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NASA to launch first space probe to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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NASA is set on Saturday to launch a first-of-its kind mission, dubbed Lucy, to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets.

The space probe, packed inside a special cargo capsule, is due for liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT (0934 GMT), carried aloft by an Atlas V rocket from  United Launch Alliance (UAL), a joint venture of Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp.

If all goes according to plan, Lucy will be hurled into space on a 12-year expedition to study a record number of asteroids. It will be the first to explore the Trojans, thousands of rocky objects orbiting the sun in two swarms – one ahead of the path of giant gas planet Jupiter and one behind it.

The largest known Trojan asteroids, named for the warriors of Greek mythology, are believed to measure as much as 225 kilometers (140 miles) in diameter.

Scientists hope Lucy’s close-up fly-by of seven Trojans will yield new clues to how the solar system’s planets came to be formed some 4.5 billion years ago and what shaped their present configuration.

Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, the asteroids may even provide new insights into the origin of organic materials and life on Earth, NASA said.

“The Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our solar system, effectively the fossils of planet formation,” principal mission investigator Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted by NASA as saying.

No other single science mission has been designed to visit as many different objects independently orbiting the sun in the history of space exploration, NASA said.

As well as the Trojans, Lucy will do a fly-by of an asteroid in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, called DonaldJohanson in honor of the lead discoverer of the fossilized human ancestor known as Lucy, from which the NASA mission takes its name. The Lucy fossil, unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974, was in turn named for the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Lucy the asteroid probe will make spaceflight history in another way. Following a route that circles back to Earth three times for gravitational assists, it will be the first spacecraft ever to return to Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system, according to NASA.

The probe will use rocket thrusters to maneuver in space and two rounded solar arrays, each the width of a school bus, to recharge batteries that will power the instruments contained in the much smaller central body of the spacecraft.

 

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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As an alarming new COVID-19 variant emerges, Canada moves to limit travel from southern Africa – CBC.ca

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Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced today that Canada will limit travel from seven countries in southern Africa, a region that has reported cases of a new — and possibly more infectious — coronavirus variant.

Starting today, all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini or Mozambique in the last 14 days will be barred from entering Canada.

Global Affairs Canada will also issue an advisory today warning against all travel to the region for the foreseeable future, Duclos said.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to return home — but they’ll face a new requirement that could make travel awkward.

Because there are no direct flights between the region and Canada, most travellers transit through airports in Europe, the Middle East and the U.S.

Starting today, travellers must get a molecular test in the country they connect through on their way to Canada.

Then, after landing in Canada, inbound travellers must also get an arrival test and wait for the results of that test at a designated hotel. If the test is negative, those returning travellers would be released to quarantine for a mandatory 14 days at home. They also would be required to go through a so-called “day eight” test on the eighth day of quarantine.

WATCH: Canada announces measures to counter new coronavirus variant of concern

Canada announces measures to counter new coronavirus variant of concern

8 hours ago

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced several measures to counter the newest coronavirus variant of concern named omicron, including a ban on all flights from seven countries in southern Africa. 2:14

And anyone who has arrived in Canada from southern Africa in the last 14 days must immediately get a COVID-19 test — even if they are asymptomatic. They’re required to go home and quarantine while they wait for those results.

As nations close their airspace to flights from southern Africa, it may become more difficult to travellers leaving the region to transit through other countries.

Asked if the government would help those who may become stranded, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Canadians have been warned about the risk of travelling during a global pandemic for nearly two years.

“We’ve been asking them to pay close attention to travel measures, to border restrictions,” he said. “But if any individual, any Canadian citizen, is having a hard time figuring out how to get back home, I encourage them to call the emergency watch centre to speak with an official. They will try and work with them to figure out how to get them home safely.”

WATCH: Minister encourages Canadians stranded by travel restrictions on southern Africa to call for help

Transport minister encourages Canadians stranded by travel restrictions on southern Africa to call for help

8 hours ago

Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra responds to a question from the CBC’s Tom Parry about getting Canadians home from southern Africa safely after the government imposed new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID-19 variant. 2:21

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said the new strain — dubbed the “omicron” variant by the World Health Organization (WHO) — has not yet been reported in Canada.

She said the omicron variant is notable because it has a large number of mutations, which may affect its transmissibility and the effect of COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’re concerned about this new variant and closely monitoring the evolving situation,” Tam told a briefing with reporters. “The challenges persist with this virus.”

Tam said the new travel requirements are a prudent effort to keep the variant out, but it’s likely cases of the omicron variant will emerge in Canada in the coming days.

“It is very difficult to keep a virus like this out entirely,” she said.

Tam said vaccines are “still fundamentally the most important layer of protection” and unvaccinated Canadians should get their shots. Research is underway now to determine the efficacy of the current batch of vaccines against omicron, she said.

It’s not unusual for a virus to mutate over time. The WHO brands a particular strain a variant of concern (VOC) when that mutation might affect factors like transmissibility, virulence or the effectiveness of vaccines.

While many questions remain, the U.K. Health Security Agency warned today that the new variant is the “most complex” and the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

In a media statement, the WHO said today the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa’s provinces.

While COVID-19 case counts fell dramatically in that country in September and October after a delta-driven third wave, infections have since “increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant,” the WHO said.

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.”

Countries around the world already have restricted travel from some areas of the African continent in an effort to keep the newly identified coronavirus variant from crossing their borders.

Britain, Israel and Singapore, among others, have restricted travel from South Africa and some neighbouring countries. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is proposing member states pull the “emergency brake” on travel from some countries in Africa to limit the spread of the variant.

In question period Friday, Conservative MP Luc Berthold, the party’s health critic, called for swift action to prevent the new variant from derailing Canada’s progress in the fight against COVID-19.

“Canadians are worried,” Berthold said. “The Liberal government has been slow, slow to warn Canadians, slow to close the borders, slow to provide vaccines. There’s still time to protect Canadians who are fed up with lockdowns.”

Associate Health Minister Carolyn Bennett said pre-departure PCR testing is in place and those tests “are capable of detecting this variant.”

“The COVID-19 situation around the world continues to be volatile and unpredictable and we continue to monitor the situation very closely,” she said.

WATCH | Associate Health Minister Carolyn Bennett discusses new measures on CBC’s Power & Politics

Minister urges Canadians to ‘continue to be vigilant’, as new COVID-19 variant emerges in South Africa

6 hours ago

“I’ve cancelled my Christmas party…I do think Canadians need to continue to be vigilant.” Associate Health Minister @Carolyn_Bennett on whether Canadians should cancel their holiday plans, as a new COVID-19 variant is emerging in South Africa. 11:07

Alghabra said the government wouldn’t take lessons from the Conservatives on pandemic management when the party’s leader, Erin O’Toole, refuses to require that all Conservative MPs get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Just last week, Alghabra said, the Conservatives were also calling for an end to pre-departure PCR testing and fewer travel restrictions.

“Forgive me for not taking advice from the Conservative Party,” he said.

Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease official, said banning flights to the United States from southern Africa is a “possibility” but that a decision has not been made yet.

“There is always the possibility of doing what the U.K. has done, namely block travel from South Africa and related countries,” Fauci said Friday morning in an interview on CNN.

“That’s certainly something you think about and get prepared to do … But you want to make sure there’s a basis for doing that.”

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Romania to feature World War I female officer on banknote

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Romania‘s central bank unveiled a new banknote on Friday celebrating World War I lieutenant Ecaterina Teodoroiu, the first named woman to be depicted on Romanian money.

The new 20 lei ($4.56) note, which features an image of Teodoroiu – the first female army officer – will be in circulation from December.

“By honouring her, we also celebrate the Romanian army,” central bank Governor Mugur Isarescu told reporters.

“It answers a widely supported legitimate public interest to promote and consolidate gender equality and the major role female characters have played in Romania’s history and society.”

Since its appearance in 1867, the Romanian leu has featured several unnamed female peasants but never a real historical figure.

Born in 1894, Teodoroiu initially served as a nurse during World War I, and became a combatant after her four brothers died in battle. She rose through the ranks and won commendations for valour. She died on the front lines in 1917 at age 23.

Some critics have questioned the choice of Teodoroiu over other more prominent and influential women.

The central bank, which has an all-male board, will host an exhibit dedicated to Teodoroiu from Dec. 6, showcasing personal items including her bullet-dented helmet and blood-stained munitions bag.

The idea of depicting women on the currency arose in 2018, when fashion journalist Janina Nectara launched a campaign, suggesting a list of 100 female figures, including Teodoroiu, scientists, doctors, artists and professors to choose from.

“Throughout history… hundreds of notable women have helped Romania move forward,” Nectara told Reuters, “but since the birth of the Romanian leu none of their names have been honoured on one of the strongest national symbols, banknotes.”

“We need a permanent example that women also made history. It is important to give equal merit.”

($1 = 4.3814 lei)

 

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Nigeria lifts restrictions on Emirates flights

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Nigeria has lifted restrictions on Emirates airline flights, the aviation minister said on Friday.

In March, Nigeria suspended Emirates from flying into or out of its territory after the carrier imposed additional COVID-19 test requirements on passengers from Nigeria.

“Today we received communications from Emirates removing some of the conditions for travelling for which we had concerns,” the minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika, said on Friday. “Having done that it is necessary to lift the ban on Emirates. This subsequent lifting of ban is a product of lengthy negotiations between us and them.”

 

(Reporting By Felix Onuah; writing by Libby George; editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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