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On Tuesday, March 30, Whistler Blackcomb, the largest ski resort in North America, closed for the season eight weeks ahead of schedule. The decision was made after the British Columbia government ordered the resort to shut down until April 19 to quell the spread of COVID-19. Originally, Whistler Mountain was scheduled to close April 18, and Blackcomb Peak was slated to stay open until May 24. Neither will reopen this season.
At a press conference on March 29, provincial health minister Dr. Bonnie Henry cited a surge in cases in the Whistler community and the need to curb travel-related spread. New cases of COVID-19 in the Howe Sound area, where Whistler is located, rose from a total of 32 during the first week of March to 247 during the last week of the month. The worrisome Brazil P.1 variant, first discovered in January, is also on the rise throughout British Columbia. The Globe and Mail reported that it is the largest known spread of the variant outside Brazil.
P.1 is more contagious, can cause more severe symptoms, and, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control, may be able to reinfect people who’ve already had the virus. It also may not be as responsive to current treatments and vaccines as milder coronavirus strains. New cases of the variant identified in other regions of Canada have been linked back to travelers spending time in the Whistler area. The surge has since sparked other restrictions, including a three-week ban on indoor dining and drinking, indoor group fitness classes, and indoor worship services.
Whistler Blackcomb was the only ski resort ordered to close, but its decision to immediately end the season caused a domino effect. The next day, Revelstoke Mountain Resort posted on Instagram that it was ceasing operations for the remainder of the season due to COVID-19. Big White Ski Resort also announced that its season would end early, on April 5 instead of April 11. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the province reported 1,013 new cases of the virus, its highest-ever single-day total.
The scenario is a replay of last March, when ski-resort towns like Sun Valley, Idaho, became early COVID-19 hot spots. On March 10, 2020, after the World Health Organization officially declared the pandemic, ski areas everywhere began shutting down early. Whistler Blackcomb’s parent company, Vail Resorts, closed all of its North American properties prematurely last season, on March 15.
The 2020–21 season was meant to be different, with stringent policies in place for social distancing and sanitation, and restrictions on the number of people who could attend group ski lessons. Whistler Blackcomb was one of many large resorts (including Aspen Snowmass and Breckenridge in Colorado and Park City in Utah) to implement a reservation system to manage mountain capacity. Skiers at Whistler Blackcomb were required to purchase lift tickets ahead of time online. Even season pass holders had to reserve ski days in advance. Masks were mandatory, regardless of a person’s vaccination status or the rules in their home state.
The changes seemed to be working. In some instances, ski resorts were even praised for not contributing to an increase in COVID-19. In January, for example, public-health officials in eight tourism-dependent communities of Colorado’s high country confirmed that they had not linked any outbreaks to ski areas.
“While the Provincial Health Order caught us all by surprise, we fully support the government’s direction and we’re doing our part to comply,” said Geoff Buchheister, vice president and chief operating officer of Whistler Blackcomb, in a statement issued after business hours on Tuesday. “At this time, we believe the best thing we can do to support the order is to begin winding down winter operations. Our full attention will now turn to getting our resort ready to safely open for summer.” Summertime operations include downhill mountain biking, hiking, and skiing on Horstman Glacier.
Technically, Canadians aren’t supposed to be traveling outside of their communities, let alone provinces, to ski this year. But it’s a government recommendation, not a mandate, and it’s not enforced. “It’s a little bit confusing, from a provincial public-health standpoint,” says Robin Richardson, a Whistler Blackcomb season pass holder who drives 50 minutes from his home in Squamish to ski. “There’s no nonessential travel, but a major tourist hub is open.”
And there’s no doubt that tourists are there. “It’s busier than a lot of people expected,” says Mike Douglas, a professional skier and filmmaker who’s lived in Whistler for more than 30 years. “It feels like there have been people from everywhere here, but especially from eastern Canada.”
Still, locals were caught off guard by the province’s order. Whistler mayor Jack Crompton told Canada’s Global News that the community was in a state of shock. “No one was expecting it, because of how well Whistler Blackcomb was managing the mountain,” says Whistler resident and skier Hélène Castonguay, a retired nurse who was skiing Whistler Blackcomb on its final day in operation. “There’s always going to be some person not wearing a mask, but it was 99 percent safe.”
Whistler already managed a spike in COVID-19 cases, in January. Officials attributed the numbers at that time to holiday travel and celebration. So for spring break in March, the province tried to be proactive, putting Whistler on a priority list for vaccinations. “They did a three-day vaccination blitz in town and vaccinated a ton of people in the community,” says Douglas. “Everyone was really jazzed for spring.” But the measures weren’t enough.
Some locals have taken to the internet to express frustration, but the majority of the online responses have been supportive, thanking the resort for the four months they were able to operate.
Others are processing the situation with wry humor, like the Instagram account @Whistler_Memes. The order to close the resort was delivered on a perfect bluebird day, and the account posted an image of actor Michael Cera smiling brightly, with the words: “It’s a great day…” Below, another photo of Cera looking off camera, suddenly despondent, continued the phrasing: “to be sad.”
Lead Photo: stockstudioX/Getty
Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — SpaceX made history on Wednesday night when it launched the world’s first all-civil mission to get going from the Space Coast, Florida.
The Inspiration4 mission took off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center around 8:03 pm on Wednesday. The four crew members on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft were launched onto a reusable Falcon 9 rocket and later separated from the spacecraft and landed on the drone.
The mission’s five-hour launch window began at 8:02 EST. The window was very large, as the crew was sent to orbit the Earth rather than the International Space Station, and therefore did not have such strict time constraints.
The crew is set to travel 350 miles above the surface of the Earth, about 100 miles higher than the International Space Station.
“This is important and historic, because it’s the best time humans have been in orbit since the Hubble Space Telescope mission,” said Benjireed, SpaceX’s manned spaceflight director.
The crew will spend three days in orbit to participate in research experiments on human health and performance. We hope that the results of our research will apply not only to future space flight, but also to human health here on Earth.
Inspiration4’s main goal is to provide and inspire support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They want to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude in a three-day mission.
According to SpaceX, each of the four members of the crew was chosen to represent the pillars of a mission of prosperity, generosity, hope and leadership. The Inspiration 4 crew and the pillars they represent are:
SpaceX trained all four crew members as commercial astronauts on Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. The crew was trained in orbital mechanics, microgravity, weightlessness, other stress tests, emergency preparedness, and spacesuit training.
The mission was funded by Isaacman in a private transaction with SpaceX. Isaacman has also invested $ 100 million towards a funding target for the St. Jude mission.
Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit
Source link Inspiration4 Lift Off: SpaceX Launches World’s First All-Citizen Mission in Earth’s Orbit
Researchers have created a winged microchip around the size of a sand grain that may be the smallest flying device yet made, Vice has reported. They’re designed to be carried around by the wind and could be used in numerous applications including disease and air pollution tracking, according to a paper published by Nature. At the same time, they could be made from biodegradable materials to prevent environmental contamination.
The design of the flyers was inspired by spinning seeds from cottonwood and other trees. Those fall slowly by spinning like helicopters so they can be picked up by the wind and spread a long distance from the tree, increasing the range of the species.
The team from Northwest University ran with that idea but made it better, and smaller. “We think we’ve beaten biology… we’ve been able to build structures that fall in a more stable trajectory at slower terminal velocities than equivalent seeds,” said lead Professor John A. Rogers. “The other thing… was that we were able to make these helicopter flyer structures that are much smaller than seeds you would see in the natural world.”
They’re not so small that the aerodynamics starts to break down, though. “All of the advantages of the helicopter design begin to disappear below a certain length scale, so we pushed it all the way, as far as you can go or as physics would allow,” Rogers told Vice. “Below that size scale, everything looks and falls like a sphere.”
The devices are also large enough to carry electronics, sensors and power sources. The team tested multiple versions that could carry payloads like antenna so that they could wireless communicate with a smartphone or each other. Other sensors could monitor things like air acidity, water quality and solar radiation.
The flyers are still concepts right now and not ready to deploy into the atmosphere, but the team plans to expand their findings with different designs. Key to that is the use of biodegradable materials so they wouldn’t persist in the environment.
“We don’t think about these devices… as a permanent monitoring componentry but rather temporary ones that are addressing a particular need that’s of finite time duration,” Rogers said. “That’s the way that we’re envisioning things currently: you monitor for a month and then the devices die out, dissolve, and disappear, and maybe you have to redeploy them.”
NASA is splitting its human spaceflight department into two separate bodies – one centered on big, future-oriented missions to the moon and Mars, the other on the International Space Station and other operations closer to Earth.
The reorganization, announced by NASA chief Bill Nelson on Tuesday, reflects an evolving relationship between private companies, such as SpaceX, that have increasingly commercialised rocket travel and the federal agency that had exercised a US monopoly over spaceflight for decades.
Nelson said the shake-up was also spurred by a recent proliferation of flights and commercial investment in low-Earth orbit even as NASA steps up its development of deep-space aspirations.
“Today is more than organizational change,” Nelson said at a press briefing. “It’s setting the stage for the next 20 years, it’s defining NASA’s future in a growing space economy.”
The move breaks up NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, currently headed by Kathy Leuders, into two separate branches.
Leuders will keep her associate administrator title as head of the new Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate, focusing on NASA’s most ambitious, long-term programs, such as plans to return astronauts to the moon under project Artemis, and eventual human exploration of Mars.
A retired deputy associate administrator, James Free, who played key roles in NASA’s space station and commercial crew and cargo programs, will return to the agency as head of the new Space Operations Mission Directorate.
His branch will primarily oversee more routine launch and spaceflight activities, including missions involving the space station and privatization of low-Earth orbit, as well as sustaining lunar operations once those have been established.
“This approach with two areas focused on human spaceflight allows one mission directorate to operate in space while the other builds future space systems,” NASA said in a press release announcing the move.
The announcement came less than a week after SpaceX, which had already flown numerous astronaut missions and cargo payloads to the space station for NASA, launched the first all-civilian crew ever to reach orbit and returned them safely to Earth.
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