While some surveys suggest some couples are delaying having a baby because of the poor economy and lack of job security, the recession may actually lead to more unintended pregnancies. A Gallup survey released this week shows some women are abandoning contraceptives or switching to less expensive, less reliable methods because of cost or lack of health insurance coverage. The survey found 3 percent of women of child-bearing age had quit using birth control because they could not afford it. Six percent of women using a hormonal form of birth control, such as the pill, said they had stopped because they could not afford it. Ten percent of women said they were worried about their ability to keep paying for contraception. Some women said they had switched birth-control methods because of cost. Twenty percent of women said they were more concerned about having an unintended pregnancy today than they were one year ago. "Even 3 percent is a big number if you look at the entire number of women in that age group," said Dr. Iffath Hoskins, vice president of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which commissioned the survey. "We're deeply concerned about the effect of the economy on women's health care." About 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. The Gallup survey was conducted from March 25 to April 1 among 1,000 women of reproductive age.
Deep space probes running on empty
NASA is running out of nuclear fuel needed for deep space exploration, and the end of the Cold War's nuclear weapons buildup is to blame. Deep space probes beyond Jupiter rely on plutonium-238, a byproduct of nuclear weaponry, to power them with the heat of its natural decay. The United States stopped making it about 20 years ago, and NASA has been relying on the Russians, but the Russian supply is running dry. NASA does not have enough plutonium for faraway space probes except for a few missions already scheduled, according to a study released Thursday by the National Academy of Sciences. The Department of Energy said it will restart its program with a proposed $30 million in next year's budget for preliminary design and engineering, but the academy's report says it would cost the Energy Department at least $150 million to resume making it for the 11 pounds a year that NASA needs. Missions using plutonium include the overbudget and delayed Mars Science Laboratory, set to launch in 2011, and a mission to tour the solar system's outer planets scheduled for launch in 2020.
europe's big sights: Europe is about to take an astronomical leap over the United States. On Monday, NASA will send a crew of astronauts to install greatly improved instruments on the 18-year-old Hubble Space Telescope. But three days later, the European Space Agency will launch two even more advanced telescopes, named Planck and Herschel. Herschel will have the largest mirror ever put in space, 11.5 feet across, half again as big as Hubble's mirror. Planck will have the sharpest vision, detecting differences as small as two parts in a million.
nasa review: The White House ordered a complete review of NASA's manned space program, including plans to return astronauts to the moon, by August. Former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine will head the independent panel. NASA has already spent $6.9 billion on its moon plans.
Number of students who died in the Sichuan province earthquake a year ago, a Chinese provincial official said Thursday.
For those who had pushed for the figure's release, it appeared too little and too late. "Many people will doubt the accuracy of this figure," said Yang Licai, one of the volunteers collecting names in Sichuan. Still, he applauded the government for releasing the number. "Whether or not it's the right figure, it is progress."
the student toll, according to other estimates, out of about 70,000 total fatalities.