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NASA wants to bring a sample of Mars back to Earth: Here’s the plan – Digital Trends

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In this illustration, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover uses its drill to core a rock sample on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s rover Perseverance is due to land on Mars in February next year, where it will join its sibling Curiosity in exploring the red planet and searching for evidence of ancient life. But this is just the first part of NASA’s plans for the planet. The next step after having rovers gather data and analyze samples on the planet is to actually collect a sample of the Martian rock and soil and bring it back to Earth where it can be studied in more detail.

Bringing rock from Mars to Earth is no easy matter, however. Such a mission will require at least four components: A lander to make the perilous journey through the thin Martian atmosphere and land on the surface, a small rover to head out to the required location and collect the sample, and an ascent vehicle to carry the sample from the surface back up into orbit, and a return orbiter to dock with the ascender to take the sample and bring it back to Earth.

This complex system is what NASA is working on, along with the European Space Agency, in a mission called Mars Sample Return (MSR). The agencies want this mission to go ahead in the early 2030s, and though they have been theoretically planning the components for some time, now they are moving onto what is called Phase A: The preliminary analysis of the mission, when they decide exactly what to build and get into the nitty-gritty details of how the mission will operate.

“Returning samples of Mars to Earth has been a goal of planetary scientists since the early days of the space age, and the successful completion of this MSR key decision point is an important next step in transforming this goal into reality,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA, in a statement. “MSR is a complex campaign, and it encapsulates the very essence of pioneering space exploration — pushing the boundaries of what’s capable and, in so doing, furthering our understanding of our place in the universe.”

The potential benefits of having a sample of Mars to study on Earth are huge — from understanding more about the planet’s history and whether it ever hosted life, to giving clues to why it diverged so far from Earth in its development, to preparing to send humans to visit.

“MSR will foster significant engineering advances for humanity and advance technologies needed to successfully realize the first round-trip mission to another planet,” said Jeff Gramling, Mars Sample Return program director at NASA Headquarters. “The scientific advances offered by pristine Martian samples through MSR are unprecedented, and this mission will contribute to NASA’s eventual goal of sending humans to Mars.”

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First Private Crew Will Visit Space Station. The Price Tag: $55 Million Each – KCCU

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A crew of private astronauts will pay around $55 million each to spend about eight days at the International Space Station next January in what would be a new step for joint private-public space missions. Axiom Space, a Houston company, says the trip will be led by former NASA astronaut and space station commander Michael López-Alegría.

The proposed Ax-1 mission will use a SpaceX rocket to put three paying customers — American Larry Connor, Canadian Mark Pathy and Israeli Eytan Stibbe – into low-Earth orbit on the space station. All of the trio are wealthy entrepreneurs and investors. The group will be under the command of López-Alegría, who is now an executive at Axiom.

It would be the first time an entirely private mission sends astronauts to the International Space Station. Russia sold the first ride to the station to a private citizen, American businessman Dennis Tito, in 2001.

All of the private astronauts for the upcoming mission are far older than the average NASA astronaut’s age of 34. The space agency does not have age restrictions for astronaut candidates, who generally range from 26 to 46 years old. At 70, Connor is surpassed in age only by John Glenn, who flew on the space shuttle when he was 77.

Under NASA’s rules for private astronaut missions, Axiom must ensure its astronauts meet the space agency’s medical standards. They must also undergo training and certification procedures required for crew members of the International Space Station.

While the paying customers represent a new era of space tourism, they will also perform research as the space station whizzes over the Earth.

Connor will work with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic on research projects, Axiom says, while Pathy will collaborate with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Stibbe plans to do experiments for Israeli researchers, working with the Ramon Foundation and Israel’s space agency.

“We sought to put together a crew for this historic mission that had demonstrated a lifelong commitment to improving the lives of the people on Earth, and I’m glad to say we’ve done that with this group,” Axiom Space President and CEO Michael Suffredini said as the company announced the crew.

Similar missions are planned for the future, Suffredini said. Axiom hopes to arrange up to two trips per year — and the company also wants to build its own privately funded space station. Under that plan, its modules would be attached to the space station as soon as 2024. And when the space station is retired, the Axiom modules would break off to continue in orbit on their own.

NASA announced its plans to open the International Space Station to commercial activities in June 2019, saying it wants businesses to use innovation and ingenuity to speed up development of “a thriving commercial economy in low-Earth orbit.”

The space agency has a plan to recoup the steep costs of a private citizen visiting the space station. Its pricing policy lists expenses such as a daily fee of $11,250 per person for “regenerative life support and toilet” and $22,500 per person for crew supplies such as food and air. The price sheet also includes a data plan, priced at $50 per gigabyte.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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New app makes figuring out CBRM solid waste collection schedule easier – CBC.ca

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Residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality will now have an easy way to find out what day their solid waste collection falls on.

A new app has been developed that allows residents to enter their address and find the specific day and time their garbage or recycling should be sitting at the end of their driveway.

The CBRM solid waste department had been working for months with an app developer who has made similar apps throughout North America.

Francis Campbell, the solid waste manager for CBRM, said one of the best parts of the app is the database that allows residents to search for what to do with specific waste materials.

“The search tool will educate residents in how to recycle or properly dispose of materials, and it’ll provide the curbside drop-off locations,” said Campbell.

The app sets up reminders through the calendar on a person’s phone so they will be reminded the night before to put out their garbage, recycling or green bin.

It also will be able to quickly let residents know if there is a cancellation or delay on a collection day, as well as post holiday cancellations.

CBRM deputy mayor Earlene MacMullin downloaded the app and said it was ‘fantastic.’ (CBRM)

Earlene MacMullin, the deputy mayor of CBRM, said she downloaded the app while getting the presentation on it and already found it useful.

“This is already fantastic and it seems very simplistic. I know deep down it isn’t, but in my first three minutes of using it, I encourage residents to check this out,” said MacMullin.

There will also be a web-based version along with online information regarding waste collection on the CBRM website. This will be coming when the app is fully launched in a few weeks time.

Coun. Cyril MacDonald said he is glad that people who do not have access to a smartphone can still have access to the information. 

“We’re not removing a service. You’re still able to get your calendar printed off, so I think this is great,” said MacDonald.

People who may not have access to a computer or a smartphone will still have the option to call the CBRM solid waste hotline to find out the information they need.

Mayor Amanda McDougall said she is happy she has an easy way to never forget what waste is being collected each week.

The app is now available for download through smartphone app stores.

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Limited COVID-19 data until Friday as Middlesex-London Health Unit moves to new database – Globalnews.ca

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says it will only be able to provide limited COVID-19 information for the region over the next few days as it implements a new database for its website.

After using an internal case and contact management tool to collect local COVID-19 data, MLHU will now switch to Salesforce, a database system that’s already being used by the Ontario government.

Migrating to the new database means the health unit will be able to provide only limited information about case numbers, recoveries and deaths during daily updates for Wednesday and Thursday on MLHU’s COVID-19 dashboard.

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Regular updating of the dashboard is set to resume on Friday, but MLHU notes some data fields may be missing in subsequent updates as staff adjust to the new database.

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The health unit adds that it intends to have any potential missing information filled in once the new database is fully implemented.

Along with aligning the regional health unit with the province’s database, Salesforce will also allow the health unit to provide virtual notifications to those diagnosed with COVID-19.

The notifications will be sent via text message and will notify recipients of their test results, provide them information about self-isolating and prompt them to provide information about their symptoms and close contacts.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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