By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla (Reuters) - A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Friday, sending a U.S.-Russia crew to the International Space Station for a year-long flight, a NASA Television broadcast showed. Four Soviet-era cosmonauts lived on the now-defunct Mir space station for a year or longer, but the missions, which concluded in 1999, did not have the sophisticated medical equipment that will be used during International Space Station investigations, NASA said.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A fossil site in the Canadian Rockies that provides a wondrous peek into life on Earth more than half a billion years ago has offered up the remains of an intriguing sea creature, a four-eyed arthropod predator that wielded a pair of spiky claws. Scientists said on Friday they unearthed nicely preserved fossils in British Columbia of the 508 million-year-old animal, named Yawunik kootenayi, that looked like a big shrimp with a bad attitude and was one of the largest predators of its time. The fossil beds in Kootenay National Park where it was found were in a previously unexplored area of the Burgess Shale rock formation that for more than a century has yielded exceptional remains from the Cambrian Period, when many of the major animal groups first appeared. Yawunik, whose name honors a mythical sea monster in the native Ktunaxa people's creation story, was a primitive arthropod, the highly successful group that includes shrimps, lobsters, crabs, insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes.
By Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) - French auto parts maker Valeo plans to draw on drone software and other military technologies from partner Safran to offer self-driving vehicle platforms to carmakers by the end of the decade. While demonstrating an autonomous car and other prototype systems jointly developed with Safran, the French defense and aerospace group, Valeo said on Friday the first applications may reach carmaker clients within three years. "We realized very quickly that we had much more in common than we'd expected," Valeo innovation chief Guillaume Devauchelle told Reuters. "It turns out that an autonomous vehicle is really a terrestrial drone." Cars that complete whole journeys without human input are still many years away, but creeping automation is well underway, with models already on sale that can pilot themselves through slow traffic and hit the brakes when a pedestrian steps out.
By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force overstepped its bounds as it worked to certify privately held SpaceX to launch military satellites, undermining the benefit of working with a commercial provider, an independent review showed on Thursday. The report cited a "stark disconnect" between the Air Force and SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies, about the purpose of the certification process and recommended changes. Air Force Secretary Deborah James ordered the review after the service missed a December deadline for certifying SpaceX to compete for some launches now carried out solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co. The Pentagon is eager to certify SpaceX as a second launch provider, given mounting concerns in Congress about ULA's use of a Russian-built engine to power its Atlas 5 rocket.
By Francesco Guarascio BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is set to send two navigation satellites into orbit on Friday aboard a Russian rocket, in its first launch since a botched deployment in August that cost several million euros to fix. The Galileo project to set up an EU alternative to the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) is obliged to use the Russian Soyuz system until a development of Arianespace's European Ariane 5 rocket is ready around the end of the year, despite strained relations with Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine. An official at the European Commission, which oversees the program, said the EU executive was tendering for insurance cover for future satellites and had set up an insurance scheme for the launches. The two launched in August have since been nudged into viable orbits and are fit for use, a spokesman for the European Space Agency said.