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SpaceX capsule with world's first all-civilian orbital crew returns safely – Financial Post

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The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever sent into Earth orbit.

The successful launch and return of the mission, the latest in a recent string of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by their billionaire passengers, marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro-tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight.

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“Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation.

The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas around 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT), shortly before sunset, following an automated reentry descent, as shown during a live SpaceX webcast on its YouTube channel.

Within an hour the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the capsule’s side hatch after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a SpaceX recovery vessel.

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Each of the four https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/profiles-first-all-civilian-space-crew-headed-orbit-2021-09-15 stood on the deck for a few moments in front of the capsule to wave and give thumbs-up before being escorted to a medical station on board for checkups at sea. Afterward they were flown by helicopter back to Cape Canaveral for reunions with loved ones.

SEARING REENTRY

The return from orbit followed a plunge through Earth’s atmosphere generating frictional heat that sent temperatures surrounding the outside of the capsule soaring to 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius). The astronauts’ flight suits, fitted to special ventilation systems, were designed to keep them cool if the cabin heated up.

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Applause was heard from the SpaceX flight control center in suburban Los Angeles as the first parachutes were seen deploying, slowing the capsule’s descent to about 15 miles per hour (25 kph) before splashdown, with another round of cheers as the craft hit the water.

The astronauts were cheered again as they stepped onto the deck of the recovery ship.

First out was Hayely Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee, a childhood bone cancer survivor herself who became the youngest person ever reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration4 mission.

She was followed in rapid succession by geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42, and finally the crew’s billionaire benefactor and “mission commander” Jared Isaacman, 38.

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“That was a heck of a ride for us,” Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, radioed from inside the capsule moments after splashdown. “We’re just getting started.”

He had paid an undisclosed sum – put by Time magazine at roughly $200 million – to fellow billionaire Musk for all four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

The Inspiration4 team blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

HIGHEST ORBIT SINCE APOLLO

Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of 585 km, or just over 363 miles – higher than the International Space Station or Hubble Space Telescope, and the farthest any human has flown from Earth since NASA’s Apollo moon program ended in 1972.

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It also marked the debut flight of Musk’s new space tourism business and a leap ahead of competitors likewise offering rides on rocket ships to well-heeled customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of spaceflight and earn amateur astronaut wings.

Musk’s company already ranks as the best-established player in the burgeoning constellation of commercial rocket ventures, having launched numerous cargo payloads and astronauts to the space station for NASA.

Two rival operators, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc and Blue Origin, inaugurated their own space tourism services in recent months, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride.

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Those suborbital flights, lasting a matter of minutes, were short hops compared with Inspiration4’s three days in orbit.

Isaacman conceived of Inspiration4 primarily to raise awareness and donations for St. Jude, one of his favorite causes, where Arceneaux now works. Ericson said the flight had so far raised $160 million for the cancer institute, including $100 million donated by Isaacman at the outset.

The Inspiration4 crew had no part to play in flying the spacecraft, which was controlled by ground-based flight teams and onboard guidance systems, although Isaacman and Proctor are both licensed pilots.

But Ericson insisted the crew had “the same training and the same control and authority that NASA astronauts have” to intervene in the Crew Dragon’s operation in the event of an emergency.

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SpaceX’s human-spaceflight chief, Benji Reed, marveled at how little went wrong during the flight, citing just two problems he described as minor and easily resolved – a malfunctioning fan in the crew’s toilet system and a faulty temperature sensor on one of the spacecraft’s engines.

The level of “space adaption syndrome” experienced by the crew – vertigo and motion sickness while acclimating to a microgravity environment – was “pretty much on target with what NASA astronauts do,” Ericson said.

All four had appeared relaxed and energetic during a number of live video appearances they made for Earth-bound audiences during their flight, from performing zero-G somersaults in the cabin to strumming a ukulele https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/all-civilian-inspiration4-crew-shows-off-zero-gravity-orbit-2021-09-18.

(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis, David Gregorio and William Mallard)

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Guilt, grief and anxiety as young people fear for climate’s future

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Overwhelmed, sad, guilty are some of the emotions young people say they feel when they think of  Climate Change and their concerns world leaders will fail to tackle it.

Broadly referred to as climate anxiety, research has stacked up to measure its prevalence ahead of the U.N. talks in Glasgow, which begin at the end of the month to thrash out how to put the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing climate change into effect.

One of the biggest studies to date, funded by Avaaz, an online campaign network, and led by Britain’s University of Bath, surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years in 10 countries. It published its results in September.

It found around three quarters of those surveyed considered the future frightening, while a lack of action by governments and industry left 45% experiencing climate anxiety and distress that affected their daily lives and functioning.

Elouise Mayall, an ecology student at Britain’s University of East Anglia and member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition, told Reuters she had felt guilty and overwhelmed.

“What I’d be left with is maybe the sense of shame, like, ‘how dare you still want lovely things when the world is ending and you don’t even know if you’re going to have a safe world to grow old in’.”

She spoke of conflicting emotions.

“You might have sadness, there might be fear, there might be a kind of overwhelm,” she said. “And maybe even sometimes a quite like wild optimism.”

Caroline Hickman, a psychotherapist and lecturer at the University of Bath and one of the co-authors of the research published in September, is working to help young people manage climate-related emotions.

“They’re growing up with the grief and the fear and the anxiety about the future,” she told Reuters.

“SENSE OF MEANING”

London-based psychiatrist Alastair Santhouse sees climate change, as well as COVID-19, as potentially adding to the burden, especially for those pre-disposed to  anxiety .

For now, climate anxiety alone does not normally require psychiatric help. Painful as it is, it can be positive, provided it does not get out of control.

“Some anxiety about climate change is motivating. It’s just a question of how much anxiety is motivating and how much is unacceptable,” said Santhouse, author of a book that tackles how health services struggle to cope with complex mental issues.

“The worry is that as climate change sets in, there will be a more clear cut mental health impact,” he added.

Among some of the world’s communities that are already the most vulnerable, extreme weather events can also cause problems such as post traumatic stress disorder.

Leading climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, 18, has experienced severe climate anxiety.

“It’s a quite natural response, because, as you see, as the world is today, that no one seems to care about what’s happening, I think it’s only human to feel that way,” she said.

For now, however, she is hopeful because she is doing everything she possibly can.

“When you take action, you also get a sense of meaning that something is happening. If you want to get rid of that anxiety, you can take action against it,” she said.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Rocket failure mars U.S. hypersonic weapon test as others succeed

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The Pentagon ‘s hypersonic weapon programs suffered a setback on Thursday when a booster rocket carrying a hypersonic weapon failed, people briefed on the test result said.

The test was intended to validate aspects of one of the Pentagon’s hypersonic glide vehicles in development, two of the people said.

Hypersonic glide vehicles are launched from a rocket in the upper atmosphere before gliding to a target at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 3,853 miles (6,200 kilometers) per hour.

In a separate series of tests conducted on Wednesday, the U.S. Navy and Army tested hypersonic weapon component prototypes. That test successfully “demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The United States and its global rivals have quickened their pace to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed concern on Wednesday about Chinese hypersonic missiles, days after a media report that Beijing had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide weapon.

Glide bodies are different from their air-breathing hypersonic weapon cousins which use scramjet engine technology and the vehicle’s high speed to forcibly compress incoming air before combustion to enable sustained flight at hypersonic speeds. An air-breathing hypersonic weapon was successfully tested in September.

Companies such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies are working to develop the hypersonic weapon capability for the United States.

(Reporting by Mike Stone and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Patagonian fossils show Jurassic dinosaur had the herd mentality | Saltwire – SaltWire Network

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By Will Dunham

(Reuters) – A vast trove of fossils unearthed in Argentina’s southern Patagonia region is offering the oldest-known evidence that some dinosaurs thrived in a complex and well-organized herd structure, with adults caring for the young and sharing a communal nesting ground.

Scientists said on Thursday the fossils include more than 100 dinosaur eggs and the bones of about 80 juveniles and adults of a Jurassic Period plant-eating species called Mussaurus patagonicus, including 20 remarkably complete skeletons. The animals experienced a mass-death event, probably caused by a drought, and their bodies were subsequently buried by wind-blown dust, the researchers said.

“It is a pretty dramatic scene from 193 million years ago that was frozen in time,” said paleontologist Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio Paleontological Museum in Trelew, Argentina, who led the research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Mussaurus, which grew to about 20 feet (6 meters) long and about 1.5 tons, possessed a long neck and tail, with a small head. It was bipedal as an adult but newborns were quadrupedal. Mussaurus lived early in the Jurassic, the second of three periods comprising the age of dinosaurs. It was a relatively large beast for its time – much bigger than contemporaneous meat-eating dinosaurs. Dinosaurs became true giants later in the Jurassic.

“The site is one of a kind,” Pol said. “It preserves a dinosaur nesting ground including delicate and tiny dinosaur skeletons as well as eggs with embryos inside. The specimens we have found showed that herd behavior was present in long-necked dinosaurs since their early history. These were social animals, and we think this may be an important factor to explain their success.”

The animals were found to have been grouped by age at the time of their deaths, with hatchlings and eggs in one area while skeletons of juveniles were clustered nearby. The eggs were arranged in layers within trenches. Adults were found alone or in pairs.

This phenomenon, called “age segregation,” signals a complex social structure, the researchers said, including adults that foraged for meals and cared for the young. The researchers suspect that members of the herd returned to the same spot during successive seasons to form breeding colonies.

“The young were staying with the adults at least until they reached adulthood. It could be that they stayed in the same herd after reaching adulthood, but we don’t have information to corroborate that hypothesis,” said paleontologist and study co-author Vincent Fernandez of the Natural History Museum in London.

Herd behavior also can protect young and vulnerable individuals from attack by predators.

“It’s a strategy for the survival of a species,” Fernandez said.

The oldest previous evidence for dinosaur herd behavior was from about 150 million years ago.

The nesting ground was situated on the dry margins of a lake featuring ferns and conifers in a warm but seasonal climate. The eggs are about the size of a chicken’s, and the skeleton of a hatchling fits in the palm of a human hand. The adults got as heavy as a hippo.

A scanning method called high-resolution X-ray computed tomography confirmed that the embryos inside the eggs indeed were of Mussaurus.

Mussaurus was a type of dinosaur called a sauropodomorph, which represented the first great success story among herbivorous dinosaurs. Sauropodomorphs were an evolutionary forerunner to a group called sauropods known for long necks and tails and four pillar-like legs.

The largest land animals in Earth’s history were the sauropod successors of sauropodomorphs, as exemplified by a later denizen of Patagonia called Argentinosaurus that reached perhaps 118 feet (36 meters) in length and upwards of 70 tons.

(Reporting by Will Dunham in Washington, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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