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Take a walk through P.E.I.'s prehistoric past –



Buried in the iconic red sandstone cliffs of Prince Edward Island is a story millions of years in the making.

As more rock is exposed due to costal erosion, P.E.I.’s prehistoric past is being revealed layer by layer.

Back in 290 million BC, when the world was connected in a single super continent, known as Pangea, P.E.I. was right near the centre.

Welcome to the Permian period, a time millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

MacNeil created this map to show where the land that has become Prince Edward Island fit into Pangea back in the Permian period. (Laura MacNeil/Prehistoric Island Tours)

“All of Prince Edward Island is formed of red sandstone, mudstone conglomerate, as well as clay stone that was deposited during the Permian period — about 300 million years ago,” geologist Laura MacNeil said.

She is the founder of Prehistoric Island Tours, which offers tours of what MacNeil calls P.E.I.’s most significant fossil sites.

MacNeil even discovered the first set of Dimetrodon footprints on the island, in 2018 in P.E.I. National Park.

To help understand the province’s prehistoric history, she walked us through some of the fossil finds and their known history.

Walchia fossil

It may look like a pile of rocks, but MacNeil estimates this is one of P.E.I.’s largest known fossils still in place.

It’s the roughly 10-metre fossilized remains of a Walchia tree.

WATCH | Meet the tree that lived on P.E.I. 300 million years ago:

Meet the tree that lived on P.E.I. 300 million years ago

10 hours ago

Geologist Laura MacNeil walks us through P.E.I.’s prehistoric past and shows us a fossilized tree found along the shoreline. 1:44

“It is one of the earliest coniferous trees in the rock record,” MacNeil said. “This tree doesn’t have any of the remaining tree material in it. It’s been completely replaced by minerals.”

She says the Walchia had adapted to the climate of the Permian period in the interior of Pangea.

“As the continent started to assemble, the climate really started to change,” MacNeil said.

“The climate was getting hotter and drier, and plants didn’t really like this. So they had to adapt and evolve, and this is what led to the evolution of the coniferous trees.”

P.E.I.’s first fossil

A cast of the first fossil found on P.E.I. is a teaching tool used in a University of Prince Edward Island biology classroom — the partial remains of a Dimetrodon skull found in 1845.

“This is probably Prince Edward Island’s most famous fossil, and it has a really interesting history to it,” MacNeil said.

Farmer Donald MacLeod was digging a well near New London, P.E.I., when he unearthed part of an upper jaw, including several sharp, curved teeth.

WATCH | Learn more about P.E.I.’s first fossil found in 1845:

Learn more about P.E.I.’s first fossil found back in 1845

10 hours ago

A farmer was digging a well in 1845 and found P.E.I.’s first fossil. We learn a little more from geologist Laura MacNeil about the creature that called the area home 300 million years ago. 1:44

“To kind of put it in perspective how long ago this was, the term dinosaur had only been coined four years earlier,” MacNeil said.

The farmer sold the fossil to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, so it could be examined by Joseph Leidy, one of the only paleontologists studying animal fossils in North America at the time.

A team of Canadian scientists positively identified it as part of a Dimetrodon skull in 2015

The find and story of the Dimetrodon skull was honoured with a Canada Post stamp in 2016.

Some history 

During the Permian period 300 million years ago, P.E.I. was located near the equator.

MacNeil said the climate would have been very different than today, with the nearest ocean being about 500 kilometres away.

WATCH | Iconic red cliffs of P.E.I. hold clues to island’s prehistoric history:

The iconic red cliffs of P.E.I. hold clues to the island’s prehistoric history

10 hours ago

The layers of sandstone on P.E.I. can reveal glimpses of the creatures and plant life that existed 300 million years ago. Geologist Laura MacNeil tells us how. 2:13

“The area would have had lots of trees, but you wouldn’t have had any grass. You wouldn’t have seen any flowers and that’s because, literally, they didn’t even exist yet,” MacNeil said.

“Ferns were the main ground cover back in the Permian period here on Prince Edward Island, and their fossils have been found here as well as on the west coast of P.E.I.”

MacNeil said a lot of the trees found at that time would be unlike the trees of today.

The iconic cliffs on P.E.I. are made up of sedimentary rocks — with sediments such as sand and mud deposited in layers.

Roughly one inch of the cliffs on P.E.I. represent about 1,000 years of prehistoric history, MacNeil says. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

“To give you an idea of how long these rocks take to form and how much time is represented here in the cliffs,” MacNeil said, “about one inch is equal to about a thousand years in time. So this entire cliff face that I am beside right here represents tens of thousands of years in time.”

Dimetrodon footprints

One fossil  is near and dear to MacNeil’s heart. It’s one she discovered herself along the shores of P.E.I. National Park in 2018.

“The very first Dimetrodon footprints ever found on Prince Edward Island,” she said.

“We were very lucky with these footprints because they had just freshly broken off of the cliffs, and so luckily we were able to contact the right people, get them into the right hands and make sure that they were collected safely.”

The fossils found in P.E.I. National Park are being safely stored at the park’s Greenwich Interpretation Centre, which has a climate-controlled room.

WATCH | Step back in time with these Dimetrodon footprints found on P.E.I.:

Step back in time with these Dimetrodon footprints found on P.E.I.

10 hours ago

Geologist Laura MacNeil found these footprints in P.E.I. National Park in 2018. She explains more about what they show and what to do if you find some while exploring the island. 2:20

“The room was fairly empty five years ago,” said Kerry-Lynn Atkinson, landscape ecologist with P.E.I. National Park. “There have been a lot of recent finds.”

They are kept there so that researchers can find them, but plans are in the works to be able to put them on display at various P.E.I. National Park sites.

“These fossils belong to Canadians, and that’s what Parks Canada is here to do, is to protect nationally significant examples of natural and cultural heritage for all Canadians — and we want to be able to present the information and fossils appropriately,” Atkinson said.

The fossils found in P.E.I. National Park are being safely stored at the park’s Greenwich Interpretation Centre, which has a climate-controlled room. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Atkinson said it important that visitors to P.E.I. National Park remember to follow Parks Canada guidelines to help protect the natural resources and spaces.

That includes the National Park General Regulations, which prohibit the removal of natural objects — including fossils.

“The important thing is that if a fossil is found, we ask that people take a picture of it in order to kind of get an idea of where the site may be,” she said.

Kerry-Lynn Atkinson, landscape ecologist with P.E.I. National Park, is shown in the climate-controlled room where fossils found in the park are stored. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

“Record any of the site details and report that information to Parks Canada as soon as possible. That way we can collect it safely and ensure that all Canadians are going to be able to learn from what we’re finding in our national parks.”

People can reach Parks Canada to report potential fossil finds at 1-877-852-3100.

Elsewhere on P.E.I., people can report a discovery to the provincial archeologist by email at or by phone at 902-368-6895.

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Chinese astronauts return with first mission for space station construction accomplished – CCTV



— Having worked in the space station core module Tianhe for three months — the longest-ever human space mission in Chinese history, three astronauts of the Shenzhou-12 crew returned to Earth on Friday, hitting a new milestone in China’s space exploration.

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) — Three Chinese astronauts, the first sent to orbit for China’s space station construction, have completed their three-month mission and returned to Earth safely on Friday.

The return capsule of the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship, carrying astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 1:34 p.m. (Beijing Time).

The first manned flight during the construction of China’s space station was a complete success, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced.

The return capsule of Shenzhou-12 separated from the spaceship’s orbiting capsule at 12:43 p.m. under the command of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center. The braking engine of the return capsule then ignited, and the return capsule separated from the propelling capsule.

After the return capsule landed successfully, the ground search team arrived at the landing site. This is the first time that the Dongfeng landing site was used in the search and retrieval of the manned spacecraft. The medical personnel confirmed that the astronauts were in good health, after the hatch of the return capsule was opened.

The trio looked relaxed and waved to the ground crew after they exited the return capsule. Later, they were escorted to a helicopter by the ground crew, according to Xinhua reporters at the scene.

“Welcome back home for the Mid-Autumn Festival,” the people cheered as the country’s space heroes passed by.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, a traditional event symbolizing family reunion, falls on Sept. 21 this year.

The three astronauts arrived at Beijing by plane Friday night, but they will not go immediately back home to celebrate the festival with their families. Instead, they will undergo several weeks of quarantine for a comprehensive medical examination and health assessment, according to Xu Wenlong, a research assistant with the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.

The professional medical personnel will help the astronauts re-adapt to the gravity and environment on Earth, restore their body functions as soon as possible and improve their immunity, through multiple methods of exercise, diet, massage, physical therapy, and treatment with traditional Chinese medicine, Xu said.

The success of the Shenzhou-12 manned spaceflight mission laid a solid foundation for the continued construction and operation of the country’s space station, the CMSA said.

On June 17, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China and docked with the space station core module Tianhe. After the docking, the three astronauts entered the core module and began their three-month stay in space.

On June 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a video talk from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center with the astronauts, showing his consistent concern and support for the Chinese pursuit of its space dream.

“The construction of the space station is a milestone in China’s space industry, which will make pioneering contributions to the peaceful use of space by humanity,” said Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The Shenzhou-12 crew carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, and tested key technologies for the construction and operation of the space station, concerning long-term stays by astronauts, the recycling and life-support system, the supply of space materials, extravehicular activities (EVAs) and operations, and in-orbit maintenance.

They performed EVAs twice, on July 4 and Aug. 20, respectively.

The first EVAs, performed by Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, took approximately seven hours. The astronauts accomplished tasks including equipment installation and panoramic camera lifting.

Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming carried out EVAs for the second time, installed extravehicular extended pump sets and lifted a panoramic camera in about six hours of EVAs.

The EVAs tested the performance and function of the new-generation homemade extravehicular mobility units and the coordination between the astronauts and the mechanical arm, as well as the reliability and safety of related EVA supporting equipment.

The mechanical arm installed on the core module played an important role in assisting the astronauts with their EVAs.

It is designed to help the astronauts in the assembly, construction, maintenance and repair of the space station, and to support space applications.

China launched its space station core module Tianhe on April 29 and the cargo craft Tianzhou-2 on May 29. The two completed a computer-orchestrated rendezvous and docking on May 30.

The Shenzhou-12 spaceship then formed a three-module complex with the combination of Tianhe and Tianzhou-2 after it was launched.

The Tianzhou-3 cargo craft and the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceship will also be launched later this year to dock with Tianhe, and another three astronauts will then begin their six-month stay in orbit.

After the five launch missions this year, China plans to have six more missions, including the launch of the Wentian and Mengtian lab modules, two cargo spacecraft and two crewed spaceships, in 2022, to complete the construction of the space station.

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SpaceX capsule with world's first all-civilian orbital crew set for splashdown – Financial Post



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The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission were due to splash down in the Atlantic off Florida on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever launched into Earth orbit.

To prepare for atmospheric re-entry and return to Earth, the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle completed two rocket “burns” on Friday to lower its altitude and line up the capsule’s trajectory with the targeted landing site.

The Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, is scheduled to parachute into the sea around 7 p.m. Eastern time, shortly before sunset, according to SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk.


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SpaceX supplied the spacecraft, launched it from Florida and flew it from the company’s suburban Los Angeles headquarters.

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.

Within three hours the crew capsule had reached a cruising orbital altitude of just over 363 miles (585 km) – 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.

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.


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The Inspiration4 team was led by its wealthy benefactor, Jared Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, who assumed the role of mission “commander.”

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

Isaacman was joined by three less affluent crewmates he had selected – geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, physician’s assistant and childhood bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42.

Isaacman conceived of the flight primarily to raise awareness and donations for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center in Memphis, Tennessee, where Arceneaux was a patient and now works.


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

SpaceX already ranked as the most well-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 astro-tourism services in recent months, with their respective founding executives, billionaires Richard Branson and founder Jeff Bezos, each going along for the ride.

Those suborbital flights, lasting a matter of minutes, were short hops compared with Inspiration4’s three days in orbit. (Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis)


In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.


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Chinese astronauts return to Earth after 90 days aboard space station –



A trio of Chinese astronauts returned to Earth on Friday after a 90-day stay aboard their nation’s first space station in China’s longest mission yet.

Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo landed in the Shenzhou-12 spaceship just after 1:30 p.m. local time after having undocked from the space station Thursday morning.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of the spacecraft parachuting to land in the Gobi Desert where it was met by helicopters and off-road vehicles. Minutes later, a crew of technicians began opening the hatch of the capsule, which appeared undamaged.

The three astronauts emerged about 30 minutes later and were seated in reclining chairs just outside the capsule to allow them time to readjust to Earth’s gravity after three months of living in a weightless environment. The three were due to fly to Beijing on Friday.

“With China’s growing strength and the rising level of Chinese technology, I firmly believe there will even more astronauts who will set new records,” mission commander Nie told CCTV.

After launching on June 17, the three astronauts went on two spacewalks, deployed a 10-metre mechanical arm and had a video call with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Chinese astronauts from left, Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming wave at the Dongfeng landing site in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday in this photo released by Xinhua News Agency. (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua/The Associated Press)

While few details have been made public by China’s military, which runs the space program, astronaut trios are expected to be brought on 90-day missions to the station over the next two years to make it fully functional.

The government has not announced the names of the next set of astronauts nor the launch date of Shenzhou-13.

Source of national pride

China has sent 14 astronauts into space since 2003, when it became only the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to do so on its own.

China’s space program has advanced at a measured pace and has largely avoided many of the problems that marked the U.S. and Russian programs that were locked in intense competition during the heady early days of spaceflight.

That has made it a source of enormous national pride, complementing the country’s rise to economic, technological, military and diplomatic prominence in recent years under the firm rule of the Communist Party and current leader Xi Jinping.

WATCH |Chinese astronauts blast off, dock at space station:

Chinese astronauts blast off, dock with space station

3 months ago

China has successfully launched a 3-person crew to its new space station, marking another milestone in the country’s ambitious space program. 0:48

China embarked on its own space station program in the 1990s after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely due to U.S. objections to the Chinese space program’s secrecy and military backing.

Space probe on Mars

China has simultaneously pushed ahead with uncrewed missions, placing a rover on the little-explored far side of the Moon and, in December, the Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s.

A giant screen shows a news broadcast of the astronauts of the Shenzhou-12 mission inside the core module Tianhe of the Chinese space station on Thursday, before returning to Earth. (Tingshu Wang/Reuters)

China this year also landed its Tianwen-1 space probe on Mars, with its accompanying Zhurong rover venturing out to look for evidence of life.

Another program calls for collecting samples from an asteroid, an area in which Japan’s rival space program has made progress of late.

China also plans to dispatch another mission in 2024 to bring back lunar samples and is pursuing a possible crewed mission to the moon and eventually building a scientific base there, although no timeline has been proposed for such projects. A highly secretive space plane is also reportedly under development.

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