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June 15, 2012 at 7:15 PM
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China set to send woman into space

BEIJING, June 15 (UPI) -- China says the launch of its the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft Saturday will send the country's first female astronaut into space.

The launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is set for 6:37 a.m. EDT and will carry three astronauts, two male and one female, to conduct the country's first space docking test, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space program.

They are Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and the female astronaut Liu Yang, the spokeswoman said.

Liu Yang, 33, is an air force major and a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience.

She was the deputy head of a flight unit of the Air Force before being recruited into China's second batch of prospective astronauts in May 2010, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

The upcoming Shenzhou-9 mission will conduct both manual and automatic docking between the spacecraft and the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, Wu said.

The Tiangong-1 has been lowered to the docking orbit 213 miles above Earth and is operating normally, she said.

With the completion of docking, the astronauts will live and work in Tiangong-1.

Microsoft to manufacture its own tablet?

REDMOND, Wash., June 15 (UPI) -- Microsoft says it will make a "major announcement" Monday and industry watchers say it will reveal the first Windows 8 tablet made by the software company.

Microsoft will enter the tablet market directly, rather than rely on hardware partners such as Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo, in hopes of winning market share from Apple's popular iPad, sources told Web sites AllThingsD and The Wrap.

Traditionally Microsoft has only made software, with the exception of the XBox 360 gaming console that the company puts its name on.

In the computer arena it has long been content to leave hardware to its partners under their own brands, but by making both the hardware and the software for a Microsoft tablet the company could achieve better integration between the two, informationweek.com reported Thursday.

This would follow the path set by Apple, which owns both the software platform and hardware aspects of the iPad, which makes it fully integrated with Apple's entire line of devices and its software.

What's not clear, analysts said, is how Microsoft will differentiate its tablet products from the Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets being made by its partners, who could have second thoughts about Microsoft competing directly with them.

Microsoft said it will be making the announcement in Los Angeles.

Filmmaker helps in effort to save history

EVANSTON, Ill., June 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher says he's filmed efforts by an international team trying to save antiquities at an ancient Buddhist site in Afghanistan's Taliban country.

Northwestern University Professor Brent Huffman screened his footage at a Washington conference of archaeologists, geologists and mining experts, a university release reported.

Mes Aynak, a 2,500-year-old religious site along the Silk Road 25 miles southeast of Kabul, is home to more than 200 Buddha statues, devotional temples and an approximately 100-acre monastery complex.

The vast majority of relics and structures are underground and many are too large and fragile to be moved, Huffman said.

"Mes Aynak served as an al-Qaida training camp, and miraculously survived three decades of war and looting," Huffman said. "Now this incredible site is threatened by Chinese mining operations that are projected to produce over $100 billion worth of copper."

Archaeologists were given less than a year to dig up the ancient relics before mining was scheduled to begin.

"It's a problem of time," Huffman explains. "The archaeologists on the site say they have unearthed no more than 10 percent of the Buddhist site."

Huffman, a professor of journalism at Northwestern's Medill School, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, making social-issue documentaries and environmental films in Asia, Africa and the Middle East for more than a decade.

"I usually make films that act as a mirror examining some issue and reflecting some reality," he said. "But, for the first time, with Mes Aynak, I feel an obligation to try to save this ancient site and stop the senseless destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage."

Farthest galaxy ever observed described

HONOLULU, June 15 (UPI) -- Japanese astronomers say they've observed a galaxy they believe is the most distant ever seen, at almost 13 billion light years from Earth.

Scientists using the Subaru and Keck telescopes in Hawaii said because of the time it has taken the galaxy's light to reach Earth, they are seeing the galaxy as it was less than a billion years after the big bang created the universe.

By 200 million to 500 million years after the universe's birth, clouds of neutral hydrogen cooled enough to begin to condense to form the first stars and the first galaxies.

Since the distant galaxy, dubbed SXDF-NB1006-2, existed around 800 million years after the big bang, it offers a glimpse closer than ever to that critical time, SPACE.com reported.

"The day is not so far off when the mysteries of the dark ages of the universe and the physical properties of the first galaxies will be revealed," Masanori Iye of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan said in a statement.

To observe the distant, faint galaxy 12.91 billion light years away, scientists had to collect light through the telescopes for more than 37 hours, letting more and more light accumulate to see as deeply as possible.

SXDF-NB1006-2 replaces the previous record holder for the farthest galaxy known, GN-108036, which was also discovered by the Subaru telescope.

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