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Science News Roundup: Saudi mission on SpaceX capsule to include first female Arab astronaut; Meet Japan’s cyborg cockroach, coming to disaster area near you and more

Following is a summary of current science news briefs.

How many ants are crawling on Earth? Scientists say 20 quadrillion

The world’s human population is forecast to surpass 8 billion in the coming months. Compared to ants, that is a mediocre milestone. Researchers have made the most thorough assessment to date of the global population of ants – insects that have colonized almost everywhere on the planet – and the estimated total is a mind-blowing 20 quadrillion of them, or approximately 2.5 million for every human.

Meet Japan’s cyborg cockroach, coming to disaster area near you

If an earthquake strikes in the not too distant future and survivors are trapped under tonnes of rubble, the first responders to locate them could be swarms of cyborg cockroaches.

That’s a potential application of a recent breakthrough by Japanese researchers who demonstrated the ability to mount “backpacks” of solar cells and electronics on the bugs and control their motion by remote control.

Saudi Arabia launches astronaut programme – state news agency

Saudi Arabia has launched an astronaut programme, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday, with the first journey to space set for 2023 carrying the country’s first female astronaut.

Saudi mission on SpaceX capsule to include first female Arab astronaut

Saudi Arabia’s mission to the International Space Station next year aboard a SpaceX capsule will include a woman who would become the world’s first female Arab astronaut, according to Axiom Space, the U.S. company arranging the mission for the kingdom. Neither Axiom nor the Saudi government provided the name for the female astronaut, who will be accompanied by another Saudi and two Americans as part of Axiom’s second private mission to the space station, slated for early 2023.

(With inputs from agencies.)

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