIT. Location: SpaceX headquarters, Rocket Road, Hawthorne, California. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The spaceship carried two international partners; Japanese national Akihiko Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the French national Thomas Pesquet of European Space Agency. The flight is manned by Americans Shane Kimbrough, the mission commander, and Megan McArthur, the spacecraft’s pilot.

The crew will be stationed at the space station for a six-month mission.

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Scientists Build “First Living Robots” From Stem Cells

A team of scientists recently announced that it has built the world’s first repurposed, programmable living cells. Scraped from the embryos of a frog, these cells were reassembled into an entirely new life form called ‘Xenebots‘.

“These are novel living machines,” says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.” Since these are natural cells, they are also capable of self-repair and healing.

The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM – and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University. “We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do,” says co-leader Michael Levin who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts, “like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering microplastic in the oceans, travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque.”

The research, however, will inevitably lead to questions about ethics and the morality of building ‘Frankenstein’ like creatures in labs. Much more discussion and debate is needed around stem cell research.

READ MORE: Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots [The Guardian]

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