Science  19 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5738, pp. 1165

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  1. Mars Bound

    1. Andrew Lawler

    NASA's $720 million Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) roared into space 12 August, beginning a 7-month journey to the Red Planet. If all goes well, 6 months after arriving it should settle into its orbit and start to beam back data on the atmosphere, ground conditions, and geology beneath the rocks and ice on the surface. The successful launch of MRO came shortly after NASA canceled the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter (MTO), designed to handle large amounts of data from Mars missions early in the next decade. That mission succumbed to budget pressures being faced by NASA's science program (see p. 1165). NASA still plans to launch a rover in 2007, followed by a sophisticated Mars Science Laboratory in 2009. NASA chief scientist James Garvin, who called the launch “utterly stupendous,” said that the 2009 mission could use other spacecraft to help transmit its data upon arrival, which made MTO expendable. But a more ambitious effort to return a Mars sample to Earth is still only a dream, say NASA officials.

  2. EPA Issues Yucca Limits

    1. Eli Kintisch

    Opponents of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository are gearing up to fight new radiation limits proposed last week by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    Under the new standard, the Department of Energy (DOE) would have to show that, for 10,000 years, a hypothetical resident of the area would receive only 15 millirems of radiation per year above the background exposure of 350 millirems per year. For the next 990,000 years, the limit would be 350 millirems per year above the background level. EPA says that residents of Denver, Colorado, currently receive that yearly level of background—whose sources include radon, cosmic rays, and medical components—and that setting acceptable limits given the vast unknowns is arbitrary. But the Minneapolis-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said the 350-millirem limit would be the “worst in the Western world.” The public has 60 days to comment; once finalized, DOE must prove it can meet the limits.

  3. Bandazhevsky Freed

    1. Bryon MacWilliams

    Belarusian pathologist Yuri Bandazhevsky was released halfway through an 8-year sentence earlier this month under a general declaration of amnesty by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Bandazhevsky, former rector of the Gomel State Medical Institute, had criticized the government's response to thousands affected by nuclear fallout that drifted into the Gomel region after the Chornobyl accident (Science, 20 April 2001, p. 424). He had been convicted in 2001 of taking bribes, but Amnesty International and other groups called him a political prisoner. Bandazhevsky plans to stay in Belarus to build a biomedical lab with French research nonprofit CRIIAD.

  4. Blue-Ribbon Blues

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Does the United States need a blue-ribbon commission to consider the perilous state of its science education? Yes. No. Maybe. When members of the National Science Board floated the idea at last week's meeting, opinions were all over the map. The board, which oversees the National Science Foundation, discussed a proposed commission to reexamine training for the next generation of scientists and engineers. But board president Warren Washington failed miserably to bring its 24 members anywhere near consensus. Reactions ranged from “Let's start a revolution” to “Let's stay on the sidelines.” Some questioned whether there was anything left to say, whereas others argued that important messages need to be repeated. In the end, Washington gave up on reaching an agreement by next month's board meeting but pledged to continue the dialogue.

  5. Grad Student Ranks Swell

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    A surge in the number of U.S. students pursuing graduate degrees in science and engineering has helped raise overall graduate enrollment in technical fields at U.S. universities to a record high of 474,203 in 2003, according to a report released last week by the National Science Foundation. The number, representing a 4% increase over 2002, was reached in spite of an 8% decrease in first-time foreign student enrollment. That decline followed a similar drop in 2002, confirming a trend that many attribute to the toughening of U.S. visa policies. But a 6% increase in domestic students' enrollments more than compensated for the decline.