I, Science News – 25 Feb 2019

First up, it could be the genesis of a new era of space exploration after the launch of the first privately funded mission to the moon. In early April, the beresheet lander should touch down in the sea of serenity where it will take photos and measure the magnetic field on the lunar surface. News of the launch broke just 24 hours after the Japanese probe, Hayabusa 2, landed successfully on the surface of asteroid Ryugu where it will take samples, release a rover and hopefully return home safely at the end of the year.

 

Next up, we are sad to report that the Bramble Cay melomys, a small brown rat species found on an island off northern Australia, has become the world’s first mammal to go extinct as a result of human-induced climate change. Unfortunately, conservation efforts have failed and there have been no sightings for nearly ten years. The key cause of the mammal’s extinction is thought to have been due to ocean inundation, resulting from rising sea levels, leading to a dramatic loss of habitat. If temperatures continue to rise at the rate they are, we’re likely to lose almost 8% of species worldwide, with those in Australia and New Zealand being at greatest risk.

 

And finally, an advisory committee to the US Food and Drug Administration has strongly endorsed esketamine, a derivative of the drug ketamine, for use in treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine is licensed for use by doctors as a pain killer and sedative, although it is also known for its illicit popularity as a party drug. This latest recommendation makes it likely that the FDA will approve esketamine for marketing in the US, making it the first new drug treatment for depression to be released in decades.

 

This week’s news was written and presented by Harry Lampert, Nur Pirbhai, and Madeleine Openshaw, who are studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

 

Banner image: Family with therapist, Flickr

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