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Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled | Slugs And Snails Like Cities

Science Friday

31-05-2024 • 21 mins

The much-delayed crewed test flight is back on the calendar, despite a helium leak. Also, researchers used data from the crowd-sourcing nature observation app iNaturalist to rank animals’ tolerance of urban environments.

Starliner Crewed Test Flight Rescheduled For This Weekend

A long-delayed test flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is back on the calendar for Saturday, June 1, carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s a demonstration flight as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, intended to show that the new spacecraft design can be a practical and safe way to get people into space. If the flight is successful, NASA can then consider using the Boeing Starliner system for crewed flights to the ISS, joining the current fleet of craft from SpaceX and the Russian Soyuz program.

The Starliner launch has been delayed numerous times. Its most recent launch attempt, on May 6, was scrubbed when systems flagged a bad valve in a rocket booster. That booster valve was replaced, but engineers then detected a small leak in the spacecraft’s helium thruster system, which led to still further delays. They have now determined that the flight can proceed even with the leaky system, allowing the upcoming launch attempt.

Science Friday senior producer Charles Bergquist joins guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to talk about the upcoming launch, and about other stories from the week in science, including the return of an active solar region responsible for recent fantastic aurora displays, research into how the brain decodes the meaning of “not,” and the announcement of two new giant pandas headed to the National Zoo.

Which Animals Like Cities Most? Slugs And Snails Top The List.

If you live in an urban environment, it might seem like the animals you see every day—birds, bugs, squirrels—have adapted perfectly fine to city life.

But according to a new study in PLOS ONE, that isn’t always the case. Urbanization is directly linked to biodiversity loss, but researchers at UCLA, including Joey Curti and Dr. Morgan Tingley, wanted to find out specifically which animals thrive and which struggle in urban environments. So they turned to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourcing app where users upload photos of flora and fauna they see, along with information like location and date.

The team combed through years of iNaturalist data in the Los Angeles metro area and developed an “urban tolerance score” for 511 animal species. This score, which incorporated data such as light and noise pollution from different sections of the city, was a factor tied to those species’ level of tolerance to the local environment.

They found that snails and slugs love urban environments, likely thanks to increased moisture from local landscaping. But most other animals, including native species, and especially bugs like butterflies and moths, were not as tolerant to the region.

Joey Curti, a PhD candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA and a co-author on that study, sits down with guest host Arielle Duhaime-Ross to discuss the results of the study and what cities can learn from this kind of research to encourage healthy biodiversity.

Transcripts for each segment will be available after the show airs on sciencefriday.com.

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