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Boeing's Starliner Has Touched Down Safely in Desert After Failure to Dock With ISS – ScienceAlert



Boeing’s new Starliner unmanned spacecraft returned to Earth on Sunday, landing in the New Mexico desert in the United States six days early after a clock problem scuppered a rendezvous with the International Space Station.

NASA hailed the aborted flight as a success, despite its failure to reach the ISS on what was meant to be a final dress rehearsal before a crewed mission.

Images broadcast by NASA showed the spacecraft touching down, cushioned by airbags, after a pre-dawn descent slowed by three large parachutes.

“We had some challenges, but a lot of things did in fact go right,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters, describing the landing as an “absolute bull’s-eye”.

“We did not make it to the International Space Station. We did not dock, but the spacecraft flew exceptionally well. We’ve got a lot of data to review.”

The Starliner capsule was launched Friday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, but shortly after separating from its Atlas V launch rocket, its thrusters failed to activate as planned, preventing it from reaching a high enough orbit.

The space station orbits at an altitude of about 400 kilometers (250 miles) above sea level.

As the craft had burned too much propellant, Boeing and NASA were forced to guide the Starliner back to Earth.

“Maybe it’s acceptable to go next step – fly the crew flight test, but we have to go through the data first,” Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said.

“We tested a majority of the core system of the vehicle… We had a little issue with the timer in the beginning.”

The test flight was a key part of NASA’s plans to end US dependence on Russia for space rides.

Its flight troubles also dealt a fresh reputational blow to Boeing, which faces a safety crisis in its commercial air division.

The company is reeling from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max airliner. The crashes, in October 2018 in Indonesia and in March 2019 in Ethiopia, claimed a total 346 lives.

Boeing plans to suspend production of the plane in January.

(Aubrey Gemignani/NASA/AFP)

Capsule named ‘Calypso’

The Starliner was able to establish a communications link with the ISS, and to test its docking mechanism, solar panels, batteries, thrusters and heat regulation system.

Its heat shield protected the capsule during re-entry, when temperatures outside the vehicle rose to over 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,900 degrees Fahrenheit) due to friction.

Before its descent, the Starliner was orbiting at an altitude of 250 kilometers (150 miles) and traveling at over 28,000 kilometers an hour (17,400 mph).

In a test in November, only two of the three parachutes opened, although they proved sufficient for the landing.

NASA said the Starliner had landed in excellent condition and would now be refurbished ahead of a decision on whether to carry out another test flight or to trust that the vehicle was safe to carry astronauts.

The capsule has been named “Calypso” after French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau’s ship, NASA added.

Starliner’s first crewed flight had been scheduled for early 2020. That development was much-anticipated as NASA has been forced to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to transport its astronauts to the space station since the Space Shuttle program was shuttered in 2011 after 30 years.

Under former president Barack Obama, NASA opted for a shift in how it operates.

Instead of owning the hardware, it hired private companies to take over, awarding Boeing and SpaceX billions of dollars to develop “Made in the USA” solutions.

The Crew Dragon, developed by SpaceX, is expected to be ready for launch next year.

NASA has committed to pay $8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX, which in return are to deliver six trips carrying four astronauts each from now to 2024.

Starliner carried a test dummy called “Rosie” after ‘Rosie the Riveter’, the star of a campaign aimed at recruiting women to munitions factory jobs during World War II.

Rosie was packed with sensors to verify the voyage would be safe for future teams of humans.

© Agence France-Presse

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SpaceX awarded a $178M contract for NASA's mission to Jupiter's moon – Daily Mail



Musk and Bezos battle it out for space dollars: SpaceX is awarded $178 MILLION for NASA’s first mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa in 2024 – as Bezos offers BILLIONS if the space agency works with his Blue Origin

  • Elon Musk’s firm is set to provide ‘launch services’ for the Europa Clipper mission
  • Europa Clipper will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by SpaceX in 2024
  • The spacecraft will investigate if Jupiter’s moon hosts conditions suitable for life

Elon Musk‘s aerospace firm SpaceX has been awarded a $178 million (£129 million) contract for NASA‘s first mission to Europa, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon. 

SpaceX will provide ‘launch services’ for the Europa Clipper mission, which is due to blast off in October 2024 to study Europa through a series of fly-bys, NASA said. 

The spacecraft will launch on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s company from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space agency added. 

The mission aims to find out if the natural satellite hosts conditions suitable for life using ‘a sophisticated suite of science instruments’.  

Europa, an icy moon with a hidden subsurface ocean, has a diameter of 1,940 miles (3,100 kilometres) – about 90 per cent the diameter of Earth’s moon. 

The announcement comes amid an ongoing battle between SpaceX and rival company Blue Origin, owned by fellow billionaire and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. 

Bezos published an open letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson on Monday, offering the NASA billions of dollars for a contract to build a lunar lander for the upcoming Artemis missions.  

There is evidence of recent geological formations within the 15 mile thick frozen crust, including small, dark and dome-like features about a mile below the surface



Europa is 90 per cent the size of Earth’s moon.

It orbits Jupiter at a distance of about 484 million miles (778 million kilometers).

It completes one orbit of Jupiter every 3.5 Earth days.

Europa’s surface is mostly solid water ice, crisscrossed by fractures.

But its subsurface ocean might contain more than twice as much water as Earth.

The moon has a very thin oxygen atmosphere – too thin for humans to breathe.


But SpaceX – which made the announcement on its Twitter page – has the contract for the Europa Clipper mission safe.

‘NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for Earth’s first mission to conduct detailed investigations of Jupiter’s moon Europa,’ the agency said in a statement.

‘The total contract award amount for launch services is approximately $178 million.’

Key mission objectives are producing high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition and look for signs of recent or ongoing geological activity.

The mission will also measure the thickness of the moon’s icy shell, search for subsurface lakes and determine the depth and salinity of Europa’s ocean.

Europa is one of few locations in the Solar System with liquid water, along with Earth and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, making it a target of interest for NASA. 

Thanks to ground-based telescopes, scientists already know Europa’s surface is mostly water ice.

Scientists have also found evidence that beneath the ice crust is an ocean of liquid water or slushy ice. 

According to NASA, Europa’s subsurface ocean might contain more than twice as much water as Earth. 

Last year, Monica Grady, Chancellor at Liverpool Hope University, said it’s ‘almost a racing certain’ that Europa is home to alien life, which she thinks is ‘similar to the intelligence of an octopus’.

A 3D model of Europa Clipper 

NASA will aim to find out if she’s correct with the launch of Europa Clipper, which will ‘send a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft into a long, looping orbit around Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of the icy moon’. 

NASA did not reveal whether other companies had bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract, which marks NASA’s latest vote of confidence in Musk’s firm.

SpaceX has already carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for the space agency in recent years.

In April, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis program that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.

But the contract was halted after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics Inc, protested against SpaceX’s selection.

SpaceX chief and renowned billionaire Elon Musk (pictured) also owns car maker Tesla,  neurotechnology firm

SpaceX chief and renowned billionaire Elon Musk (pictured) also owns car maker Tesla and neurotechnology firm Neuralink

Now Bezos is claiming NASA is ‘putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come’ if it doesn’t consider Blue Origin for contracts in the future.

‘It is not too late to remedy,’ Bezos says in the letter to NASA published on Monday (July 26). 

‘We stand ready to help NASA moderate its technical risks and solve its budgetary constraints and put the Artemis Program back on a more competitive, credible, and sustainable path.’ 

Jeff Bezos (pictured), founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, flew into space on July 20, 2021

Jeff Bezos (pictured), founder of Amazon and space tourism company Blue Origin, flew into space on July 20, 2021

SpaceX’s partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.

In May 2020, SpaceX successfully transported NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on a 19-hour journey to the ISS – marking the first crewed test flight of the firm’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. 

In the process it became be the first crewed launch from the US into orbit since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011.

NASA will land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the moon in Greek mythology. 

NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 –  including the first woman and the next man.

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. 

Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  

Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the moon and beyond. 

During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.

It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission. 

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission

Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before. 

With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars. 

The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.

The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons. 

Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.

Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.

The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy. 


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Large meteor lights up skies in Norway – CTV News



Norwegian experts say an unusually large meteor was visible over large parts of southern Scandinavia and illuminated southeast Norway with a powerful flash of light for a few seconds as many observers were reported to also hear a roaring sound afterwards.

“The meteor appeared at 1:08 a.m. on the night of July 25 and was visible for approximately for 5 seconds,” said the network said, which had posted a video on the phenomenon on its Twitter site.

Sightings of meteors, space rocks that burn brightly after entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, aren’t uncommon over Norway and the Norwegian Meteor Network has a number of cameras continuously monitoring the sky.

A meteor that survives passage to the ground is known as a meteorite.

Preliminary data suggested a meteorite may have hit Earth in a large forested area, Finnemarka, not far from Oslo, the Norwegian Meteor Network said.

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One in 10 young Black adults have contracted COVID-19 in Canada: survey – Montreal Gazette



It’s almost three times as much as the general population.

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At least one in 10 young Black adults across Canada has reported contracting the coronavirus during the pandemic — a rate that is two and a half times that of the general population, a new survey has found.


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Researchers from McGill University and the Black Community Resource Centre of Montreal commissioned the Léger polling firm to conduct a national survey in January of 346 Black-identifying Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35. Most of the respondents of the online survey came from Ontario, 43 per cent, followed by Quebec at 35 per cent.

The survey sought to assess family and peer support among young Black adults during the twin crises of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement following the choking death of George Floyd by a police officer.

“Regarding participants’ experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, 10 per cent reported having contracted the virus and 36 per cent reported that someone they knew personally had contracted the (coronavirus),” the study notes. “Furthermore, 36 per cent of participants reported being an essential worker — for example, nurses, physicians, psychologists, etc — and another 35 per cent reported that a family member was an essential worker.”


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Richard Koestner, one of the authors of the study and the director of the McGill Human Motivation Lab, said the 10-per-cent figure among Black Canadians is likely an under-estimate. The preprint of the study is under review by the Journal of Black Psychology.

To date, testing has confirmed COVID-19 in 3.75 per cent of the Canadian population, according to the latest government figures. In Quebec, the rate is 4.38 per cent.

The findings of the study add to a body of research that the pandemic has disproportionately harmed racialized communities around the world. Koestner and his colleagues alluded to U.S. research that found that COVID-19 infection rates in Black communities have been twice as high and death rates three times as high as the general population.


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“There is growing concern that racial and ethnic minority communities around the world are experiencing a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from (COVID-19),” conclude the authors of a separate study that examined the impact of the pandemic on U.S. veterans.

And in a study released this month by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the authors renew calls for the collection of racial data not only to better study COVID-19 but to go “beyond the scope of the pandemic to identify disparities in health care and find solutions to minimize this gap.”

“Increased risk of COVID-19 infection has frequently been linked with socioeconomic factors such as poor housing and precarious employment,” the authors add. “The intersection of race, socioeconomic status and health is of particular importance to racialized persons, who consistently report higher rates of working poverty, below-standard housing and lower income.”


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Seeta Ramdass, a longtime patient-rights advocate in Montreal, noted that unconscious bias often creeps into health care. She cited as an example the pulse oximeter placed on a patient’s finger to detect oxygen saturation in the blood. Such devices are considered less accurate when measuring black and brown skin.

“The refusal and failure to collect sociocultural data is systemic racism,” Ramdass said. “By failing to acknowledge and to document the inequitable experiences of racialized and marginalized people, how can you even begin to put the corrective measures in place that will make society more inclusive and responsive toevery person of every community?”

  1. A new study looked into how the coronavirus pandemic affected Canada's Black population specifically.

    The grim impact of COVID-19 on Black Canadians

  2. As of mid-February, Quebec expects more than 700,000 vaccine doses over next seven weeks.

    Montreal groups to call for release of race-based COVID-19 data

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