100 years ago yesterday, Norway’s Roald Amundsen beat England’s Robert Scott in man’s race to reach The South Pole. A mission of science propelled many of these early expeditions, and such inquiry continues as the remarkable endeavor of polar scientists today.
One hundred years ago Wednesday, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his team were the first to reach the South Pole on skis. Veteran traveler Felicity Aston is nearing another first: becoming the first woman to ski across Antarctica alone.
Reached by NPR by satellite phone early Wednesday morning, Aston was about a degree and a half — 100 miles — from the South Pole. For Aston, a degree is about four days skiing. She's been skiing for 20 days. Overall, Aston will travel about 1,000 miles.
One of the first things President Obama did after he took office was put out a memo that basically said: Don't mess with science.
The March 9, 2009, memorandum stated that "political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions" and said all government agencies should have appropriate rules and procedures to safeguard the scientific process.
Nearly three years later, only a few have finalized new policies — though they're starting to be put to the test.
NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Saturday. The MSL is five times heavier than the rovers currently on Mars and has twice as many scientific instruments. It will take nine months for the spacecraft to reach the Red Planet, and there's plenty of things for it to do before then.
A few years ago, Father Tomasz Trafny was brainstorming with other Vatican officials about what technologies would shape society, and how the Vatican could have an impact. And it hit them: Adult stem cells, which hold the promise of curing the most difficult diseases, are the technology to watch.
"They have not only strong potentiality," says Trafny, "but also they can change our vision of human being[s], and we want to be part of the discussion."