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NASA's Curiosity Rover Makes Historic Landing On Mars

ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS, NASA (USA)

Worldcrunch

PASADENA - The NASA Curiosity robotic exploration vehicle successfully landed on Mars early on Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. GMT, a historic event that prompted relief and excitement within the scientific community. The Curiosity rover will spend the next two years looking for traces of life on the red planet.

No photo or it didn't happen? Well lookee here, I'm casting a shadow on the ground in Mars' Gale crater #MSLtwitter.com/MarsCuriosity/…

— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012

The Associated Press reports that mission controllers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California cheered and applauded when they received confirmation that the small car-sized robot had successfully touched down (watch the video below to see the harrowing wait, followed by an explosion of joy at the 3mn mark). NASA has landed only seven vehicles on Mars, and the complex attempts often fail.

Curiosity is equipped with an array of tools - including a power drill, a laser that zaps rocks and a chemical laboratory - to analyze Martian rock and soil samples and determine whether they contain the basic chemical ingredients of life, such as carbon or nitrogen.

The landing followed a complex sequence detailed below by NASA. After eight months of space travel over 566 million kilometers, Curiosity used a combination of a protective capsule, a supersonic parachute, a jet-powered backpack and a never-before-used "sky crane" to slow down its initial entry speed of 13,000 miles per hour and land in the Gale crater basin, Reuters reports. The Gale crater was picked because it showed signs of past water.

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The landing is good news for the space agency, which spent $2.5 billion on the rover but is still debating whether it can afford another Mars landing after new budget cuts.

Curiosity has a dedicated Twitter feed for regular updates on the mission. The first color photographs are expected in the next few days.

It once was one small step... now it's six big wheels. Here's a look at one of them on the soil of Mars #MSLtwitter.com/MarsCuriosity/…

— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 6, 2012

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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