This week in science

Orion splashdown and more: Understand the world through 7 images

The Artemis I mission ends with a splash.

Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

MARIO TAMA/AFP/Getty Images

NASA’s Orion vessel returned to Earth the week of December 714, as another groundbreaking mission headed to the Moon.

Here are the week’s biggest science stories, told in 7 striking images

ispace

7. Tree of life

© B. Schierwater, et al.

December 8

Scientists created the first taxonomic classification of Placozoa, a group that contains the world’s simplest animals. The blob-like, organless creatures were classified based on their genetic makeup almost 140 years after they were first discovered.

© B. Schierwater, et al.

6. The whole picture

Ji Yi, Johns Hopkins University

December 8

Researchers developed a microscopy technique that can image an entire organism with enough resolution to see individual cells — in this case, a zebrafish larva. The new technique could help develop new treatments for disease.

Ji Yi, Johns Hopkins University

5. Something in common

Ian Towle

December 8

Researchers found fossils of Archaeolemur, an extinct lemur, that has tooth chipping similar to that seen in Neanderthals. The finding suggests hypotheses that Neanderthal tooth chipping was caused by stone tools may be incorrect, potentially changing our picture of early hominin evolution.

Ian Towle

4. Welcome home

NASA/James M. Blair

December 11

NASA’s Orion spacecraft, part of the Artemis I mission, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, completing its 25-day journey. The data gained on Orion’s lunar flyby will help NASA send humans around the Moon on the Artemis II mission in 2024.

NASA/James M. Blair

3. Back to the Moon

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

December 11

NASA’s Lunar Flashlight satellite and a Japanese lander carrying a UAE rover launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Lunar Flashlight will map ice on the Moon, while the HAKUTO-R lander will add Japan and the UAE to the countries with successful Moon landings, if its March 2023 landing goes as planned.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

2. Ancient arthropods

Emmanuel Martin

December 13

Researchers uncovered fossil evidence that giant free-swimming arthropods up to six feet long were abundant in the sea where Morocco now sits. The Fezouata Biota fossil site where they were found is an important window into life in the Early Ordovician period, about 470 million years ago.

Emmanuel Martin

1. Do the worm

Aishwarya Pantula/Johns Hopkins University

December 14

Engineers created tiny, worm-like robots that crawl by shrinking and expanding with temperature changes. They say future versions of the robots could be used in biomedical applications or to explore the ocean equipped with cameras and sensors.

Aishwarya Pantula/Johns Hopkins University