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Study Shows Life Possible on 'Large Parts' of Mars

Australian scientists who modeled conditions on Mars to examine how much of the red planet was habitable said Monday that "large regions" could sustain life.

Charley Lineweaver's team, from the Australian National University, compared models of temperature and pressure conditions on Earth with those on Mars to estimate how much of the distant planet was livable for Earth-like organisms.

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Japan Launches New Spy Satellite

Japan launched a new spy satellite into orbit Monday amid concerns over North Korea's missile program and to monitor natural disasters in the region, officials said.

The Japanese H-2A rocket carrying an information-gathering radar satellite lifted off at 10:21 am (0121 GMT) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan.

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WWF Says Species, and Threats Grow in Mekong Region

Scientists identify a new species every two days in the Greater Mekong region, the WWF said Monday, in a report detailing 2010's more unusual finds such as a leaf warbler and a self-cloning lizard.

But the conservation group warned some species could disappear before they are ever recorded because of man-made pressures in the Southeast Asian area, described in the report as "one of the last frontiers" for new discoveries.

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Hundreds of NASA's Moon Rocks Missing

Researchers have sticky fingers when it comes to NASA's moon rocks and meteorites, and hundreds of samples have gone missing after being loaned out by the U.S. space agency, an audit said Thursday.

NASA Inspector General Paul Martin issued a report detailing foibles such as the U.S. space agency making loans to researchers who never used the samples, or simply losing track of rare pieces dating back to the first U.S. trip to the Moon in 1969.

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Bees Choose by Doing 'Neuron' Dance

Honey bees do a little dance to communicate with each other that mimics signals in the brain, a finding that may shed light on how Earth's creatures make choices, scientists said Thursday.

"The decision-making mechanisms in nervous systems and insect societies are strikingly similar," said the study in the December 8 issue of Science Express.

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Europe's Vega Rocket Launch Set for Early 2012

Europe's new Vega rocket, which can place a 1.5-ton satellite into low-Earth orbit, is expected to see its first launch early next year, Arianespace chief Jean-Yves Le Gall said Thursday.

"We will have the first launch in January or February, Le Gall told Agence France Presse in Washington, while noting that he expected to sign contracts soon for the Italian-built rocket.

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Chile Glacier in Rapid Retreat

The Jorge Montt glacier in southern Chile is melting at a rate of a kilometer (0.6 miles) per year, making it one of the world's most visible milestones of global warming, according to researchers.

Chile's Center for Scientific Studies (CECs) said Wednesday that several glaciers in the country's south have shrunk because of global warming but that the 454-square-kilometer Jorge Montt is one of those shrinking the fastest.

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NASA Rover Prepares for Fifth Winter on Mars

NASA's lone surviving Mars rover has been busy exploring its surroundings since it rolled up to its latest crater destination four months ago. Now the solar-powered Opportunity is in search of a place to spend its fifth winter.

The robot geologist has been scouting out sites along the crater rim that not only have interesting rocks to examine but also ample sunshine. The hardy rover survived four previous Martian winters. Scientists expect no different and even drew up a to-do list.

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Last Full Lunar Eclipse for 3 Years this Weekend

The last total lunar eclipse of the year is Saturday. And there won't be another one for three years.

Viewers in the western half of the United States will have the best views Saturday well before dawn. The farther west the better.

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Study: Crows Remember Colors for a Year

Crows have a long-term memory so good that they can recall colors for at least a year, a Japanese study has shown.

Birds that had identified which of two containers held food by the color of its lid were still able to perform the task 12 months later, said Shoei Sugita, a professor of animal morphology at Utsunomiya University.

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