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Fly Me to the Moon

This month on Newsdesk: a NASA rocket prepares for a Moon launch, teaching waldrapps to fly, and celebrating a “pandaversary.”

A NASA rocket prepares for a Moon launch

NASA has built a new rocket, and it’s heading to the Moon! Known as the Space Launch System, the giant rocket has been rolled out to a launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The towering rocket measures just under 100 meters, and is more powerful than the rockets that took astronauts to the Moon in the 1960s and 1970s.

To prepare it for launch, engineers will complete a number of tests, including filling its massive fuel tanks. If preparations run smoothly, a test flight with no astronauts on board could be launched in May. And if the test flight is successful, the rocket could soon be blasting astronauts to the Moon for the first time in over 50 years!

Teaching Waldrapps to Fly

The waldrapp is one of the most endangered species of bird in the world. Centuries ago, thousands of waldrapps lived across Europe, but habitat loss and hunting led to their numbers tumbling.

Now, conservationists at Vienna Zoo are working to reintroduce the rare birds to Europe, by mimicking bird behavior. After carefully raising a number of waldrapp chicks, and gradually getting them used to the color yellow, the conservationists used a yellow aircraft to lead them to safe nesting sites.

The guided flights aim to encourage the birds to fly between locations, or migrate, by themselves. If enough waldrapps can learn to migrate across Europe on their own, they could one day be able to survive in the wild without the help of humans.

Celebrating a “Pandaversary”

Giant pandas are distinctive black-and-white bears that live in forests across China. Sadly, habitat loss over recent decades has led to wild giant panda populations falling dramatically.

Zookeepers at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. have spent many years working to protect giant pandas; and this year, the zoo is celebrating its fiftieth “pandaversary!” Thanks to its work over the last 50 years, several giant pandas have been born safely at the zoo, and research projects have allowed scientists to better understand their behaviour.

Recently, a number of zoo-born pandas have been released back into their natural habitat in China, helping to boost numbers in their native homeland.

Learn more about rocket launches by watching Twig Film Fly Me to the Moon.

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