Space station gets fresh batteries

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Spacewalking Atlantis astronauts finished putting in a new six-pack of batteries Friday at the International Space Station, a $22 million power overhaul that was their last major objective. It was the third and final spacewalk this week for the visiting shuttle crew.

Replacing the station's original 10-year-old batteries was harder than it sounded. There were many bolts to undo and then redo, and the batteries were 375 pounds apiece.

With shuttle flights ending this year and another decade of operating the station ahead, NASA wanted it to have all fresh batteries. The nickel-hydrogen batteries are charged by the solar wings and provide electrical power to the station during darkness.

Atlantis will undock from the station Sunday. - AP

Gun taken from pilot before flight

BOSTON - A JetBlue pilot who threatened in an e-mail to "harm himself in spectacular fashion" surrendered a gun to authorities in Massachusetts after they confronted him just before he boarded a flight at Logan International Airport, law enforcement authorities said Friday.

The gun was taken from the pilot by federal authorities, suggesting he might be a member of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. The post-9/11 program screens, trains, arms, and deputizes pilots as a last line of aircraft security. There are reportedly 10,000 pilots carrying handguns under the program.

The JetBlue pilot was taken to a hospital for evaluation after Thursday's conflict. JetBlue declined to identify him. It said no passengers were harmed and no flight was in jeopardy. It did not respond to a request for information on the specific flight the pilot had been slated to work. - AP

Biomedical seed money is offered

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration said Friday that it was offering $1 billion in seed money to small research firms in the hunt for promising medical breakthroughs.

Companies working on projects that have "significant potential" to produce new drugs, find a cure for cancer, or address unmet medical needs can apply for up to a $5 million share of the funds. It is limited to firms with 250 workers or fewer, and applications must pass review by experts at the National Institutes for Health.

The idea was championed by three Democratic senators - Max Baucus of Montana, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey - and incorporated into the health-care law. Proposals will be accepted from June 21 to July 21, and awards will be announced by Oct. 29. - AP


Salmonella found in alfalfa sprouts appears to have sickened 22 people in 10 states, prompting a nationwide recall of the product by Caldwell Fresh Foods of Maywood, Calif. Caldwell's product was sold in 18 states in the West, Midwest, and South.

The world's longest continuously erupting volcano, which has become a major attraction for scientists and tourists since becoming active in 1983, has marked a milestone. It was 10,000 days ago Friday that Kilauea Volcano began erupting on Hawaii's Big Island.