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NASA And SpaceX Launch First Astronauts To Orbit From U.S. Since 2011

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May 30, 20207:46 AM ET

Heard on Weekend Edition Saturday Updated at 6:55 p.m. ET

NASA astronauts are heading to space from U.S. soil for the first time in nine years, aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, the maiden crewed flight of the innovative spacecraft.

The mission, which is sending Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station, is a bold new venture for the space agency’s plan to allow commercial companies to take its astronauts into low-Earth orbit.

“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said moments before ignition, borrowing words uttered by America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, in 1961.

The duo left a fiery plume behind at Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. ET as they rode SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket toward a rendezvous with the station, which will take about 19 hours. On Wednesday, storms and a tornado warning upended a launch attempt, with the veteran space shuttle astronauts suited up and strapped into the Dragon before the mission was scrubbed.

Similar weather concerns dogged Saturday’s launch and nearly forced a second delay, but NASA and SpaceX decided early Saturday that conditions were trending in the right direction. As the countdown narrowed, the weather continued to improve.

The Falcon 9 booster separated and guided itself to a successful landing on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic. Crew Dragon separated from the rocket at 3:35 p.m. ET and entered orbit.

“It was incredible. Appreciate the great ride to space,” Hurley told flight controllers as the spacecraft reached orbit.

The mission marks the first time NASA has sent astronauts into space from U.S. soil since the end of the shuttle program in 2011. For nearly a decade, it has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets to get them there. It is also a first for SpaceX, which has ambitions of someday taking paying customers zooming around the Earth.

“It’s incredible, the power, the technology,” said President Trump, who was at Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the launch.

“That was a beautiful sight to see and I hope you all enjoyed it,” the president said.

Speaking at a post-launch news conference on Saturday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “What a great day for NASA. What a great day for SpaceX. What a great day for the United States.”

“I’m really quite overcome with emotion on this day, so it’s kind of hard to talk, frankly,” he said.

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and CEO of SpaceX, called it “a day that I think everyone can be proud of.”

“This event is something that all of humanity can get excited about,” he said.

Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, will put the bell-shaped Dragon through its paces on the way to the station. Dragon, which on the surface resembles an updated Apollo-era command module, sports a sleek interior and oversized touchscreen controls. Its SpaceX Falcon 9 booster has been used successfully dozens of times to put satellites and space-station cargo into orbit.

The Dragon-Falcon 9 configuration is a far cry from the winged space shuttle, but the SpaceX capsule has considerable safety advantages. Unlike the shuttle, it sits on top of the rocket, therefore avoiding debris that can fall off during launch and potentially damage the spacecraft — a problem that doomed the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. The position also makes it easy to eject the capsule if the rocket itself runs into trouble.

That’s not to say that SpaceX hasn’t had safety issues over the years. In 2015, one of its uncrewed rockets exploded on the way to the space station. But overall, SpaceX has enjoyed a good track record in its eight years of flying cargo to the space station.

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Satellite-Carrying Rocket ‘Lost’ After New Zealand Launch

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By Reuters:

A rocket from small-satellite launch firm Rocket Lab failed to reach orbit minutes after a successful liftoff from New Zealand on Saturday, the company said, losing its payload of seven small satellites it had intended to carry to space.

“An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle,” the company said on Twitter, adding more information will be shared as available.

“We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron,” the Auckland, New Zealand-based company said. “The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn.”

Rocket Lab is one of a growing group of launch companies looking to slash the cost of sending shoebox-sized satellites to low Earth orbit, building smaller rockets and reinventing traditional production lines to meet a growing payload demand.

The rocket’s altitude peaked at 121 miles (195 km) roughly seven minutes after liftoff before quickly decreasing, according to in-flight telemetry on the company’s live video feed.

It was aiming to send five tiny Earth imaging satellites from Planet Labs, one microsatellite from Canon Electronics, and a cubesat from British company In-Space Missions into a sun-synchronous orbit 310 miles above Earth.

The failed mission, the company’s 13th payload launch, had been named “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen”.

“While it’s never the outcome that we hope for, the risk of launch failure is one Planet is always prepared for,” Planet Labs said in a statement on Saturday, adding it looked “forward to flying on the Electron again” in the future.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Lunar Eclipse July 2020: Date, Timings, and How to Watch Live Stream

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Today is the third lunar eclipse of 2020. The third lunar eclipse of the year will start in India today. We have been witnessing eclipse back to back since the beginning of the year 2020. Now, we are gearing up for the third lunar eclipse or Chandra Grahan of 2020, which is scheduled to take place on July 5, 2020. The penumbral lunar eclipse will take place during the day time here in India, which means most of us will not even notice it. It also coincides with the US Independence Day which is good news for US residents as they are among the people who will get to witness this celestial phenomenon. The first lunar eclipse of 2020 was in January, followed by the second in June, making it the third lunar eclipse for the year.

However, for people in India, the penumbral lunar eclipse may not be visible as it will take place in the day time. It will be difficult for Indians to witness the phenomenon. In certain regions, the penumbral lunar eclipse has also been referred to as “buck moon”, a name which Algonquin tribes used to call. South/West Europe, much of Africa, much of North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Antarctica will be able to witness the phenomenon.

Lunar eclipse July 2020: What is a penumbral lunar eclipse?

On July 5, 2020, we will be witnessing a partial penumbral eclipse (upchaya chandra grahan in Hindi). It happens when Earth is between the sun and a full moon. While eclipses begin when Earth’s shadow falls on the moon, this time around the moon won’t be passing through Earth’s dark, inner shadow, known as the umbra. Instead, the moon will go through Earth’s outer, lighter shadow, known as the penumbra.

As per NASA, as there will be a full moon at 12:44 am EDT on July 5 (10:14 am IST on July 5) and will be the first full Moon of summer (US), the Algonquin tribes used to call this full Moon the Buck Moon.

When will the lunar eclipse occur?

As per data by TimeandDate, the lunar eclipse will start at 11:07 pm EDT on July 4 (8:37 am IST on July 5) and reach its peak at 12:29 am EDT on July 5 (9:59 am IST on July 5). It will last for 2 hours and 45 minutes after which the lunar eclipse will end at 1:52 am EDT on July 5 (11:22 am IST on July 5).

Who will be able to witness the lunar eclipse?

Unfortunately for people in India, the penumbral lunar eclipse may not be visible as it will take place in the day time. It will be difficult for Indians to witness the phenomenon. However, people in much of North America, South America, South/West Europe, much of Africa, Indian Ocean, Pacific, Antarctica, and Atlantic will be able to witness it.

How to watch the July 2020 lunar eclipse?

The penumbral lunar eclipse, and other such celestial events are often streamed on popular YouTube channels including Slooh and the website Virtual Telescope. If you live in one of the regions where this lunar eclipse will be visible, you should be able to watch it without any special equipment.

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Japanese Startup Creates ‘Connected’ Face Mask for Coronavirus New Normal

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As face coverings become the norm amid the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed an internet-connected ‘smart mask’ that can transmit messages and translate from Japanese into eight other languages.

The white plastic ‘c-mask’ fits over standard face masks and connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and tablet application that can transcribe speech into text messages, make calls, or amplify the mask wearer’s voice.

“We worked hard for years to develop a robot and we have used that technology to create a product that responds to how the coronavirus has reshaped society,” said Taisuke Ono, the chief executive of Donut Robotics.

Donut Robotics’ engineers came up with the idea for the mask as they searched for a product to help the company survive the pandemic. When the coronavirus struck, it had just secured a contract to supply robot guides and translators to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, a product that faces an uncertain future after the collapse of air travel.

Donut Robotics’ first 5,000 c-masks will be shipped to buyers in Japan starting in September, with Ono looking to sell in China, the United States and Europe too. There has been strong interest, he said.

At about $40 (roughly Rs. 3,000) per mask, Donut Robotics is aiming at a mass market that did not exist until a few months ago. One aim, he said, is to generate revenue from subscriber services offered via an app that users will download.

Donut Robotics built a prototype connected mask within a month by adapting translation software developed for its robot and a mask design that one of the company’s engineers, Shunsuke Fujibayashi, created four years ago for a student project to interpret speech by mapping face muscles.

Ono raised JPY 28 million (roughly Rs. 1.98 crores) for development by selling Donut Robotics shares through Japanese crowdfunding site Fundinno.

“We raised our initial target of 7 million yen within three minutes and stopped after 37 minutes when we had reached 28 million yen,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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