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Daughter of pioneering astronaut Alan Shepard, retired NFLer Michael Strahan soar to space – Toronto Sun

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VAN HORN, Texas — The eldest daughter of pioneering U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard took a joyride to the edge of space aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin rocketship on Saturday, 60 years after her late father’s famed suborbital NASA flight at the dawn of the Space Age.

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Laura Shepard Churchley, 74, who was a schoolgirl when her father first streaked into space, was one of six passengers buckled into the cabin of Blue Origin’s fully autonomous New Shepard spacecraft as it lifted off from a launch site outside the west Texas town of Van Horn.

The crew capsule separated from the top of six-story-tall rocket as it soared to an altitude of at least 62 miles (100 km) before falling back to Earth to descend under a canopy of three parachutes to the desert floor for a safe landing.

The entire flight, from liftoff to touchdown, lasted just over 10 minutes, with the crew experiencing a few minutes of weightlessness at the apex of the suborbital flight.

New Shepard’s reusable rocket booster flew itself back to Earth and touched down a short distance from where the capsule landed moments later.

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Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule descends on the end of its parachute system carrying Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, and four other civilians near Van Horn, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew capsule descends on the end of its parachute system carrying Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan, Laura Shepard Churchley, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, and four other civilians near Van Horn, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Photo by Mario Tama /Getty Images

Bezos arrived with members of Blue Origin’s recovery team to greet and embrace the newly minted citizen astronauts as they emerged from the capsule, all smiles, in their blue flight suits. He then pinned astronaut wings to each of their collars amid a flurry of applause and cheers.

As she chatted with Bezos, Churchley briefly recounted her wonder at seeing the blackness of space from inside the capsule.

Voices of Churchley and her crewmates exclaiming excitement at the ride could be heard in audio transmissions from the capsule played during a live launch webcast by Blue Origin as the vehicle neared the climax of its flight.

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The spacecraft itself is named for Alan Shepard, who in 1961 made history as the second person, and first American, to travel into space – a 15-minute suborbital flight as one of NASA’s original “Mercury Seven” astronauts. A decade later, Shepard walked on the moon as commander of the Apollo 14 mission, famously hitting two golf galls on the lunar surface.

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“I kind of feel a little bit like I’m following in my father’s footsteps,” Churchley said in pre-recorded remarks before the flight. “I feel like he’s right here with me.”

Churchley was one of two honorary, non-paying guest passengers chosen by Blue Origin for Saturday’s flight. The other was Michael Strahan, 50, a retired National Football League star and co-anchor of ABC television’s “Good Morning America” show.

They were joined by four wealthy customers who paid undisclosed but presumably hefty sums for their New Shepard seats – space industry executive Dylan Taylor, engineer-investor Evan Dick, venture capitalist Lane Bess and his 23-year-old son, Cameron Bess. The Besses made history as the first parent-child pair to fly in space together, according to Blue Origin.

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The flight briefly set a record for the number of humans in space at any one time – 19 total – including seven crew members and three visitors aboard the International Space Station and three Chinese taikonauts aboard their own newly build space station, according to Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

The launch was the third space tourism flight for Blue Origin, the company formed two decades ago by Bezos – founder and executive chairman of Amazon.com Inc. It was the company’s first with a crew of six passengers.

No mention was made during the Blue Origin launch webcast of the deadly partial roof collapse at an Amazon.com warehouse struck by a tornado late on Friday in the town of Edwardsville, Illinois, or the search for people trapped in the rubble.

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Bezos himself tagged along on Blue Origin’s inaugural flight in July, joining his brother, Mark Bezos, trailblazing octogenarian female aviator Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daeman, a Dutch high school graduate and beneficiary of a $28 million auction sweepstake.

Actor William Shatner, who embodied the promise of space travel in his role as Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise on the 1960s TV series “Star Trek,” joined the second New Shepard crew in October to become the oldest person in space at age 90.

British billionaire Richard Branson beat Bezos to the punch by nine days when he rode along on the first fully crewed voyage of his own space tourism venture Virgin Galactic Holding Inc, soaring to the edge of space over New Mexico in a rocket plane released at high altitude from a carrier jet.

A third player in the burgeoning space tourism sector, fellow billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, inaugurated his SpaceX citizen-astronaut service in September with the launch of the first all-civilian crew ever to reach Earth orbit.

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China cuts rates on policy loans for first time since April 2020 – CNBC

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A woman walks past the headquarters of the People’s Bank of China in Beijing, China.
Jason Lee | Reuters

China’s central bank on Monday cut the borrowing costs of its medium-term loans for the first time since April 2020, defying market expectations, to cushion any economic slowdown.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it was lowering the interest rate on 700 billion yuan ($110.19 billion) worth of one-year medium-term lending facility (MLF) loans to some financial institutions by 10 basis points to 2.85% from 2.95% in previous operations.

Thirty-four out of the 48 traders and analysts, or 70% of all participants, polled by Reuters last week predicted no change to the MLF rates, although a rising number of market participants start to forecast a rate cut.

With 500 billion yuan worth of MLF loans maturing on Monday, the operation resulted a net 200 billion yuan of fresh fund injections into the banking system.

The central bank also lowered the borrowing costs of seven-day reverse repurchase agreements, or repos, by the same margin to 2.10% from 2.20%, when it offered another 100 billion yuan worth of reverse repos into the banking system on the day, compared with 10 billion worth of such short-term liquidity tool due on Monday.

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Credit Suisse chairman resigns after company probe – BBC News

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Antonio Horta-Osorio, former chairman of Credit Suisse.

Reuters

The chairman of global banking giant Credit Suisse, Antonio Horta-Osorio, has resigned with immediate effect after an internal company probe.

He was reportedly found to have broken the UK’s Covid-19 quarantine rules.

The former boss of Lloyds Banking Group joined Credit Suisse after a series of scandals at the Swiss bank.

Now, Mr Horta-Osorio, who was the chairman of Credit Suisse for less than a year, has been replaced by board member Axel Lehmann.

“I regret that a number of my personal actions have led to difficulties for the bank and compromised my ability to represent the bank internally and externally,” Horta-Osorio said in a statement issued by the bank.

“I therefore believe that my resignation is in the interest of the bank and its stakeholders at this crucial time,” he added.

Last month, it was reported by the Reuters news agency that a preliminary investigation by Credit Suisse had found that Mr Horta-Osorio had breached Covid-19 rules.

He reportedly attended the Wimbledon tennis finals in July at a time when the UK’s Covid-19 rules required him to be in quarantine.

Speaking to the BBC, a spokesperson for Credit Suisse said that the bank would give no further details on Mr Horta-Osorio’s resignation other than those in its statement.

They also said that there were no plans to release the findings of the investigation.

Before joining Credit Suisse Mr Horta-Osorio was chief executive of British lender Lloyds Banking Group.

He was brought in to lead Switzerland’s second-largest bank to help clean up a corporate culture marred by its involvement with collapsed investment company Archegos and insolvent supply chain finance firm Greensill Capital.

In February 2020, then-Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam resigned after a scandal revealed the bank had spied on senior employees.

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UK government to cut funding for BBC – Mail on Sunday report

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Britain’s government will cut the BBC’s funding by ordering a two-year freeze on the fee that people pay to watch the broadcaster, the Mail on Sunday reported.

The future of the licence-payer funded British Broadcasting Corporation is a perpetual topic of political debate, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government most recently suggesting its funding needs to be reformed.

Set against an inflation rate expected to reach a 30-year high of 6% or more in April, freezing the licence cost at its current 159 pounds ($217.40) would provide some relief to consumers battling sharply rising costs of living.

But it would also be a large blow to the BBC’s finances as it tries to compete with privately funded news outlets and the likes of Netflix and other entertainment streaming services funded by consumer subscriptions.

In November, the government launched negotiations to agree how much the TV licence would cost, part of a five year funding settlement due to begin in April 2022.

The Digital, Media, Culture and Sport department declined to comment when asked about the Mail on Sunday report.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said that the licence fee settlement would be the last such agreement and tweeted a link to the Mail on Sunday article.

“Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content,” she said on Twitter.

The BBC declined to comment on Dorries’ tweet or the Mail on Sunday report.

The opposition Labour Party said the funding cut was politically motivated.

“The Prime Minister and the Culture Secretary seem hell-bent on attacking this great British institution because they don’t like its journalism,” said Lucy Powell, Labour lawmaker and culture policy chief.

The BBC’s news output is regularly criticised by UK political parties. Its coverage of Brexit issues – central to Johnson’s government – has long been seen as overly critical by supporters of leaving the European Union.

Last week, one Conservative lawmaker said BBC coverage relating to parties in Johnson’s Downing Street residence during coronavirus lockdowns amounted to a “coup attempt” against the prime minister.

($1 = 0.7314 pounds)

 

(Reporting by William James. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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