First Arab mission to Mars designed to inspire youth

by Dana Moukhallati Agence France-Presse DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — The first Arab space mission to Mars, armed with probes to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, is designed to inspire the region’s youth and pave the way for scientific breakthroughs, officials said Tuesday. The unmanned probe Al-Amal—Hope in Arabic—is to blast off from a Japanese space centre on July 15, with preparations now in their final stages. The project is the next giant step […]

From space, Russian cosmonauts fight chess grandmaster to a draw

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station played chess against an Earth-bound grandmaster on Tuesday, in a celebration of the first such game half a century ago. Equipped with an electronic chessboard, cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner played in zero gravity against 30-year-old Russian former child prodigy Sergei Karyakin. The game was broadcast live and ended in a draw after about 15 minutes. It was organized by the space […]

Robot dog hounds Thai shoppers to keep hands virus-free

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — A scurrying robot dog named K9 dispenses hand sanitizer to curious children and wary shoppers — one of the more unexpected measures Thai malls are taking as the kingdom relaxes virus restrictions. The hi-tech hound is controlled using 5G, a technology promising super-fast internet speeds with immediate reaction times that is still in the initial stages of roll out in Thailand. Mimicking an excited puppy, K9 roams around the popular Central […]

Weak demand pushing oil, gas toward ‘terminal decline’: report

by Marlowe HOOD Agence France-Presse PARIS, France (AFP) — Falling fossil fuel demand coupled with mounting risk for investors could slash the value of oil, gas and coal reserves by two thirds, sending shock waves through the global economy, energy analysts warned Thursday. The value of projected profits for the sector could also fall by two thirds, according to a report from Carbon Tracker, a non-profit financial think tank focused on aligning capital markets with […]

DNA research uncovers Dead Sea Scrolls mystery

JERUSALEM, Undefined (AFP) — DNA research on the Dead Sea Scrolls has revealed that not all of the ancient manuscripts came from the desert landscape where they were discovered, according to a study published Tuesday. Numbering around 900, the manuscripts were found between 1947 — first by Bedouin shepherds — and 1956 in the Qumran caves above the Dead Sea that are today located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The parchment and papyrus scrolls contain Hebrew, […]

Malaysian university moots robot graduation ceremonies to cut virus risk

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AFP) — A Malaysian university is considering using robots dressed in gowns and mortarboards to act as stand-ins at graduation ceremonies to prevent coronavirus infections — but students have blown a fuse at the idea. A video of the planned ceremonies released by the university shows two elegantly attired, waist-high robots being handed diplomas by high-ranking university officials. The students’ faces appear on screens mounted on the robots’ heads. Associate professor Engku […]

Russia plans rocket tests, lunar programme resumption

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia on Sunday put a brave face on the loss of its space travel monopoly, saying it planned to test two new rockets this year and resume its lunar programme in 2021. The comments from the Russian space agency Roscosmoc came after US entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX became the world’s first commercial company to put humans into orbit, signalling the dawn of a new era. Russia had for many years enjoyed […]

Scottish island pilots drone deliveries of medical supplies

by Stuart GRAHAM Agence France-Presse OBAN, United Kingdom(AFP) — In a field overlooking the Lorn and Islands Hospital in the town of Oban on Scotland’s remote west coast, an anxious Duncan Walker trained his eyes above a nearby hill. Walker, chief executive of drone delivery company Skyports, is working with Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to trial whether medical supplies like COVID-19 tests and protective equipment can be flown from the hospital to the Isle of […]

Weather iffy for SpaceX astronaut launch

WASHINGTON D.C., United States (AFP) — Aside from a threat of bad weather, NASA and SpaceX confirmed Monday that everything is all-systems-go for their upcoming rocket launch with two American astronauts. Scheduled for Wednesday, the launch to the International Space Station will be the first US crewed space launch in nine years. “NASA and @SpaceX officials have given the ‘go’ for the launch on a mission that will return human spaceflight to the US,” NASA […]

Robot dog on virus park patrol in Singapore

SINGAPORE, Singapore (AFP) — A yellow robot dog called Spot which found fame online for dancing to hit song “Uptown Funk” has been deployed to patrol a Singapore park and ensure people observe social distancing. The hi-tech hound is remote-controlled and can clamber easily over all types of terrain, which its creators say means it can go where wheeled robots cannot. As it trots through the park, Spot — who has the same name as […]

Japan newborn gets liver stem cells in world first

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Doctors in Japan have successfully transplanted liver cells derived from embryonic stem cells into a newborn baby, in a world first that could provide new treatment options for infants. The newborn was suffering from urea cycle disorder, where the liver is not capable of breaking down toxic ammonia. But the six-day-old was too small to undergo a liver transplant, generally not considered safe until a child weighs around six kilogrammes (13 […]

‘We can get it done here’: Africa’s tech scene tackles virus

by Fran BLANDY and AFP Africa bureaus PICTURES BY SIMON MAINA AND NIPAH DENNIS Agence France-Presse NAIROBI, Kenya (AFP)— Watching from afar as much of the world was brought to its knees by the coronavirus, African scientists, engineers and innovators have turned to homegrown solutions to prepare for the worst case scenario. By the time the virus hit Africa, where cases have risen relatively slowly, images of overwhelmed hospitals and stories of health workers strapped for […]