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.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."