- - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CAPE CANAVERAL — The International Space Station may provide the setting for a 500-day pretend trip to Mars in another few years.

NASA said Tuesday that consideration is under way to use the space station as a dry run for a simulated trip to and from Mars.

It would be patterned after Russia’s mock flight to Mars that lasted 520 days at a Moscow research center. Six men were involved in that study, which ended late last year. They were locked in a steel capsule.

NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini said that before astronauts can fly beyond low-Earth orbit, they will have to spend more than six months aloft at a time. That is the typical stint for space station crews. Five hundred days is more than 16 months.

The human endurance record of 14 months was set by a Russian cosmonaut aboard the Mir space station in the mid-1990s. Only two others - both Russians - have spent as long as a full year in space.

No NASA astronaut has spent more than seven months in space on a single mission.

Mr. Suffredini said he doesn’t expect any such Mars simulation aboard the space station to occur any sooner than two to three years. Physical as well as psychological questions will have to be addressed before anything of that sort is attempted, he said.

Scientists and flight surgeons already are taking steps. The goal would be to have all the data in hand so the space station can be used as a Mars test bed before its projected demise in 2020 or thereafter.

UTAH

Woman, 101, paraglides into world record books

SALT LAKE CITY — A 101-year-old Utah woman soared into the record books Tuesday with a tandem paraglide ride last year to usher in her birthday.

Great-great grandmother Mary Hardison of Ogden was officially recognized as the “Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem” by Guinness World Records. She has supplanted a 100-year-old woman from Cyprus who took her flight in 2007.

Mrs. Hardison flew with an instructor on Sept. 1 while four generations of her family watched and cheered. The flight went smoothly and even included a few tricks that Mrs. Hardison encouraged.

In a questionnaire submitted to Guinness, Mrs. Hardison said she wanted to paraglide because her 75-year-old son began doing it as a hobby. “I didn’t want him to do something that I couldn’t do,” Mrs. Hardison said.

Fear never entered the equation for Mrs. Hardison, who took all of the adult rides at Disneyland to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Mrs. Hardison told Guinness that there was no reason for her to be nervous about paragliding because many other people have done it without any problems.

“If it’s safe for them, then it’s safe for me,” she said.

Her actions have inspired others. Mrs. Hardison said some family members and friends have signed up for their own paragliding adventures.

While she is “humbled” by her record, she said, she hopes it doesn’t stand.

“My desire is for the elderly to keep on going. Do things as long as you are physically able,” Mrs. Hardison said. “Be positive. Friends don’t like a grumpy person.”

MISSOURI

Mother suspected in child deaths was depressed

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis-area woman suspected of fatally shooting her three daughters and herself suffered from depression and bipolar disorder, according to her family.

Even though Christine Adewunmi was depressed, she was a devoted mother whose children were “the number one priority in her life,” her family said in a statement.

“Christine was battling depression. Family, friends and professionals were supporting her recovery and stood by her side as she coped with the debilitating disease. No one knew the depths of her problem or could ever foresee this tragedy occurring,” her family said.

Crawford County Sheriff Randy Martin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Christine Adewunmi killed her daughters - Lauren, 8, Samantha, 6, and Kate, 3 - and then turned the gun on herself at a campground along the Meramec River near the eastern Missouri community of Bourbon.

Their bodies were found on an isolated gravel road Saturday.

NEW YORK

Man gets up to 24 years for crash that killed 6

PENN YAN — A man has been sentenced to 12 to 24 years in prison for a crash that killed six Amish farmers and injured eight others on an upstate New York road last summer.

Steven Eldridge, of Penn Yan, was sentenced Tuesday in his Yates County hometown after pleading guilty last month to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence of drugs. The 42-year-old Eldridge admitted he was high on cocaine and prescription drugs when he crashed into a van carrying 14 Amish farmers from neighboring Steuben County on July 19.

The collision in the rural town of Benton pushed the van under a tractor that Eldridge was trying to pass.

The Amish group was on a tour of farms in the Finger Lakes area 50 miles southeast of Rochester.

NEW YORK

City offers old landfill as site for renewable energy

NEW YORK — A New York City site once known for the size of its garbage heaps would be home to alternative energy sources that could generate 20 megawatts of renewable power, now that the city is soliciting bids to build and operate a wind farm and solar power plant there.

City officials put out a request for proposals Tuesday to build solar and wind power facilities at Staten Island’s Fresh Kills landfill. With 75 acres available for lease, city officials said, the project at the closed landfill could generate enough energy to power 6,000 homes and would double the city’s renewable-energy capacity.

The landfill closed in March 2001. It reopened briefly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a sorting place for debris from the World Trade Center.

COLORADO

Residents assess damage from wildfire

WRAY — Residents on Colorado’s eastern plains are trying to determine the extent of damage and the number of farm animals killed after a wildfire that charred more than 37 square miles.

One firefighter was critically injured and two others were treated and released for minor injuries while trying to escape from a stranded firetruck after the fire broke out Sunday.

Firefighter Jennifer Struckmeyer was in critical condition in a hospital’s burn center Tuesday, said Gene Haffner, a spokesman for the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.

Her brother-in-law, Damon Struckmeyer, and a third firefighter, Darren Stewart, were treated and released.

Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day said two farmsteads were destroyed and residents were trying to round up cattle left wandering after the fire. An undetermined number of animals were killed, he said. He said the fire likely was caused by an electrical spark.

“We’re trying to contact all of the residents of the burn area to try to determine the loss and the property damage. The biggest question now is about lost cattle. This is a tight-knit community, and we have neighbors helping neighbors,” Sheriff Day said Tuesday.

The sheriff said he believes local communities can deal with the damage and he has not asked for state or federal assistance. The state brand inspector may be called in to help sort out the cattle owners, he said.

NEW YORK

Financier’s art collection to be auctioned

NEW YORK — Works of art from the estate of Wall Street financier Theodore Forstmann will be sold at a New York City auction.

Sotheby’s says the collection is expected to bring more than $75 million.

The auction house announced Tuesday that the works will be sold in a series of sales in May.

Forstmann died in October at age 71. He was a pioneer of the leveraged buyout, chairman and CEO of the sports marketing giant IMG and a philanthropist.

Among the collection highlights is a Pablo Picasso portrait of his muse, Dora Maar. It is expected to bring $20 million to $30 million.

The collection includes impressionist, modern, contemporary, American and Latin American art.

Highlights will be exhibited in Los Angeles, Hong Kong and London prior to the sales.

From wire dispatches and staff reports