Japan delays spacecraft landing on very rocky asteroid
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Friday, October 12
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s space agency is delaying a spacecraft touchdown on an asteroid because scientists need more time to find a safe landing site on the extremely rocky surface.
The spacecraft Hayabusa2 left Earth in 2014 and traveled 280 million kilometers (170 million miles) to the area of asteroid Ryugu, which it reached in June.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to attempt three brief touch-and-go landings on Ryugu to collect samples in hopes of gaining clues to the origin of the solar system and life on Earth.
JAXA Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda said Friday that the rockier-than-expected asteroid hardly has any flat spaces for landing.
“Those rocks are our biggest headache,” Tsuda said. “Ryugu is extremely rocky and it’s almost cruel.”
He said his team needs at least a month to revise the landing plan, and is still hopeful.
“We will not let Hayabusa2 come back empty-handed,” Tsuda said earlier.
A one-month delay at this time of year means two more idle months because the spacecraft will be on the other side of the sun from the Earth in November and December, making it unable to communicate.
Scientists are analyzing data that Hayabusa2 collected when it moved close to the asteroid to release three rovers, as well as images and other data collected by the rovers, to determine the best landing spot.
Two Japanese Minerva II-1 rovers landed successfully on the asteroid in September, and a German-French MASCOT rover landed last week. All have sent back surface images and data.
Hayabusa2 will rehearse near-touchdown approaches to the asteroid later this month and obtain more data. Its first actual landing is expected in late January or later.
Before its final touchdown, now expected in May or June, Hayabusa2 is to send out a squat cylinder that will detonate above the asteroid, shooting a projectile into it to form a crater where JAXA hopes Hayabusa2 will land to collect samples before returning home in 2020.
Experts say the asteroid samples may contain organic compounds.
Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and may help explain how Earth evolved, including the formation of oceans and the start of life.
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3 farmers to plead guilty in organic grain fraud scheme
By RYAN J. FOLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Three Nebraska farmers will plead guilty to knowingly marketing non-organic corn and soybeans as certified organic as part of a lengthy, multi-million-dollar fraud scheme, federal prosecutors revealed Thursday.
Tom Brennan, his son James Brennan and family friend Michael Potter have each agreed to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud. Their plea hearings are scheduled for Friday in federal court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Prosecutors allege that the three conspired with the owner of a large Iowa-based company to dupe customers nationwide who thought they were buying grains that had been grown using environmentally sustainable practices.
All three operated an organic farm in Overton, Nebraska, that was certified through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program, which requires crops to be grown without the use of fertilizers, sewage sludge and other substances. They also farmed other fields that weren’t certified.
From 2010 through 2017, the trio sold non-organic grain directly to customers and to an Ossian, Iowa-based company, which is identified in court papers only as “J.S.” and as being owned by an unidentified co-conspirator. They knew the grain was mostly non-organic because it came from non-certified fields or from certified fields where they applied pesticides and nitrogen in violation of USDA standards, prosecutors contend in court documents. Any organic grain was mixed with non-organic grain, rendering all of it non-organic.
Court documents indicate that the Brennans and Potter are cooperating, signaling that additional charges may be forthcoming against the owner of “J.S.” Prosecutors said in court documents that the certification for the Nebraska farm was owned by “J.S.” and would have been revoked had its third-party certifier known of the chemicals that were used.
Holly Logan, an attorney for James Brennan, declined to comment. USDA records show that he voluntarily surrendered an organic certification last month. Attorneys for the other two defendants didn’t immediately reply to messages.
The charges were praised by the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog group that has been critical of the USDA for being too lenient with producers who violate its standards.
Violations are typically handled through USDA enforcement action that can bring fines, revocations and bans, and federal criminal charges are rare, said the group’s director, Mark Kastel.
He said the prosecution will send a message to farmers who may have the opportunity to profit by defrauding the growing organic market.
“These large-scale problems have an impact on the entire market and the reputation of the organic label. It’s really very fortuitous that the prosecution is taking place,” he said. “We want these cases to act as a really strong deterrent. They are not the rule. They are the exception. Now that this is almost a $50 billion industry, it’s so lucrative. Fraud opportunities exist.”
Victims of organic fraud include farmers who buy grain to feed their animals so they can market their meat and milk under the organic label and the consumers who pay a premium for those products, Kastel said. Fraud in U.S. grown crops is believed to be a much smaller problem than those imported from abroad from countries like Turkey, he said.
Each defendant received more than $2.5 million for grain marketed as organic during the scheme, and prosecutors say they are seeking the forfeiture of at least $10.9 million. Wire fraud carries up to 20 years in prison, but the three would be expected to face far less prison time under federal sentencing guidelines. Details of their plea agreements have not been made public.
Follow Ryan J. Foley on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rjfoley
A new way to create molecules for drug development
Innovative process gives more control over free radicals
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chemists at The Ohio State University have developed a new and improved way to generate molecules that can enable the design of new types of synthetic drugs.
Researchers say this new method of forming reactive intermediates called ketyl radicals offers scientists a way to use catalysts to convert simple molecules into complex structures in one chemical reaction. This is done in a less harsh, more sustainable and waste-free manner.
“The previous strategy for creating ketyl radicals is about a century old. We have a found a complementary way to access ketyl radicals using LED lights for the synthesis of complex, drug-like molecules,” said David Nagib, co-author of the new study and assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State. The study was published Oct. 12 in the journal Science.
The story starts with carbonyls, compounds that function as one of the most common building blocks in creating potential new drugs. Unlike classic carbonyl chemistry taught in introductory organic textbooks, when carbonyls are converted to their “radical” form, they become much more reactive. These radicals, containing an unpaired electron desperately seeking its partner, enable researchers to form new bonds, in order to create complex, drug-like products.
Until now, ketyl radical formation has required strong, harsh substances called reductants, like sodium or samarium, to act as catalysts. These reductants can be toxic, expensive and incompatible with creating medicines, Nagib said.
In this study, the researchers found a way to use manganese as a catalyst that could be activated with a simple LED light.
“Manganese is very cheap and abundant, which makes it an excellent catalyst,” he said. “Also, it allows us to access radicals by a complementary atom-transfer mechanism, rather than the classic electron-transfer mechanism.”
Not only is manganese cheaper and more abundant, it actually is more selective in creating products with defined geometries, so they can fit into drug targets, the study found. The process is less wasteful, as well, recycling the iodine atom used to make the radicals by including it in the more functional products.
This new method to generate ketyl radicals enables researchers to create more versatile and complex structures that could be useful in generating new medicines, Nagib said.
Co-authors of the study, all from Nagib’s lab at Ohio State, are Lu Wang, Jeremy Lear, Sean Rafferty and Stacy Fosu. Wang, a lead scientist on this project, recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship and now works for Merck, a major pharmaceutical company.
This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
URL : http://news.osu.edu/a-new-way-to-create-molecules-for-drug-development/