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On the horizon

Russia proposes longer space trips

Astronauts may soon double the time they stay in orbit under a cash-saving plan by Russia's impoverished space agency. Russian rockets have been the only link between the International Space Station and Earth since the US space shuttle disaster 14 months ago prompted Washington to ground its space fleet. Making astronauts' missions longer would cut the frequency of costly manned launches, which Russia undertakes twice a year.

"The Russian side has sent a suggestion to NASA to prolong the work of the main crew from six months to a year," says Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for Russia's space agency. He added, "The crew does not have enough time to carry out all their tasks in six months." NASA was not immediately available to comment.

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The next crew is scheduled to blast off from Russia on April 19 to replace the two-man crew stationed there since October.

More VIPs in orbit

A self-described "Brooklyn boy made good" will pay $20 million to travel to the International Space Station on an eight-day trip organized by a US space tourism company. Gregory Olsen, a technology entrepreneur, will become the third person to travel privately to the space station via a Russian craft.

Mr. Olsen, who grew up in a working-class family in New York, says he plans to use the trip to conduct scientific experiments and inspire others who've come from humble beginnings. Olsen earned degrees in electrical engineering and physics and is an expert on crystal growth, lasers, and photo detectors.

He will spend the next six months training at the Yuri Gagarin cosmonaut center in Star City, Russia, with his launch scheduled for April 2005. US businessman Dennis Tito became the first space tourist in 2001, and South African Mark Shuttleworth went up in 2002.

Competition for glofish

The three-inch Chickasaw darter is one of 30 possibly new species of fish that biologist Richard Mayden of Saint Louis University says he and his students have uncovered in the Southeast. The males turn a bright orange and yellow at breeding time.

"Most people think everything is known about biodiversity in the United States, but it's really not true," Dr. Mayden says. "There's a lot more to be discovered."

The Chickasaw darter was found in the Forked Deer River, about 60 miles from Memphis, Tenn. Mayden said the species is found only in that one river system.

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While there are many species of darters, the Chickasaw is distinctive for the brightly colored male and the number and placement of its scales. The discovery was described in a recent issue of the journal Copeia.


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