NASA plans to send equipment to Moon from 2020
Washington: For the first time since the 1970s, the United States is planning to send equipment to the surface of the Moon in 2020 and 2021, in anticipation of a crewed lunar mission in 2024, NASA has said.
The US space agency has chosen American firms Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond to send instruments and other scientific equipment to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. The administration of President Donald Trump has accelerated the timetable for putting humans back on the Moon with 2024 the new target date – moved up by four years.
Each company has developed lunar landers of different sizes and shapes: one is tall, and the other two are more compact.
The landers will deliver up to 23 small payloads of equipment provided by NASA. That should include material that will gather information to help astronauts later on to land, navigate and protect themselves from radiation.
Orbit Beyond will land in Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in a lunar crater, by September 2020, after being launched by one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. Intuitive Machines will try to land by July 2021 in Oceanus Procellarum, a dark spot on the Moon visible from Earth. SpaceX will also facilitate that launch.
Astrobotic, which is based in Pittsburgh, will target Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. It has yet to choose a delivery rocket. NASA awarded the companies USD 77-97 million each for development of their landers.
“Next year, our initial science and technology research will be on the lunar surface, which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in five years,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on Friday. “Investing in these commercial landing services also is another strong step to build a commercial space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.” The United States last sent a crewed mission to the Moon in 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission.
NASA regularly sent lunar probes into orbit, but it only has two active missions today: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the ARTEMIS probes. China has meanwhile landed twice on the Moon in recent years: in 2013, and in January on the far side. The Change 4 probe and its motorized robot Yutu-2 are the only probes active on the surface right now.
NASA’s rover spots clay on Red Planet
Washington: Drilling by Curiosity Mars rover at a region of the Red Planet called the “clay-bearing unit” has revealed the highest amounts of clay minerals ever found during the mission, NASA has said. The rover recently drilled two samples at rock targets called “Aberlady” and “Kilmarie”, the US space agency revealed on Wednesday.
Clay often forms in water, which is essential for life. Other than proof that there was a significant amount of water once, what these new findings mean for the region is still up for debate. It is likely that the rocks in the area formed as layers of mud in ancient lakes — something Curiosity also found lower on Mount Sharp mountain on Mars. Water interacted with sediment over time, leaving an abundance of clay in the rocks there, NASA said. This clay-enriched region is located on the side of lower Mount Sharp. The rover’s mineralogy instrument, called CheMin (Chemistry and Mineralogy), provided the first analyses of rock samples drilled in the clay-bearing unit, NASA said.
Diamonds were born deep in the sea?
As per a study, traces of salt trapped inside stones show that most of the gems were formed from ancient seabeds
Sydney: Diamonds are mostly formed from ancient seabeds that became buried deep beneath the Earth’s crust, says a study that found traces of salt trapped in many of the stones. Most diamonds found at the Earth’s surface are formed this way, while others are created by crystallisation of melts deep in the mantle, said the study published in the
journal Science Advances.
In experiments recreating the extreme pressures and temperatures found 200 kilometres underground, researchers have demonstrated that seawater in sediment from the bottom of the ocean reacts in the right way to produce the balance of salts found in diamonds. The study settles a long-standing question about the formation of diamonds.
“There was a theory that the salts trapped inside diamonds came from marine seawater, but couldn’t be tested,” said lead author Michael Forster from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.
“Our research showed that they came from marine sediment.” Diamonds are crystals of carbon that form beneath the Earth’s crust in very old parts of the mantle. They are brought to the surface in volcanic eruptions of a special kind of magma called kimberlite.
While gem diamonds are usually made of pure carbon, so-called fibrous diamonds, which are cloudy and less appealing to jewellers, often include small traces of sodium, potassium and other minerals that reveal information about the environment where they formed. These fibrous diamonds are commonly ground down and used in technical applications like drill bits.
Fibrous diamonds grow more quickly than gem diamonds, which means they trap tiny samples of fluids around them while they form. “We knew that some sort of salty fluid must be around while the diamonds are growing, and now we have confirmed that marine sediment fits the bill,” Forster said. “We demonstrated that the processes that lead to diamond growth are driven by the recycling of oceanic sediments in subduction zones,” Forster added.
Kabul: Car blast kills 4, injures many including US servicemen
Kabul: At least four people lost their lives while three were wounded after a car blast rattled Kabul’s district nine areas on Friday morning, according to Ministry of Interior spokesperson, Nasrat Rahimi. The explosion, which took place near the Pul-e-Charkhi road, targetted a foreign forces convoy, TOLOnews reported.
The US-Forces Afghanistan confirmed that four US service members were wounded in the explosion in Kabul’s Qala-e-Wazir area. Rahimi said that the blast took place in the Qala-e-Wazir area in PD9 at 8:30 am on Friday. The latest incident comes shortly after an explosion near the military academy in west Kabul that claimed the lives of six people. No group has taken responsibility for Friday’s explosion yet.
August 22 to be celebrated in honour of victims of religious violence: UN
The UN General Assembly has declared August 22 as the International Day for Victims of Religious Violence to combat hate crimes and persecution on the basis of beliefs. Recalling the wave of attacks that targeted a mosque in New Zealand, and churches in Sri Lanka during Easter Sunday services, Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, who introduced the resolution on Tuesday, said that the international day will honour the victims and survivors of religious violence who are often forgotten.
“We hope that it will help combat hate crimes and acts of violence related to religion or belief, and will further strengthen inter-religious dialogue,” he said. The resolution is not focused on victims of any particular religion or belief and seeks to raise respect for religious diversity, Czaputowicz said. Pakistan, along with the US, was one of the nine sponsors of the resolution. During the discussion of the resolution, the US and China clashed over Washington’s criticism of Beijing’s treatment of its Muslim minority.
The Acting US Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council, Austin Smith, said that in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region “more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have been arbitrarily detained in camps since April 2017. There are disturbing reports of forced labour, torture, and deaths in these camps.
“Chinese authorities are restricting religious freedom by labelling peaceful religious practices as manifestations of ‘religious extremism and terrorism’,” he added. He asked UN members to ask China to close its camps and respect the rights of Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Falun Gong practitioners.
China’s delegate called the US allegations unfounded and said that what were described as camps were, in fact, vocational and educational training centres to help minorities learn skills that can help them fight poverty. He, in turn, hurled a counter-accusation against the US asserting that at the recent Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues many speakers had accused the US government of killing its own indigenous peoples, extinguishing their languages and oppressing their voices.
Iran ready to talk to Gulf countries amid tension with US
Tehran: Iran is ready to engage in a dialogue with the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to address the issue of escalating tensions with the United States in the Arabian Gulf, authorities said on Tuesday.
The remarks by Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister came on his visit to Qatar where he met foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha.
Qatar’s foreign ministry, in a statement cited by Al Jazeera, said both sides “expressed their concern about escalations and problems in the region.” Tensions have risen between Iran, on one side, along with the US and its Gulf allies, on the other. Washington, earlier this month, deployed a carrier strike group and bombers in the Arabian Gulf and announced plans to deploy additional 1,500 troops to the region, prompting fears of a conflict.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in the UAE on Tuesday before talks scheduled for Wednesday. “Just landed in the UAE. Looking forward to meeting with our Emirati allies tomorrow to discuss important and timely regional security matters,” Bolton tweeted.
A war of words between Iran and the US escalated after Tehran-backed Houthis of Yemen launched armed drone attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region this month. Washington blamed the attacks on Iran, which, however, denied the accusations.
Last week, Bolton said that the US had “deep and serious” intelligence on threats posed by Iran, but did not provide details. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier hit out at the US after Trump said Washington was not looking for regime change in Iran but was only interested in preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Pakistan seeks help from WHO to investigate HIV outbreak
Karachi: The Pakistan government has sought the help of the World Health organisation (WHO) to probe the recent outbreak of HIV in the country’s Sindh province, that has till now affected over 600 people, mostly children, according to a media report.
Till now 681 HIV positive cases have been identified among the 21,375 tested in Ratodero town of Larkana district in the north-west part of the province. Out of the affected 537 are between the ages of 2 to 15. Health officials have attributed the cause to the use of unsanitary equipment, unsafe blood transfusion and rampant malpractice often at the hands of quacks.
“We are expecting a 10-member rapid response team from the WHO and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to arrive in a few days and we will be able to know the exact reason for the outbreak of the disease in Ratodero,” Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services, was quoted as saying by the Dawn.
The CDC is a leading public health institute in the US and works with several public health institutions in Pakistan. “We have a hypothesis that they became infected with HIV either through unscreened blood transfusions or usage of infected syringes as they are usually re-packed and re-used in unhygienic conditions. Third reason could be the lack of infection prevention and control and unprotected sex,” he said.
Police last month arrested a doctor for allegedly transferring the virus to his patients. 17 quacks in the district were also held and their clinics sealed earlier this month. Mirza said they have ordered 50,000 more HIV test kits to screen all possible patients and three more HIV treatment centres being planned in Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah and Hyderabad in the province.
He said that the number of reported HIV cases in Pakistan was much lower than the actual number of cases.
According to estimates, 163,000 people were infected with HIV in the country but only 25,000 were registered with state-run HIV programmes and out of that, only about 16,000 came regularly for treatment and medicines. He recalled that there had been HIV outbreaks in the country in the past, including in Sindh in 2016 and in Punjab in 2008.
“Our problem here is that HIV is seen as a big stigma. We need to deal with it with frankness,” Mirza said. According to a UN report, Pakistan now has the second-fastest growing rate of HIV in Asia, with about 20,000 new infections in 2017 alone.
Mount Everest death toll increases to 11
Kathmandu: Another mountaineer has died after summiting Mount Everest, bringing the death toll for the 2019 climbing season to 11 people, a Nepal government official confirmed on Tuesday. American lawyer Christopher John Kulish, 62, died on Monday after reaching the top of Everest on the Nepalese side of the mountain in the morning, Meera Acharya, the Director of Nepal’s Tourism Department told CNN.
While descending, he was strong and safely reached the South Col (situated at an altitude of 25,918 feet) late Monday evening before he suddenly died, she said. In a statement, the family of the Colorado man said they were “heartbroken” at the news.
“He saw his last sunrise from the highest peak on Earth. At that instant, he became a member of the ‘7 Summit Club’ having scaled the highest peak on each continent,” the statement added. Also on Monday, an Austrian family confirmed the death of one of their relatives. Sixty-four-year-old Ernst Landgraf died on May 23, hours after fulfilling his dream of scaling Everest.
Mountaineers have suggested difficult weather conditions, a lack of experience and the growing commercialization of expeditions as contributing factors to the backlog. British climber Robin Haynes Fisher was one of those who had warned of the dangers of overcrowding, before he died from what appeared to be altitude sickness at 28,215 feet, while returning from the summit on May 25.
During the week beginning May 20, crowds of climbers became stuck in a queue to the summit, above the mountain’s highest camp at 26,247 feet. The summit of Mount Everest is 29,029 feet high, CNN reported. Most people can only spend a matter of minutes at the summit without extra oxygen supplies, and the area where mountaineers have been delayed is known to many as the “death zone”.
The other people who died are Nepali climbing guide Dhruba Bista who fell ill on the mountain and was transported by helicopter to the base camp, where he passed away on May 24. Irish climber Kevin Hynes, 56, died in the morning of May 24 on the Tibetan side of Everest in his tent at 22,966 feet.
Two died on May 22 after descending from the summit: Indian climber Anjali Kulkarni, 55, and American climber Donald Lynn Cash, 55. Kalpana Das, 49, and Nihal Bagwan, 27, both from India, also died on Everest on May 23 on their return from the summit. Ravi, a 28-year-old Indian climber, died on May 17.
Last week, a search for Irish climber Seamus Lawless, 39, was called off, after the Trinity College Dublin professor fell while descending from the peak. Lawless is missing, presumed dead. More than 200 mountaineers have died on the peak since 1922, when the first climbers’ deaths on Everest were recorded. The majority of bodies are believed to have remained buried under glaciers or snow.
Two elusive giant exoplanets found
Los Angeles: Scientists have discovered two Jupiter-sized exoplanets about 150 light years away from Earth which could reveal whether life is possible on the smaller planets in other solar systems. “We believe planets like Jupiter have profoundly impacted the progression of life on Earth. Without them, humans might not be here to have this conversation,” said Stephen Kane, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside in the US.
“Understanding how many other stars have planets like Jupiter could be very important for learning about the habitability of planets in those systems,” said Kane. Along with liquid water oceans, Kane said astronomers believe such planets have the ability to act as ‘lingshots,’ pulling objects like meteors, comets, and asteroids out of their trajectories en route to impact with small, rocky planets.
Many larger planets have been found close to their stars. However, those aren’t as useful for learning about the architecture of our own solar system, where the giant planets including Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all farther from the Sun. The larger exoplanets also take many years to circle their stars, which means observing a complete orbit could engulf an astronomer’s entire
career. In addition to the two being orbited by giant Jupiter-like planets that had not been previously discovered, the team also detected a third, previously observed star with a giant planet in its system. “This discovery is an important piece of the puzzle because it helps us understand the factors that make a planet habitable and whether that’s common or not,” said Kane.
Japan: At least 2 dead, 17 injured after man attacks school children with knife in Kawasaki
Tokyo: At least 16 people, including eight primary school children, suffered injuries in a suspected stabbing attack in the Japanese city of Kawasaki on early Tuesday, state media said.
According to Japan’s national broadcaster NHK, authorities confirmed that two children and an adult were without vital signs after the incident took place near Noborito train station. A male suspect, likely in his 40s to 50s, reportedly began slashing at people waiting at the station and was badly hurt after stabbing himself in the shoulder. He was detained on the spot by the police later.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Tokyo, said that the attack took place at a time when the station was very busy with commuters. Footage broadcast on local television channels showed that emergency medical tents were put up to treat the wounded.