CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Four astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday for SpaceX’s second crew launch, coming up next weekend.
For NASA, it marks the long-awaited start of regular crew rotations at the International Space Station, with private companies providing the lifts. There will be double the number of astronauts as the test flight earlier this year, and their mission will last a full six months.
“Make no mistake: Every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel. But it’s also true that we need to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station,“ NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in welcoming the astronauts to Kennedy.
The crew of three Americans and one Japanese are scheduled to rocket away Saturday night, provided approaching Tropical Storm Eta doesn’t interfere. It will be a speedy trip to the space station, a six-orbit express lasting under nine hours.
The astronauts have named their Dragon capsule Resilience given all the challenges of 2020: coronavirus and social isolation, protests against racial injustice, and a particularly difficult election and campaign season. They have been in quarantine for a week or two and taking safety precautions — masks and social distancing — long before that.
“It’s been a tough year for everybody for a lot of different reasons,“ crew commander Mike Hopkins said after flying in from Houston. “We felt like if the name of our vehicle could give a little hope, a little inspiration, put a smile on people’s face, then that is definitely what we wanted to do.”
The four will remain in orbit until spring, when their replacements arrive aboard another SpaceX Dragon capsule. The cargo version of the capsule also will keep making regular deliveries of food and supplies.
SpaceX’s Benji Reed said the company expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months: three for crew and four for cargo.
“Every time there’s a Dragon launch, there will be two Dragons in space,” said Reed, director of crew mission management.
NASA’s other hired taxi service, meanwhile, Boeing, isn’t expected to fly its first crew until next summer. The company plans a second unpiloted test flight in a couple months; the first one suffered so many software problems that the Starliner capsule failed to reach the space station.
NASA turned to private companies for space station deliveries — cargo, then crew — following the shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011. U.S. astronauts kept hitching rides on Russian rockets at increasingly steep prices. The last Soyuz ticket cost NASA $90 million.
SpaceX finally ended NASA’s nearly decade-long launch drought for astronauts last May, successfully delivering a pair of test pilots to the space station from Kennedy for a two-month stay. The returning capsule was scrutinized by SpaceX following its splashdown, resulting in a few changes for this second flight.
Engineers discovered excessive erosion in the heat shield from the searing reentry temperatures; the company shored up the vulnerable section for the upcoming launch, said SpaceX’s Hans Koenigsmann, a vice-president. Improvements also were made to the altitude-measuring system for the parachutes, after the chutes opened a little too low on the first astronaut flight. More recently, the Falcon rocket had two engines replaced because of contamination from a red lacquer used in processing. The engine swaps delayed the flight two weeks.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the first SpaceX crew flight was all the private boats full of gawkers who surrounded the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico following splashdown in August. Koenigsmann promises a bigger keep-out zone and more patrols for future returns.
The second crew has three veteran fliers and one first-timer:
— Hopkins, 51, is an Air Force colonel and former space station resident who grew up on a hog and cattle farm in Missouri.
— Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, 44, is the pilot and the lone space rookie; he’s from the Los Angeles area and will be the first African American astronaut to move into the space station for a long stay.
— Shannon Walker, 55, a Houston-born-and-raised physicist, also has lived before on the space station; her husband, retired astronaut Andrew Thomas, helped build the outpost.
— The Japanese Space Agency’s Soichi Noguchi, 55, another former station resident, will become the first person in decades to launch on three kinds of rocketships; he’s already flown on a U.S. space shuttle and Russian Soyuz.
They will join two Russians and one American who arrived at the space station last month from Kazakhstan.
Hopkins and his crew will ride to the launch pad in Teslas — SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s other company — in spacesuits colour-co-ordinated with the spacecraft. But beneath all the good looks is “lots of amazing capability,” according to Glover.
“It’s a very sleek capsule. But it’s got the advantage of having great leaps in technology since the last time we built spacecraft here in this country,” Walker said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Noguchi, who along with Walker joined the crew just this year, is particularly excited about riding a Dragon. In Japan, the dragon is an esteemed mythical creature — “almost a ride to the heaven.”
“It’s quite a privilege to learn how to train the Dragon actually, how to ride a Dragon,” he said. “SpaceX did pretty good job teaching from scratch to dragon rider in six months.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Farrell calls for consideration of city bylaw to stop street harassment in Calgary – Calgary Herald
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Some other Canadian cities have rules to deal with street harassment. In London, Ont., you can be fined for using “abusive or insulting language” in a public space.
Street harassment takes many forms, from unwanted sexual comments to whistling to flashing or groping, and it’s based on someone’s perceived gender or sexual identity. It’s a point of focus for gender equity advocates, as an example of how control tactics make people feel unsafe in public spaces.
Sagesse executive director Andrea Silverstone said Monday that street harassment can’t be dismissed as one-off comments or isolated incidents.
“It’s a structured pattern of behaviour that occurs in society that makes certain people feel unsafe,” she said. “Whether they’re women or 2SLGBTQ individuals or visible minorities feeling unsafe on the street.”
Jake Stika, executive director of Next Gen Men, said street harassment is a symptom of how boys absorb the message that being a man is about power and dominance, and they start defining their interactions that way.
Street harassment, he explains, is overwhelmingly perpetuated by men, but men are also key to stopping it.
“It’s not a women’s issue. Women are impacted by it … but what we need to do as guys is take this up as our issue,” he said. “We’re the problem, but we’re also the solution.”
Stika’s organization works to redefine manhood and masculinity with youth and community programs as part of working “upstream” to stop gender-based violence and improve men’s health and relationships.
AI Solves 50-Year-Old Biology 'Grand Challenge' Decades Before Experts Predicted – ScienceAlert
A long-standing and incredibly complex scientific problem concerning the structure and behaviour of proteins has been effectively solved by a new artificial intelligence (AI) system, scientists report.
All those incremental advancements were about much more than mastering recreational diversions, however.
In the background, DeepMind’s researchers were seeking to coax their AIs towards solving much more fundamentally important scientific puzzles – such as finding new ways to fight disease by predicting infinitesimal but vitally important aspects of human biology.
Now, with the latest version of their AlphaFold AI engine, they seem to have actually achieved this very ambitious goal – or at least gotten us closer than scientists ever have before.
For about 50 years, researchers have strived to predict how proteins achieve their three-dimensional structure, and it’s not an easy problem to solve.
The astronomical number of potential configurations is so mind-bogglingly huge, in fact, that researchers postulated it would take longer than the age of the Universe to sample all the possible molecular arrangements.
Nonetheless, if we can solve this puzzle – known as the protein-folding problem – it would constitute a giant breakthrough in scientific capabilities, vastly accelerating research endeavours in things like drug discovery and modelling disease, and also leading to new applications far beyond health.
For that reason, despite the scale of the challenge, for decades researchers have been collaborating to make gains in developing solutions to the protein-folding problem.
A rigorous experiment called CASP (Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction) began in the 1990s, challenging scientists to devise systems capable of predicting the esoteric enigmas of protein folding.
Now, in its third decade, the CASP experiment looks to have produced its most promising solution yet – with DeepMind’s AlphaFold delivering predictions of 3D protein structures with unprecedented accuracy.
“We have been stuck on this one problem – how do proteins fold up – for nearly 50 years,” says CASP co-founder John Moult from the University of Maryland.
“To see DeepMind produce a solution for this, having worked personally on this problem for so long and after so many stops and starts wondering if we’d ever get there, is a very special moment.”
In the experiment, DeepMind used a new deep learning architecture for AlphaFold that was able to interpret and compute the ‘spatial graph’ of 3D proteins, predicting the molecular structure underpinning their folded configuration.
The system, which was trained up by analysing a databank of approximately 170,000 protein structures, brought its unique skillset to this year’s CASP challenge, called CASP14, achieving a median score in its predictions of 92.4 GDT (Global Distance Test).
That’s above the ~90 GDT threshold that’s generally considered to be competitive with the same results obtained via experimental methods, and DeepMind says its predictions are only off by about 1.6 angstroms on average (about the width of an atom).
“I nearly fell off my chair when I saw these results,” says genomics researcher Ewan Birney from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.
“I know how rigorous CASP is – it basically ensures that computational modelling must perform on the challenging task of ab initio protein folding. It was humbling to see that these models could do that so accurately. There will be many aspects to understand but this is a huge advance for science.”
It’s worth noting that the research has not yet been peer-reviewed, nor published in a scientific journal (although DeepMind’s researchers say that’s on the way).
Even so, experts who are familiar with the field are already recognising and applauding the breakthrough, even if the full report and detailed results are yet to be seen.
“This computational work represents a stunning advance on the protein-folding problem, a 50-year old grand challenge in biology,” says structural biologist Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society.
“It has occurred decades before many people in the field would have predicted.”
The full findings are not yet published, but you can see the abstract for the research, “High Accuracy Protein Structure Prediction Using Deep Learning”, here, and find more information on CASP14 here.
A 'Beaver Full Moon' With Lunar Eclipse Happened This Morning—And Folks Took Some Stunning Photos – Good News Network
If you were up in the early hours of this morning, you may have noticed the full moon turning a shade or so darker and redder.
What you were seeing is called a penumbral lunar eclipse. Caused by the moon dipping behind the Earth’s fuzzy penumbra, or outer shadow, this subtle shading effect peaked at 4:32 am ET November 30, when—according to NASA—83% of the moon was in the shadow of our planet.
NASA has also given a list of the names November’s full moon is known by: The Algonquin tribes have long called this the Cold Moon after the long, frozen nights. Others know it as the Frost Moon, while an Old European Name is Oak Moon: perhaps because of ancient Druid traditions that involve harvesting mistletoe from oak trees for the upcoming winter solstice.
In America, the November full moon is perhaps still best known as the Beaver Moon—with Native Americans associating it with a time when the beavers are scrabbling to finish building their dens from mud and sticks and rocks in preparation for winter.
While this was the last penumbral eclipse of the year, don’t worry if you missed the occurrence due to sleep or clouds.
For those who didn’t get to witness the phenomenon in person, from San Francisco to Michigan to the Sydney Opera House, here are some stunning pictures of this year’s last partial lunar eclipse.
P.S. The next full moon will be the Cold Christmas Moon on December 29, 2020.
The full moon captured with the San Francisco skyline view at Alameda
A peaceful scene from Mackinac Island in Michigan
Surreal views from Joshua Tree
The Columbia River Gorge became a moonrise kingdom
Cool blue views were taken by this photographer in Northumberland, England
This photographer in Russia caught an image straight from a folk tale
Clouds added interest and atmosphere to these photos taken in Preston, England
A calming moment was captured on Rhode Island
The moon united photographers everywhere last night. Here’s a view from Sydney.
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