China to launch manned space mission Shenzhou 11 on Monday

China launches a two-man space mission, Shenzhou 11, on Monday, officials with the space program said, taking the country closer to its ambition of setting up a permanent manned space station by 2022.

President Xi Jinping has called for China to establish itself as a space power, and it has tested anti-satellite missiles, in addition to its civilian aims, according to Reuters.

China says its space program is for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. Defense Department has highlighted its increasing capabilities, saying it was pursuing activities aimed to prevent adversaries from using space-based assets in a crisis.

European Schiaparelli probe on target for Mars landing

Europe's Schiaparelli spacecraft is on course to land on Mars.

The 577kg probe separated successfully from its mothership on Sunday at 14:42 GMT.

It is now on a direct path to intercept the top of the Red Planet's atmosphere on Wednesday, according to BBC.

The module will then have just under six minutes to reduce its 21,000km/h entry speed to zero in order to make a relatively soft flop-down on to Mars' dusty surface.

Butterfly numbers drop a mystery

A huge drop in the number of butterflies in the UK is causing confusion among wildlife experts.

The Big Butterfly Count - an annual survey by thousands of volunteers - recorded an average 12.2 per count, compared with a 2013 high of 23.

Numbers were even lower than a previous slump in the wet summer of 2012, despite far warmer weather, according to BBC.

Meet our weird reptile ancestors

Two new species of cynodonts have been identified after sitting undiscovered in a museum for decades.

The ancient creatures are thought to mark the evolutionary step between reptiles and mammals.

The bizarre specimens feature reptile-like bodies, mammal-like skulls and jaws that are thought to be among the oldest ancestors of mammals.

The animals were among the first to display mammal-like features. 

Shells could be 200 MILLION years older than we thought

From giant Galapagos tortoises to the humble sea snail, animals have been using tough shells to protect their soft bodies for millions of years.

But the fossilised remains of ancient microbes have revealed the first shells may have emerged 200 million years earlier than previously thought.

Geologists claim to have found evidence of some of the earliest shell formation in biological history.