The great asteroid grab

NASA plans to nab an asteroid and bring it into orbit around the moon. The mission is billed as a stepping stone to Mars, but critics question whether redirecting space rocks will help put humans on the Red Planet. Meghan Rosen detailed the debate in “A rocky road to Mars” (SN: 8/23/14, p. 22).

Responses to the Asteroid Redirect Mission ranged from enthusiastic (“Bring it home, NASA,” urged Stuart Pullinger on Facebook) to lukewarm. Many people agreed that the plan was at best a compromise. “Sure, ARM was not what President Obama initially had in mind when he challenged NASA to send astronauts to an asteroid, but, given the problems of long-duration human spaceflight existing at present, it is the next best thing,” wrote Paul Scutts. And some people saw the potential benefits of the endeavor: “I think the Asteroid Redirect Mission is an excellent idea,” wrote James Van Zandt. “To properly exploit asteroids, or to plan defenses against asteroid strikes, we need to know much more about them.”

Not everyone was excited about the plan. “It bothers me that the USA doesn’t do more with its space programs, but it also doesn’t help that NASA does so much these days beyond space travel,” wrote Nas . Other comments were less kind, like this response from damead : “NASA is fiddling while Earth burns. The space agency is crazy not just because it’s taking on such a wacko project, but because it couldn’t pick a worse time to frivolously waste limited and irreplaceable resources.” In an e-mail, Don Griffiths wondered if the agency still has the right stuff to put people in space. “NASA’s constructive days are just about over in terms of future exploits. Regretfully, I agree that it’s time to defund NASA in favor of private enterprise pointing the way of future growth in space.”

Taking stock of stress

Money trouble, responsibility overload and health problems all topped the chart of common concerns in “Survey catalogs what is stressing out Americans” (SN: 8/23/14, p. 5).

Readers weighed in on the particular issues that keep them up at night. “Surprised that formatting references for journals is not in the list,” tweeted Sylvain Deville. While commenting on the story, Purple-Stater had a moment of self-reflection: “I find it strange that politics isn’t on the list. Fanatical politics is about the only thing that bothers me on a regular basis. I guess that makes me pretty lucky overall.”

Looking at the results, Dan Midgett made an observation: “Just noticed that the percentage for women is higher on every category except ‘problems with friends.’ ” Commenter johnay suggested an underlying cause for the differences between men and women: “These are self-reported factors, so there could be a cultural under-reporting bias among males.”

Human impressions

In “Romanian cave holds some of the oldest human footprints” (SN: 8/23/14, p. 20), Bruce Bower reported that fossilized tracks discovered in 1965 were left behind by Homo sapiensas long as 36,500 years ago.

“In the article, you mention that most of the footprints in the cave have been destroyed. How did that happen?” asked Henry Jones in an e-mail. Since 1965, visitors and cave explorers have trampled many of the prints, says anthropologistDavid Webb of Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University. A gate recently installed across the cave’s entrance now restricts access to a small number of tourists and scientists.


“A rocky road to Mars” (SN: 8/23/14, p. 22) said that Apollo 11 “landed three American astronauts on the moon.” Lee Helms and Eric E. Sporrer pointed out that only Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on the lunar surface, while Michael Collins remained in orbit aboard the command module Columbia.

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