‘Frozen zoos’ could be a Noah’s ark for endangered animals

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By Ashley Strickland, CNN

Foresight is an incredible gift – and it is perhaps one of the most valuable scientific tools we have.

When NASA scientists kept some of Apollo’s lunar samples sealed rather than opening them like children on Christmas morning once astronauts returned from the moon, they started a long-standing tradition.

It continues to this day. Portions of the returned samples from asteroids Ryugu and Bennuand even the Mars Perseverance cache, will be set aside for future generations.

The idea is that decades from now researchers will have much better technology to unlock the secrets of celestial bodies.

The same principle applies to the preservation of precious things on Earth. Fortunately, 50 years ago, a man with a vision for conservation created a legacy that became a model for saving the world’s most vulnerable species – before it was too late.

Back to the future

Collecting skin samples from rare and endangered animals might have seemed like a radical idea in 1972, but University of California San Diego researcher Kurt Benirschke thought it might be useful in the fight against the disappearance of species.

He passed away in 2018, but his idea lives on and has become the largest animal cryobank in the world. The Frozen Zoo is the haven for samples of 1,220 species.

The cryobank provided genetic material to revive rare species like Przewalski’s horse and black-footed polecat through cloning.

Now, experts see cryobanks and a tightly coordinated effort as crucial, especially as the climate crisis threatens plummeting animal populations around the world.

defy gravity

After a record 355 days in spaceNASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Earth this week, landing in Kazakhstan alongside two Russian cosmonauts.

Extended missions allow researchers to study the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body, which can better prepare NASA to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars through the Artemis program.

Things are heating up as the Artemis I spacecraft undergoes its most crucial test yet this weekend. The stacked rocket and spacecraft began a wet dress rehearsal on Friday that will last until Sunday.

The rocket will go through each launch stage without leaving the launch pad. Test results will determine when Artemis I lifts off later this year for a uncrewed flight to the moon and beyond.

across the universe

Say hello to Earendel, or “the morning star”, the most distant single star ever observed by man, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope.

He was born just 900 million years after the Big Bang. Light took 12.9 billion years to reach us. Now astronomers want to study the star using the James Webb Space Telescope to unlock the mysteries of the beginnings of the universe.

Meanwhile, researchers analyzed images of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons mission and discovered a surprise: giant ice volcanoes that may still be active on the frozen surface of the dwarf planet.

These ice volcanoes could suggest an underground ocean on Pluto today. The discovery raises intriguing ideas about the habitability of the distant world.

fantastic creatures

It was a stormy Independence Day in 2005 when flamingo #492 flew out of the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas.

Now, 17 years later, the bird, nicknamed Pink Floyd, made its appearance in Texas.

Pink Floyd, originally one of 40 flamingos the zoo brought from Tanzania, still wears a band with her number on it. And he seems to be living the good life along the Gulf Coast, munching on brine shrimp in the sun.

The zoo didn’t try to get the rogue bird back. People are really his only threat, so if you see Pink Floyd, give him some well-deserved space.

At 20, Pink Floyd has a long life ahead of it. Shine, you crazy diamond.

secrets of the ocean

Earth’s oceans are full of wonders, beautifully captured by photographer and cinematographer Shawn Heinrichs.

“As a kid, I used to spend every weekend around the oceans — there’s more abundance than you could ever imagine,” Heinrichs told CNN. Growing up along the South African coast inspired him to protect the rich diversity of marine life.

While many of Heinrich’s images feature stunning sea creaturesothers depicting humane animal abuse are purposely hard to see – but they also inspire action to save the beautiful and fragile life beneath the waves.

Discoveries

A few more stops along Fascination Street this week:

– Lunar dust collected by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission is auctioned off, and it is worth an extraordinary price.

– A ‘death stone’ has been found cracked in half in Japan’s Nikko National Park – and it may have allowed a trapped nine-tailed fox spirit to break free, according to Japanese mythology. Corn there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

– We have been calling Machu Picchu by the wrong name for over a century. Now, anthropologists have finally discovered what the Incas called the ancient city.

Do you like what you read? Oh, but there’s more. register here to get the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by the CNN Space and Science writer, delivered to your inbox Ashley Stricklandwho marvels at the planets beyond our solar system and the discoveries of the ancient world.

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