CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The astronauts on NASA’s next-to-last space shuttle flight hit the halfway point of their 16-day journey Tuesday, marveling over earthly vistas and expressing sadness over Endeavour’s looming retirement. Endeavour’s six astronauts took it easy on their eighth day in orbit. On Monday, they said goodbye to three space station colleagues who landed safely in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule. Now there are just nine men — representing the U.S., Russia and Italy — aboard the shuttle-station complex. The shuttle astronauts worked on the International Space Station’s air system and, getting a little time off, soaked in the views more than 200 miles below. This is the 25th flight of Endeavour, the youngest of NASA’s three remaining space shuttles. It was built to replace the lost Challenger and blasted off for the first time in 1992.
CDC: Measles cases on fastest pace since 1996
ATLANTA — Health officials say 118 cases of measles have been reported in the United States so far this year — the highest number this early in the year since 1996. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday released the count for January 1 through May 20. Cases were seen in 23 states. None of the patients died, but about 40 percent were hospitalized. The U.S. normally sees about 50 cases of measles in a year, thanks to vaccinations. About 90 percent of the cases this year were unvaccinated. Measles is highly contagious and up to 90 percent of people exposed to an infected person get sick. The virus spreads easily through the air, and in closed rooms, infected droplets can linger for up to two hours.
Mubarak to be tried in protesters’ deaths
CAIRO — Deposed President Hosni Mubarak will stand trial on charges related to the shooting deaths of protesters during the country’s 18-day revolt, Egypt’s prosecutor-general announced Tuesday. The charges could carry the death penalty. Mubarak, 83, his sons, Gamal and Alaa, and a close business associate, Hussein Salem, also will face charges that they abused their power to amass wealth, the prosecutor-general said. The charges were announced just days before thousands of demonstrators were expected to rally in downtown Cairo to demand, among other things, tougher action against the Mubaraks, and some activists said the announcement was intended to quash momentum for the protest, which organizers had hoped would draw as many as 1 million participants. State media reported that Mubarak remains hospitalized; his two sons are among a slew of former regime officials who await prosecution in a notorious Cairo prison. No dates were announced for the trials, which will be before a civilian criminal court.
Tepco Says Two More Fukushima Nuclear Reactors Had Meltdowns
TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Tuesday that fuel rods melted in two more reactors at its Fukushima nuclear plant, indicating for the first time that damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is matching worse-case-scenarios. Fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 had almost complete meltdowns, spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters in Tokyo Tuesday. That’s in line with U.S. assessments in the early days of the crisis that suggested damage to the station was more severe than Tokyo Electric officials estimated. The meltdown of the cores is the “greatest at the No. 1 reactor, followed by the No. 3 unit and then No. 2,” Matsumoto said. The analysis of the damage became possible “after data from the central control room was retrieved.” Japan’s biggest utility, known as Tepco, raised the possibility of more extensive destruction when it announced last week — more than two months after the disaster — that fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor had melted within 16 hours of the quake and cooling water was below the base of the rods. Tepco has been struggling to cool reactors and spent fuel pools to stop radiation leaks and resolve the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. On April 17 it set out a so-called road map to end the crisis in six to nine months. The utility said it expects to achieve a sustained drop in radiation levels at the plant within three months, followed by a cold shutdown, where core reactor temperatures fall below 100 degrees Celsius.