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NASA’s first SpaceX operational Crew Dragon mission edges closer to launch – Fox News

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NASA’s first SpaceX operational Crew Dragon mission is set for launch Saturday.

The mission will bring NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon vehicle. It follows a successful Demo-2 mission earlier this year.

“Today’s Flight Readiness Review has officially concluded, and we are go to #LaunchAmerica on Nov. 14,” NASA tweeted on Tuesday.

@NASA and @SpaceX have completed certification of #CrewDragon!” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine Tuesday. “I’m extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft.”

ASTRONAUTS HEAD TO LAUNCH SITE FOR SPACEX FLIGHT

The Crew-1 launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for 7:49 p.m. EST Saturday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is expected to dock to the ISS at 4:20 a.m. on Sunday.

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, of Japan, from left, NASA Astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins walk after arriving at Kennedy Space Center, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The four astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on Nov. 14, 2020

Astronaut Soichi Noguchi, of Japan, from left, NASA Astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins walk after arriving at Kennedy Space Center, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The four astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on Nov. 14, 2020
(AP Photo/Terry Renna)

The launch was previously slated for Oct. 31 but was pushed back to Nov. 14 when the Falcon rocket had two engines replaced because of contamination from a red lacquer used in processing.

The six-month mission is the first crew rotation flight on a U.S. commercial spacecraft.

The astronauts have named their Dragon capsule Resilience given all the challenges of 2020: coronavirus and social isolation, protests against racial injustice, and a particularly difficult election and campaign season. They have been in quarantine for a week or two and taking safety precautions — masks and social distancing — long before that.

NASA HAS CERTIFIED ELON MUSK’S SPACEX TO CARRY ASTRONAUTS, ENDING ITS RELIANCE ON RUSSIA

On the orbiting space lab, the Crew-1 team will join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who is already on the space station, in conducting extensive scientific research. “Not only will the Crew-1 astronauts and fellow Expedition 64 NASA astronaut Kate Rubins conduct hundreds of microgravity studies during their mission, they also deliver new science hardware and experiments carried to space with them inside Crew Dragon,” explained NASA in a statement.

The astronauts will investigate food physiology, conduct a student-designed experiment on genes in space and grow radishes, as well as examining the interaction between microbes and rocks in microgravity.

Other experiments include using thumb drive-sized devices containing human cells to study the effects of space on human organs and a study on changes in cardiovascular cells and tissues in microgravity. Experiments will also be conducted on NASA’s next-generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).

The mission marks another important milestone for America’s space program following the Demo-2 flight earlier this year.

On Aug. 2, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, ending their historic two-month trip to space.

The mission marked the first time that astronauts have launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011. Amid a blaze of publicity, the Demo-2 mission lifted off from Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30.

After the end of the Space Shuttle program, the U.S. relied on Russian Soyuz rockets launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to get astronauts into space. Russia charges the U.S. about $75 million to send an astronaut into space. The Associated Press reports that the last Soyuz ticket cost America $90 million.

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Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia, Kristin Fisher, Lauren Blanchard and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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Lunar mission is latest milestone in China's space ambitions – Toronto Star

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WENCHANG, China – China’s latest trip to the moon is another milestone in the Asian powerhouse’s slow but steady ascent to the stars.

China became the third country to put a person into orbit 17 years ago and the first to land on the far side of the moon in 2019. Future ambitions include a permanent space station and putting people back on the moon more than 50 years after the U.S. did.

But even before the latest lunar mission lifted off before dawn Tuesday, a top program official maintained that China isn’t competing with anyone.

“China will set its development goals in the space industry based on its own considerations of science and engineering technology,“ Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center at the China National Space Administration, told reporters hours before the Chang’e 5 mission was launched.

“We do not place rivals (before us) when setting those goals,” Pei said.

Whether that is true or not is debatable. China has a national plan aimed at joining the United States, Europe and Japan in the top ranks of technology producers, and the space program has been a major component of that. It also is a source of national pride to lift the reputation of the ruling Communist Party.

What’s clear is that China’s cautious, incremental approach has racked up success after success since it first put a person in space in 2003, joining the former Soviet Union and the United States. That has been followed by more crewed missions, the launch of a space lab, the placing of a rover on the moon’s relatively unexplored far side and, this year, an operation to land on Mars.

The Chang’e 5 mission, if successful, would be the first time moon rocks and debris are brought to Earth since a 1976 Soviet mission. The four modules of the spacecraft blasted off atop a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch centre on Hainan island.

The mission’s main task is to drill 2 metres (about 7 feet) into the moon’s surface and scoop up about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other debris. The lander will deposit them in an ascender. A return capsule will deliver them back to Earth, landing on the grasslands of the Inner Mongolia region in mid-December.

“Pulling off the Chang’e 5 mission would be an impressive feat for any nation,“ said Florida-based expert Stephen Clark of the publication Spaceflight Now.

China prides itself on arriving at this point largely through its own efforts, although Russia helped early on with astronaut training and China’s crewed Shenzhou space capsule is based on Russia’s Soyuz.

While there has been collaboration with some other nations, notably those belonging to the European Space Agency, which has provided tracking support for Chinese missions, the United States isn’t one of them.

U.S. law requires Congressional approval for co-operation between NASA and China’s military-linked program. Ongoing political and economic disputes, notably accusations that China steals or compels the transfer of sensitive trade secrets, appear to dim the prospects for closer ties.

China’s space program has at times been seen as recreating achievements attained years ago by others, primarily the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. Even China’s permanent space station, now under construction, is partly a response to its exclusion from the International Space Station, mainly at the insistence of the U.S.

Other countries are also forging ahead, underscored by the dramatic landing of America’s Curiosity Mars rover in 2012 and the return to Earth next month of Japan’s explorer Hayabusa2 with samples collected from the asteroid Ryugu.

Still, China can boast an “increasingly sophisticated and demonstrated space expertise,“ said Henry Hertzfeld, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs.

Lunar exploration remains a priority for China, something that in the future will likely take the form of “a human-machine combination,” Pei told reporters.

No target date for a crewed moon mission has been announced, but Pei said a goal down the line is to build an international lunar research station that can provide long-term support for scientific exploration activities on the lunar surface.

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“We will determine when to implement a manned lunar landing based on scientific needs and technical and economic conditions,“ he said.

___

AP researcher Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Many Canadians gaining weight during COVID-19: poll – Toronto Star

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OTTAWA – A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less.

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case.

Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians.

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients an chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently.

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

Shaw said people should also try learn a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020

—— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30 – Manila Bulletin

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30

Get ready to witness the last eclipse that will be visible in the Philippines in 2020.

(FLICKR / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

A penumbral eclipse of the moon will occur on Nov. 30 and will be observed in northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and most of Asia, including the Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

It said the eclipse begins when the moon enters penumbra at 3:32 p.m. and ends at 7:53 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time). The full Moon will enter its maximum penumbral eclipse around 5:30 p.m.

A penumbra refers to a partially shaded outer region of a shadow that an object casts, PAGASA explained. 

A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the faint penumbral portion of the Earth’s shadow, which causes the moon to appear slightly darker than usual.

“The lunar surface is not completely shadowed by the Earth’s umbra (darkest part of a shadow). Instead, observers can see only the slightest dimming near the lunar limb closest to the umbra,” PAGASA said.

“The eclipse may be undetectable unless at least half of the Moon enters the penumbra,” it added.

International astronomers said that about 82 percent of the Moon’s face will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase of this eclipse.

The lunar eclipse is safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. 

Earlier this year, the Philippines witnessed a penumbral lunar eclipse on June 6 and an annular solar eclipse on June 21. 

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