Astronaut Koichi Wakata spent 41/2 months on the International Space Station. But when he returns to Earth today, the real science starts. Wakata is returning with a pair of underwear that he wore for an entire month. They are high-tech undies, designed in Japan to be odor free. The Japanese spaceman talked about his underwear — not a normal NASA procedure — on Thursday as Endeavour and its crew aimed for a touchdown today. The astronauts released some mini satellites on Thursday, but that was hardly as interesting as Wakata's experimental drawers. "I haven't talked about this underwear to my crew members," Wakata said, drawing laughs from his shuttle colleagues. "But I wore them for about a month, and my station crew members never complained, so I think the experiment went fine." That is solid methodology. The underwear, called J-Wear, is a new type of antibacterial, water-absorbent, odor-eliminating clothing designed for space missions. The line includes shirts, pants and socks as well. Wakata tested all of them during his mission; he had four pairs of the silver-coated underwear, a cross between briefs and boxers. "We'll see the results after landing," Wakata said. Good weather was forecast for a late morning landing attempt at Cape Canaveral, with the rain expected to hold off until afternoon.
North Koreans can super-size their order of kimchi
The first fast-food joint has opened in North Korea, serving up burgers, fries and beer in Pyongyang, and the locals are lovin' it so much that more are planned for the communist capital. The Samtaesong fast-food restaurant, which reportedly opened last month, serves up very American fare: hamburgers, french fries, waffles and draft beer. Also on the menu: kimchi, the spicy pickled cabbage that Koreans love. It plans to add croissants and hot dogs. A hamburger costs $1.70, according to Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper viewed as a mouthpiece for the North Korean government. That is more than half of the daily income of the average North Korean.
Pickens' autograph in court
Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens wrote his name in wet cement outside his grandmother's house in 1946. Now a court will decide who owns the 3x5-foot slab of concrete that bears his scrawl. In 2008, Pickens' wife bought the Holdenville, Okla., home and had it moved to their Texas ranch. The rights to the slab were a bit nebulous, though. David and Saundra McCart claimed it was theirs because they had maintained it for decades. But Pickens' crew took it, according to the Oklahoma City Oklahoman. Now the court fight is between the McCarts and the city, which claims to own the easement where it was. If the city wins, it would either auction it or give it to Pickens, who has donated to many city causes. "It is not a concrete solution," said Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser, who wasn't done with the sidewalk puns yet. "It puts us on the right path to cementing our relationship with the city."
More delays for atom smasher
Repairs to two small helium leaks in the world's largest atom smasher will delay the restart of the giant machine another month until November, a spokesman for the operator said Thursday. The nuclear research organization, which is known as CERN, has nearly finished examining the 10,000 electrical interconnections like the one that failed in September. Originally CERN said it expected to start test collisions in April, but that start up date has been pushed back several times. If a November start holds, it will still take until December for the accelerator in a 17-mile circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border to start producing collisions of subatomic particles.