NASA's probes begin study of moon's gravity<p></p>

Published March 7, 2012

probes begin study of moon's gravity

Flying in formation around the moon, a pair of NASA probes began mapping the lunar gravity field in hopes of figuring out why Earth's only natural satellite is shaped the way it is.

The probes kicked off their science campaign late Tuesday, two months after arriving back to back at the moon over the New Year's weekend.

"Literally and figuratively, I'm over the moon," mission chief scientist Maria Zuber at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in an email.

Despite astronaut landings and robotic missions, scientists still don't know everything about Earth's celestial companion. A lingering mystery is why the side that always faces Earth appears flatter than the mountainous far side. Mapping the moon's uneven gravity should provide a clue. The spacecraft will spend the next three months orbiting 35 miles above the lunar surface.


Case against abortion doctors dismissed

Maryland prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed murder charges against two out-of-state abortion doctors, citing conflicts in expert testimony.

Cecil County State's Attorney Ellis Rollins announced the dismissal of all charges against Drs. Steven Brigham, 55, of Voorhees, N.J., and Nicola Riley, 46, of Salt Lake City, Utah.

They were charged under a Maryland law that allows prosecutors to pursue murder charges in the death of a viable fetus. The 2005 law had only been used for cases in which defendants were accused of assaulting or killing pregnant women, not to prosecute abortion doctors.


FDA issues warning on inhalable caffeine

Food and Drug Administration officials have issued a warning letter to the makers of the inhalable caffeine product AeroShot, saying they have questions about its safety and concerns about how children and adolescents may use it.

The lipstick-sized AeroShot went on the market in January in Massachusetts and New York, and it's also available in France. Consumers put one end of the plastic canister in their mouths and breathe in, releasing a fine powder that dissolves almost instantly. The product's website calls it "a revolutionary new way to get your energy."

The company behind AeroShot, Breathable Foods, said it will work with the FDA.


Longtime lawmaker dies of colon cancer

Rep. Donald Payne, the first African-American elected to Congress from New Jersey and the dean of that state's delegation, died Tuesday after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 77.

He represented New Jersey's heavily Democratic 10th District, including sections of Newark. He was a teacher, business executive and local officeholder before winning his seat in Congress in 1988. He was easily re-elected 11 more times.


PORT ORCHARD, Wash.: A 9-year-old boy who brought to school a gun that discharged and critically wounded a fellow third-grader was sentenced Tuesday to 12 months of probation and ordered to write a letter of apology to his victim.

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Afghanistan: At least 47 people were killed in an avalanche that buried a village in the northeast of the country, an Afghan official said today. Sunday's avalanche swallowed a village of 200 people in Badakhshan province.

Yemen: The death toll from an al-Qaida assault on a military base in southern Yemen on Sunday has risen to 185 government soldiers, military and medical officials said Tuesday. Many soldiers' bodies were found mutilated, and some were headless.

India: The ruling Congress party suffered losses in elections in five states Tuesday, which could cripple the already embattled national government over the final two years of its term.

Times wires