Record-breaking NASA astronaut coming back to Earth

In this Jan. 6, 2017 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Peggy Whitson works during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. (AP)
Updated 03 September 2017
0

Record-breaking NASA astronaut coming back to Earth

WASHINGTON: A record-shattering NASA astronaut is set to return to Earth on Saturday, finishing a 288-day mission that put her over the top as the American who has spent the most cumulative amount of time in space.
Peggy Whitson, 57, is also the oldest female astronaut in the history of space exploration, was the first female International Space Station commander, and holds the record for number of spacewalks by a woman.
The biochemist is completing a mission at the International Space Station that began in November 2016, covering 122.2 million miles (196.7 million kilometers) and 4,623 orbits of Earth.
She and crewmates Jack Fischer of NASA and Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russian space agency Roscosmos were expected to land in Kazakhstan at 9:22 p.m. (0122 GMT Sunday) in a Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft.
Upon her return, Whitson will have racked up 665 days in space in her career, more than any other American astronaut. She is eighth on the all-time space endurance list, NASA said.
After earning a doctorate in biochemistry in 1985, Whitson worked as a NASA scientist for seven years before starting as an astronaut in 1997.
On this most recent mission, Whitson conducted experiments with human stem cells, blood samples and grew several crops of Chinese cabbage, according to posts on her Facebook page.
“The best part, was that after we harvested for the science, we got to eat the rest!” she said of her greens.
In an interview before departing the space station, Whitson said she was looking forward to flush toilets (“Trust me, you don’t want to know the details“) and pizza.
But, “I will miss seeing the enchantingly peaceful limb of our Earth from this vantage point. Until the end of my days, my eyes will search the horizon to see that curve,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview posted on the NASA website.
She noted that she’s not totally comfortable with the attention she receives for her various records and her status as a role model.
“I honestly do think that it is critical that we are continuously breaking records, because that represents us moving forward in exploration,” Whitson said.
The scientist also has a silly side. To celebrate the July Fourth holiday, she posted photos and a video of herself and Fischer wearing loud red, white and blue outfits, striking poses in zero gravity.
“I am not sure what the future holds for me personally, but I envision myself continuing to work on spaceflight programs. My desire to contribute to the spaceflight team as we move forward in our exploration of space has only increased over the years,” she said of her plans.
The astronauts’ return comes as the Texas city of Houston, home to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has been struggling to get back to normalcy after a week of deadly flooding triggered by Hurricane Harvey.
“As a result of the impacts of Hurricane Harvey, NASA is reviewing return plans to Houston of Whitson, Fischer and the science samples landing in the Soyuz spacecraft,” the space agency said.


Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead. (AP)
Updated 26 min 12 sec ago
0

Cambodia genocide verdict a signal to other perpetrators: US

  • A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday
  • Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities: US State Department

PHNOM PENH: The US has welcomed Cambodia’s landmark genocide verdict and said it served as a warning that perpetrators of mass atrocities, “even those at the highest levels,” will eventually face justice for their crimes.
A war crimes tribunal in Cambodia found the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, and “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, 92, guilty of genocide on Friday and sentenced them to life in prison.
The historic verdict comes nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge were expelled from Cambodia following a four-year reign of terror that left about a quarter of the population dead from starvation, mass executions, and overwork.
“Their crimes were numerous, calculated, and grave,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said, commending the courage of the victims and witnesses who testified during the trial.
“Let this be a message to other perpetrators of mass atrocities, even those at the highest levels, including former heads of state, that such actions will not be tolerated and they will ultimately be brought to justice,” she said in a statement.
Cambodia’s neighbor Myanmar has come under fire in recent months for its handling of the Rohingya crisis, which United Nations investigators believe amounts to “genocide” given the atrocities perpetrated on the stateless Muslim minority.
Myanmar has denied the allegations but UN investigators have urged that the case be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.
Despite the show of support for war crimes prosecution, the US is one of the few Western countries that is not signed up to the ICC, which has a mandate to investigate the gravest offenses including genocide and crimes against humanity.
The country’s refusal to be party to the body erupted again following an ICC request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and threatened to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the court if it moved to charge any American.