This 67-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Is Headed to Space

Well, a few microscopic parts of it are.

Geologist Bill Simpson cleans Sue, a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus Rex on display at Chicago's Field Museum, on Nov. 12, 2013.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Add to Briefcase
Marina Koren
April 14, 2014, 8:39 a.m.

Di­no­saurs once ruled the Earth. Now, 67 mil­lion years later, one of them is leav­ing it.

Mi­croor­gan­isms from a Tyr­an­no­saur­us rex fossil skel­et­on nick­named Sue will be launched in­to space on Monday, headed for the In­ter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion. The mi­crobe paen­i­ba­cil­lus mu­cilaginosus, now found in ag­ri­cul­ture fer­til­izers, was col­lec­ted from a swab from the sur­face of the di­no­saur’s bones. It will travel aboard the SpaceX Fal­con 9, a rock­et built by a private U.S. space­flight com­pany and sup­por­ted by NASA. [Up­date: SpaceX’s launch has been post­poned un­til Fri­day due to a he­li­um leak aboard Fal­con 9.]

The launch from Flor­ida’s Cape Canaver­al is sched­uled for 4:58 p.m. EST. Live cov­er­age be­gins here at 3:45 p.m.

Sue’s mi­crobes are joined by 48 oth­er kinds of mi­croor­gan­isms in their jour­ney to out­er space, a ven­ture made pos­sible by Pro­ject Mer­curri, a na­tion­wide ef­fort led by Sci­ence Cheer­lead­er, a group of cur­rent and former NFL and NBA cheer­lead­ers pur­su­ing ca­reers in sci­ence. The oth­er mi­crobes were col­lec­ted from an amus­ingly di­verse range of sources, in­clud­ing vari­ous U.S. sports sta­di­ums, the Liberty Bell, a candy jar from the set of NBC’s The Today Show, and one lucky toi­let in Cali­for­nia. Sci­ent­ists plan to study their be­ha­vi­or in mi­cro­grav­ity to bet­ter plan for long-term hu­man space travel.

The rest of Sue resides in the Field Mu­seum in Chica­go. Her skel­et­on is the largest, most com­plete, and best pre­served T. rex fossil ever found. It was dis­covered in South Dakota’s Bad­lands Na­tion­al Park, a hot spot for di­no­saur re­mains, in 1990.

When the 600-pound skel­et­on ar­rived at a New York City auc­tion house sev­en years later, mu­seum of­fi­cials came ready to out­bid their com­pet­it­ors. The Smith­so­ni­an’s Na­tion­al Mu­seum of Nat­ur­al His­tory was pre­pared to pay $2.5 mil­lion to bring the first T. rex to the na­tion’s cap­it­al, but the Field Mu­seum crushed its of­fer, se­cur­ing Sue with a cool $8.3 mil­lion.

Al­most 17 years after its loss to Chica­go, the D.C. mu­seum is fi­nally get­ting its own T. rex, a 65-mil­lion-year-old fossil found in Montana, this week. But in a way, the Field Mu­seum is still ahead. D.C.’s new di­no­saur is only trav­el­ing cross-coun­try. Sue, on the oth­er hand, is leav­ing the Earth’s at­mo­sphere.

What We're Following See More »
ANOTHER GOP MODERATE TO HER SIDE
John Warner to Endorse Clinton
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will score another high-powered Republican endorsement on Wednesday, according to a campaign aide: retired senator John Warner of Virginia, a popular GOP maverick with renowned military credentials."

Source:
AUTHORITY OF EPA IN QUESTION
Appeals Court Hears Clean Power Plant Case
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday "heard several hours of oral arguments" over the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan rules. The 10-judge panel "focused much of their questioning on whether the EPA had overstepped its legal authority by seeking to broadly compel this shift away from coal, a move the EPA calls the Best System of Emission Reduction, or BSER. The states and companies suing the EPA argue the agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate anything outside of a power plant itself."

Source:
$28 MILLION THIS WEEK
Here Come the Ad Buys
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Spending by super PACs tied to Donald Trump friends such as Ben Carson and banker Andy Beal will help make this week the general election's most expensive yet. Republicans and Democrats will spend almost $28 million on radio and television this week, according to advertising records, as Trump substantially increases his advertising buy for the final stretch. He's spending $6.4 million in nine states, part of what aides have said will be a $100 million television campaign through Election Day."

Source:
GOP REFUSED VOTE ON FCC COMMISIONER
Reid Blocks Tech Bill Over “Broken Promise”
13 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Monday night's debate may have inspired some in Congress, as Senate Minority Leader has decided to take a stand of his own. Reid is declining to allow a vote on a "bipartisan bill that would bolster U.S. spectrum availability and the deployment of wireless broadband." Why? Because of a "broken promise" made a year ago by Republicans, who have refused to vote on confirmation for a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission to a second term. Harry Reid then took it a step further, invoking another confirmation vote still outstanding, that of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Source:
FLINT FUNDING STILL AT ISSUE
Spending Bill Fails to Clear 60-Vote Hurdle
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×