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Boeing's Starliner crew capsule launches on first space flight – CTV News



Boeing’s new Starliner capsule rocketed toward the International Space Station on its first test flight Friday, a crucial dress rehearsal for next year’s inaugural launch with astronauts.

The Starliner carried Christmas treats and presents for the six space station residents, hundreds of tree seeds similar to those that flew to the moon on Apollo 14, the original air travel ID card belonging to Boeing’s founder and a mannequin named Rosie in the commander’s seat.

The test dummy — named after the bicep-flexing riveter of World War II — wore a red polka dot hair bandanna just like the original Rosie and Boeing’s custom royal blue spacesuit.

“She’s pretty tough. She’s going to take the hit for us,” said NASA’s Mike Fincke, one of three astronauts who will fly on the next Starliner and, as test pilots, take the hit for future crews.

As the astronauts watched from nearby control centres, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the capsule blasted off just before sunrise from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was a one-day trip to the space station, putting the spacecraft on track for a docking Saturday morning.

This was Boeing’s chance to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider that completed a similar demonstration last March. SpaceX has one last hurdle — a launch abort test — before carrying two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, possibly by spring.

The U.S. needs competition like this, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Thursday, to drive down launch costs, boost innovation and open space up to more people.

“We’re moving into a new era,” he said.

The space agency handed over station deliveries to private businesses, first cargo and then crews, in order to focus on getting astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars.

Commercial cargo ships took flight in 2012, starting with SpaceX. Crew capsules were more complicated to design and build, and parachute and other technical problems pushed the first launches from 2017 to now next year.

It’s been nearly nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis — now on display at Kennedy Space Center — made the final space shuttle flight.

Since then, NASA astronauts have travelled to and from the space station via Kazakhstan, courtesy of the Russian Space Agency. The Soyuz rides have cost NASA up to $86 million apiece.

“We’re back with a vengeance now,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said from Kennedy, where crowds gathered well before dawn.

Chris Ferguson commanded that last shuttle mission. Now a test pilot astronaut for Boeing and one of the Starliner’s key developers, he’s assigned to the first Starliner crew with Fincke and NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. A successful Starliner demo could see them launching by summer.

“This is an incredibly unique opportunity,” Ferguson said on the eve of launch.

Mann juggled a mix of emotions: excitement, pride, stress and amazement.

“Really overwhelmed, but in a good way and really the best of ways,” she said.

Built to accommodate seven, the white capsule with black and blue trim will typically carry four or five people. It’s 16.5 feet (5 metres) tall with its attached service module and 15 feet (4.5 metres) in diameter.

Every Starliner system will be tested during the eight-day mission, from the vibrations and stresses of liftoff to the Dec. 28 touchdown at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Parachutes and air bags will soften the capsule’s landing. Even the test dummy is packed with sensors.

Bridenstine said he’s “very comfortable” with Boeing, despite the prolonged grounding of the company’s 737 Max jets. The spacecraft and aircraft sides of the company are different, he noted. Boeing has long been involved in NASA’s human spacecraft program, from Project Mercury to the shuttle and station programs.

Boeing began preliminary work on the Starliner in 2010, a year before Atlantis soared for the last time.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX made the final cut. Boeing got more than $4 billion to develop and fly the Starliner, while SpaceX got $2.6 billion for a crew-version of its Dragon cargo ship.

NASA wants to make sure every reasonable precaution is taken with the capsules, designed to be safer than NASA’s old shuttles.

“We’re talking about human spaceflight,” Bridenstine cautioned. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It never has been, and it’s never going to be.”

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SpaceX expands public beta test of Starlink satellite internet to Canada and the UK – CNBC



A Starlink user terminal attached to the roof of a building.

SpaceX has launched more than 1,000 of its Starlink high-speed internet satellites to date and, as it seeks regulatory approval in other countries, Elon Musk’s company is now offering early public access to the service in Canada and the U.K.

“Earlier this month we expanded our ‘Better than Nothing Beta’ program to include customers across the pond in the United Kingdom,” SpaceX lead manufacturing engineer Jessie Anderson said during the company’s launch webcast on Wednesday.

“Within the northern U.S. and Canada, and now the U.K., we are focused on rural and remote areas where there is no easy access to fiber or cable,” Anderson added.

SpaceX began the public beta program in October, with service priced at $99 a month, in addition to a $499 upfront cost to order the Starlink Kit, which includes a user terminal and Wi-Fi router to connect to the satellites.

Starlink is SpaceX’s plan to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, designed to deliver high-speed internet to anywhere on the planet. 

The network is an ambitious endeavor, which SpaceX has said will cost about $10 billion or more to build. But the company’s leadership estimates that Starlink could bring in as much as $30 billion a year, or more than 10 times the annual revenue of its rocket business.

SpaceX deploys 60 Starlink satellites in orbit.

SpaceX launched its 17th Starlink mission from Florida on Wednesday morning, with a Falcon 9 rocket carrying another batch of 60 satellites to orbit.

The launch also marked a milestone for SpaceX’s reuse of its rockets, with the Falcon 9 booster launching and landing for a record eighth time. Musk has previously said that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to launch and land up to 10 times without major repairs or refurbishment.

Anderson noted that, in addition to individuals in rural areas of the northern U.S., SpaceX has signed up the town of Marysville, Ohio, and Virginia’s Wise County Public School District for Starlink service.

In the Ontario province of Canada, the rural indigenous community of Pikangikum First Nation became the first in the country to receive Starlink service.

Pikangikum is about 300 kilometers northeast of Winnipeg and has a population of less than 3,000 people, with about 400 to 500 households. SpaceX partnered with Canadian information and technology services company FSET to bring Starlink user terminals to the Pikangikum community.

Satellite internet connectivity kits for SpaceX’s Starlink are delivered via airplane to the remote Canadian indegenous community of Pikangikum First Nation.

“I hope that this gives them, the younger generations, a little bit of hope,” Pikangikum Health Authority victim services leader Vernon Kejick said in a video on SpaceX’s launch webcast. “We’re creating a pathway for the younger people.”

The Starlink kits were delivered via airplane, which is the main way the community connects with more populated areas of Canada.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but at least we have access to technology and information, and hopefully that playing field is at least a little closer to being level,” FSET CEO Dave Brown said on the launch webcast on Wednesday.

Starlink recently received approval to begin operating in the U.K., where it is priced at £89 per month plus the £439 cost of the kit. It’s unclear how many homes and offices are currently using Starlink’s service.

SpaceX continues to look to expand Starlink internationally, with public records showing the company registered in Austria, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.

The company also requested market access in Japan, and Musk has talked about Starlink coming to India and the Caribbean as well.

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Scientists Take a Mighty Close Look at a Dinosaur's Butthole For the First Time Ever – Interesting Engineering



Scientists have a pretty good idea about what dinosaurs looked like, they can deduce things like if they were scaly, feathered, or horned for example. But what they haven’t had a chance to discover and describe in much detail are these prehistoric creatures’ backsides. Yes, we mean buttholes. 

But these aren’t mere buttholes, these are cloacae, or vents, that have been pleasantly described as the “Swiss Army knife of buttholes,” by Science Alert. Used for breeding, defecating, and urinating, these vents are found in vertebrates and are truly multi-purposed. 

Scientists from the University of Bristol managed to get a close look and describe for the first time ever what a Psittacosaurus dino’s cloaca looked like, publishing their findings in Current Biology on Tuesday.


Thanks to these scientists, we now have a detailed description of a non-avian dinosaur’s cloaca. Even though some animals today, such as birds, amphibians, reptiles, and some mammals have cloacae, very little was yet known about dinosaur cloacae — up until now. 

I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” explained palaeobiologist Jakob Vinther of the University of Bristol.

A close up of the dinosaur’s preserved cloacal vent. Source: Study authors/University of Bristol

So Vinther and his team decided to compare the fossilized cloaca to modern-day ones. The team could only gather information about the exterior of the fossilized cloaca, as the interior was not properly preserved. 

Dr. Diane Kelly, an expert on vertebrate penises and copulatory systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also working on the study said, “Indeed, they are pretty non-descript. We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.”

Scientists Take a Mighty Close Look at a Dinosaur's Butthole For the First Time Ever
Cloacae of different animals. Source: Jakob Vinther/Current Biology

Regardless, the exterior of the cloaca could provide decent information about what the dinosaur’s “vent” looked like, and how it was used. The team found out the dino cloaca was different from those of living creatures, however, it shares similarities with those of crocodilian reptiles, like alligators and crocodiles. 

Scientists Take a Mighty Close Look at a Dinosaur's Butthole For the First Time Ever
The fossilized specimen from the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History. Source: Jakob Vinthers/University of Bristol

One interesting facet the researchers noticed was the dino’s cloaca’s outer margins were highly pigmented with melanin, which means it may have been used as a signaling system, similar to baboons today. 

As Robert Nicholls, a colleague working on the study and a paleoartist, said “Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeoartists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship. It is a game-changer!”

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SpaceX delivers 60 more Starlink satellites in first launch of 2021, and sets new Falcon 9 rocket reusability record – Yahoo Movies Canada



Evening Standard

Paloma Faith subject of ‘exposing’ BBC documentary about juggling work and motherhood

Paloma Faith will be the subject of an “exposing” BBC documentary about juggling her career with motherhood. The one-hour film Paloma Faith – As I Am will follow the singer, who has spoken openly about her experiences with IVF, over a year of her life as she balances motherhood and her career, navigating the demands of a make-or-break tour with writing a new album, launching an acting career and being a parent. The London-born singer, 39, welcomed her first child with her long-term boyfriend, the French artist Leyman Lahcine, in December 2016 although they initially decided not to reveal the child’s gender in a bid to maintain their privacy.

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