Space capsule with 2 astronauts returns to Earth

Members of the International Space Station crew, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, left, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, rest after landing in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo via AP)
Updated 02 June 2017
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Space capsule with 2 astronauts returns to Earth

MOSCOW: A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying two astronauts to Earth after a half-year aboard the International Space Station has landed.
The capsule with Russia’s Oleg Novitsky and Thomas Pesquet of France descended under a red-and-white parachute and landed on schedule at 8:10 p.m. (1410 GMT) Friday on the steppes of Kazakhstan outside the city of Dzhezkazgan, about 2,200 kilometers (1,370 miles) southeast of Moscow.
Both were extracted from the capsule, which came to rest on its side, within 15 minutes and appeared to be in good condition.
Although Soyuz capsules have three seats, one was unoccupied because NASA’s Peggy Whitson’s mission aboard the space station has been extended by three months.
Pesquet and Novitsky spent 194 days aboard the orbiting space laboratory.
Pesquet, who reinvigorated France’s interest in space with breathtaking tweeted photos and online chats from the cosmos, returned to a presidential welcome.
French President Emmanuel Macron talked to the astronaut by video transmission after he landed Friday and praised Pesquet for sharing his experience so openly.
“You made us all dream during those six months with your images, your tweets,” Macron told him.
Pesquet responded, “it gave me pleasure to share.”
Macron, who had just launched his presidential campaign when Pesquet blasted off in November, noted that “since you left, a lot of things have happened ....”


Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

Afghan children fill canisters with water from a water pump outside their temporary homes on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Files/AFP
Updated 27 May 2018
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Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

  • Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought
  • More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces

KABUL: Rain and snow are as important as peace for Afghanistan. But the landlocked and mountainous country this year had its lowest rainfall for years, causing widespread drought and leaving 2 million people facing food shortages.
Livestock in many areas have died, and some farmers have been forced to send their herds for pasture to neighboring Turkmenistan.
Thousands of people have left their homes already due to water shortages, with fears that the situation will worsen in autumn, Afghan and UN officials say.
Twenty of the country’s 34 provinces, including the northern region — Afghanistan’s food basket — have been badly affected, they said.
The aid-reliant Afghan government has begun delivering aid to affected areas. But assistance will be needed for months to come. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said rapid action was needed to enable delivery of food and water. More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces, it said.
“Drought is gripping large parts of Afghanistan, with more than 2 million people expected to become severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance for survival,” OCHA said.
“A quick, comprehensive response will enable the delivery of food and water to the rural villages and help to avoid the migration of families to cities where they risk losing all of their few possessions, and where they lack shelter and access to health facilities and schools for their children,” it said.
Water points and fountains across the country have dried up, and the lack of rain and snow melt has made rivers run low or dry up, the organization said.
About 1.5 million goats and sheep in northeast regions are struggling to find food and more than half of the 1,000 villages in the province are suffering from lack of water.
Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought, limiting communities’ access to markets.
In Helmand, village elders reportedly need to obtain special approval from the armed groups to access markets in areas under government control.
In Uruzgan province, people often cannot access the main market in Tirinkot due to fighting and insecurity on the roads to the provincial capital. Following a temporary closure of the road to neighboring Kandahar province in April due to fighting, wheat prices went up by 50 percent in the city, and the price for fresh produce quadrupled within days.
Engineer Mohammed Sediq Hassani, chief of planning in the government’s Disaster Management Department, said the drought has directly and indirectly taken the lives of dozens of people.

“The impact of drought in terms of taking lives is intangible and slow. An indirect impact can be the recent floods, which claimed the lives of 73 people. Floods happen when there is a drought because of the change of the climate,” he told Arab News.