Reuters Science News Summary
Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
Virgin Galactic completes manned space test, more flights soon
A Virgin Galactic rocket plane reached space on Thursday and returned safely to the California desert, capping years of testing to become the first U.S. commercial human flight to breach Earth's atmosphere since America's shuttle program ended in 2011. The successful test flight presages a new era of civilian space travel that could kick off as soon as 2019, with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic battling other billionaire-backed ventures such as Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, to be the first to offer suborbital flights to fare-paying tourists.
Russian cosmonauts take samples on sixth hour of spacewalk to crack mystery
Two Russian cosmonauts have taken samples of their capsule's exterior in the sixth hour of a spacewalk seeking to resolve the mystery of a small hole found in the craft docked at the International Space Station, a live broadcast by Russian space agency Roscosmos showed early on Wednesday. Roscosmos has ruled out a manufacturing defect causing the 2 mm-wide hole found in August on the Russian Soyuz capsule, but NASA has sought to dampen speculation of sabotage.
A-maize-ing genetic sleuthing rewrites history of corn
The history of corn, one of humankind's indispensable staple crops, is far more complicated that previously known, according to scientists who conducted a comprehensive genetic and archeological analysis of its domestication. The process of turning corn's wild predecessor into a vital food source began 9,000 years ago in Mexico, but an early partially domesticated version was then brought to South America 6,500 years ago, and crucial further development of the plant proceeded in parallel in both places, the researchers said on Thursday.
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