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Explained: Why is SpaceX-NASA’s Crew-1 mission launch significant? – The Indian Express

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By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: November 19, 2020 11:33:43 am

The Crew Dragon crew ready for the launch. (Photo: Twitter/@SpaceX)

As part of NASA’s first commercial human spacecraft system in history, a crew of four astronauts is now en route to the International Space Station (ISS) on a 27-hour flight, onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft called Resilience.

The mission was to launch on November 14 initially, but was impeded by unfavourable weather conditions. Crew-1 is the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS and is also the first of the three such flights scheduled over the course of 2020-21.

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What is the Crew-1 mission?

It is the first of six crewed missions that NASA and SpaceX will operate as part of the Commercial Crew Program, whose objective is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research. The programme is a way to reduce the cost of going to space for agencies such as NASA and also makes it possible for any individual to buy a ticket on a commercial rocket. Therefore, the launch is being seen as the beginning of a new era in space travel.

“This partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more science, and more commercial opportunities,” NASA has said.

Boeing and SpaceX were selected by NASA in September 2014 to develop transportation systems meant to transfer crew from the US to the ISS. “These integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems will carry up to four astronauts on NASA missions, maintaining a space station crew of seven to maximise time dedicated to scientific research on the orbiting laboratory,” the NASA website says.

In May, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS, becoming the first crewed flight to launch from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011. NASA certified SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket last week, making it the first spacecraft certification provided by the space agency.

The Crew-1 mission launched the agency’s astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for a six-month-long mission aboard the ISS, where they will join the members of Expedition 64, the space station crew currently at residence there.

Hopkins, who is the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-1 mission is responsible for all phases of the space flight, from launch to re-entry. Glover is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, while Walker and Noguchi are the mission specialists. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

Why is the mission significant?

The Crew-1 mission marks many firsts for NASA and SpaceX including it being the first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system, the first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft, the first time the space station’s long-duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research and the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch.

While the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for a period of 210 days, it will return in spring 2021, making it the longest human space mission launched from the US. The spacecraft will also deliver over 500 pounds of cargo, science hardware and experiments to the ISS.

Once the mission is over, Crew-1 astronauts will board Crew Dragon, which will autonomously undock and depart the space station after which it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Also in Explained | What is the Leonid meteor shower, when can Indians best watch it?

What will members of Crew-1 do at the ISS?

The goals of the mission are the same as that of Expedition 1 that lifted off 20 years ago. NASA has called both of these ISS missions, “historic”. At the ISS, the Crew-1 team will join members of Expedition 64 and conduct microgravity studies.

Some of the research that the crew is carrying with themselves includes materials to investigate food physiology, which will study the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and how those improvements can help crews adapt to spaceflight. Once in orbit, NASA astronaut Glover will collect samples to provide data to scientists back on Earth so that they can continue to study how dietary changes affect his body.

Another experiment aboard the Crew Dragon is a student-designed experiment titled, “Genes in Space-7” that aims to understand how spaceflight affects brain function. Other experiments include research that will enable scientists to understand the physical interactions on liquid, rocks and microorganisms, another experiment on the role of microgravity on human health and how microgravity affects heart tissue.

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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.

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AI Solves 50-Year-Old Biology 'Grand Challenge' Decades Before Experts Predicted – ScienceAlert

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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.

DeepMind, the UK-based AI company, has wowed us for years with its parade of ever-advancing neural networks that continually trounce humans at complex games such as chess and Go.

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.

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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.

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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.

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A 'Beaver Full Moon' With Lunar Eclipse Happened This Morning—And Folks Took Some Stunning Photos – Good News Network

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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.

Thomas Lipke

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.

RELATED: With Every Planet Visible This Week and Leonid Meteor Shower Shooting Fireballs, It’s Time to Get Out the Telescope

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.

SHARE These Far-Out Views With Friends on Social Media…

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