NASA’s Orion spaceship slingshots around Moon, heads for home

NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 06 December 2022

NASA’s Orion spaceship slingshots around Moon, heads for home

NASA's Orion spacecraft beamed back close-up photos of the moon and Earth on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022. (AP)
  • The European Service Module, which powers the capsule, fired its main engine for over three minutes to put the gumdrop-shaped Orion on course for home

WASHINGTON: NASA’s Orion spaceship made a close pass of the Moon and used a gravity assist to whip itself back toward Earth on Monday, marking the start of the return journey for the Artemis-1 mission.
At its nearest point, the uncrewed capsule flew less than 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the surface, testing maneuvers that will be used during later Artemis missions that return humans to the rocky celestial body.
Communication with the capsule was interrupted for 30 minutes when it was behind the far side of the Moon — an area more cratered than the near side and first seen by humans during the Apollo era, although they didn’t land there.
The European Service Module, which powers the capsule, fired its main engine for over three minutes to put the gumdrop-shaped Orion on course for home.
“We couldn’t be more pleased about how the spacecraft is performing,” Debbie Korth, Orion Program deputy manager, said later.
As spectacular footage flashed on their screens once communication was restored, she told a news conference, “everybody in the room, we just kind of had to stop and pause, and just really look — Wow, we’re saying goodbye to the moon.”
Monday’s was the last major maneuver of the mission, which began when NASA’s mega Moon rocket SLS blasted off from Florida on November 16. From start to finish, the journey should last 25 and a half days.
Orion will now make only slight course corrections until it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on Sunday, December 11 at 9:40 am local time (1740 GMT). It will then be recovered and hoisted aboard a US Navy ship.
Earlier in the mission, Orion spent about six days in “distant retrograde orbit” around the Moon, meaning at high altitude and traveling opposite the direction the Moon revolves around Earth.
A week ago, Orion broke the distance record for a habitable capsule, venturing 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) from our planet.
Once it returns to Earth, Orion will have traveled more than 1.4 million miles, said Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager.
Re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere will present a harsh test for the spacecraft’s heat shield, which will need to withstand temperatures of around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,800degrees Celsius) — or about half the surface of the Sun.
Under the Artemis program — named for the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — the United States is seeking to build a lasting presence on the Moon in preparation for an onward voyage to Mars.
Artemis 2 will involve a crewed journey to the Moon, once again without landing.
The first woman and next man are to land on the lunar south pole during Artemis 3, which is set for no sooner than 2025, though likely significantly later given timeline delays.

 


Iran’s ambassador to Madrid avoids shaking hands with Queen Letizia of Spain

Iran’s ambassador to Madrid avoids shaking hands with Queen Letizia of Spain
Updated 26 January 2023

Iran’s ambassador to Madrid avoids shaking hands with Queen Letizia of Spain

Iran’s ambassador to Madrid avoids shaking hands with Queen Letizia of Spain
  • Instead, Ghashghavi placed his hand on his chest and bowed slightly

LONDON: Iranian Ambassador to Spain Hassan Ghashghavi refrained from shaking hands with Queen Letizia during a reception on Wednesday for Madrid’s diplomatic corps at Zarzuela Palace.

In footage shared on Twitter, Ghashghavi shook hands with King Felipe VI but not Queen Letizia, who was standing beside him.

Royal fans, according to The Daily Mail, believe the Iranian ambassador’s gesture to be “disrespectful” and “awkward.”

Social media commentators, however, highlighted that his placing his right hand on his chest and slightly bowing to the queen instead showed he was following Iranian customs.

Others speculated that the queen’s lack of movement toward the Iranian diplomat suggested that she had been advised by her staff about her guest’s protocol.

In several Islamic cultures, physical contact with the opposite sex, including handshakes, is often discouraged or even prohibited.


US to test nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2027

US to test nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2027
Updated 25 January 2023

US to test nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2027

US to test nuclear-powered spacecraft by 2027
  • A trip to Mars from Earth using the technology could take roughly four months instead of some nine months with a conventional, chemically powered engine, engineers say

WASHINGTON: The United States plans to test a spacecraft engine powered by nuclear fission by 2027 as part of a long-term NASA effort to demonstrate more efficient methods of propelling astronauts to Mars in the future, the space agency’s chief said on Tuesday.
NASA will partner with the US military’s research and development agency, DARPA, to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion engine and launch it to space “as soon as 2027,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said during a conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
The US space agency has studied for decades the concept of nuclear thermal propulsion, which introduces heat from a nuclear fission reactor to a hydrogen propellant in order to provide a thrust believed to be far more efficient than traditional chemical-based rocket engines.
NASA officials view nuclear thermal propulsion as crucial for sending humans beyond the moon and deeper into space. A trip to Mars from Earth using the technology could take roughly four months instead of some nine months with a conventional, chemically powered engine, engineers say.
That would substantially reduce the time astronauts would be exposed to deep-space radiation and would also require fewer supplies, such as food and other cargo, during a trip to Mars.
“If we have swifter trips for humans, they are safer trips,” NASA deputy administrator and former astronaut Pam Melroy said Tuesday.
The planned 2027 demonstration, part of an existing DARPA research program that NASA is now joining, could also inform the ambitions of the US Space Force, which has envisioned deploying nuclear reactor-powered spacecraft capable of moving other satellites orbiting near the moon, DARPA and NASA officials said.
DARPA in 2021 awarded funds to General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin to study designs of nuclear reactors and spacecraft. By around March, the agency will pick a company to build the nuclear spacecraft for the 2027 demonstration, the program’s manager Tabitha Dodson said in an interview.
The joint NASA-DARPA effort’s budget is $110 million for fiscal year 2023 and is expected to be hundreds of millions of dollars more through 2027.

 


New Zealand's next PM known for his candour, diet, and poor dress sense

New Zealand's next PM known for his candour, diet, and poor dress sense
Updated 25 January 2023

New Zealand's next PM known for his candour, diet, and poor dress sense

New Zealand's next PM known for his candour, diet, and poor dress sense
  • He was arrested and strip-searched in the late 1990s while protesting proposed reforms to university education

WELLINGTON: New Zealand's next prime minister does not draw adoring crowds like his predecessor Jacinda Ardern, but is well known throughout the country for his political nous, poor dress sense and a love of diet Coke.
Chris Hipkins, 44, was on Wednesday morning officially sworn in to replace Ardern, his friend of more than 20 years, who resigned because she no longer had "enough in the tank".
The straight-talking Hipkins was the architect of New Zealand's Covid-19 response, and is widely seen as a personable politician with a safe pair of hands.
"Hopefully New Zealanders know me as someone who is upfront, doesn't mind admitting when they've made a mistake and can laugh at themselves," he told reporters after being touted for the role last week.
Hipkins has somewhat mellowed since his early days as a firebrand of student politics.
He was arrested and strip-searched in the late 1990s while protesting proposed reforms to university education.
Political commentator Josie Pagani has described Hipkins, with more than 14 years in opposition and government, as "sensible, likeable, tough and capable".
He will now be tasked with turning around the sagging popularity of Ardern's Labour government, which has been hampered by a looming recession and a resurgent conservative opposition.
Hipkins won plaudits for his near two-year term as the Covid response minister in a country that shut its borders to keep the coronavirus out, only fully reopening to the outside world in August last year.
Hailing from the working class Hutt Valley in New Zealand's North Island, Hipkins has held high-profile portfolios including police and education.
"I think I am relatively upfront, I'm relatively inclusive. People won't die wondering what I think," he has said.
"My parents came from relatively humble beginnings and worked really hard to provide a good life for my brother and I."
His diet has drawn the attention of his colleagues, with a former boss once remarking that Hipkins "appears to eat nothing more than sausage rolls and diet Coke".
Justice Minister Kiri Allan, one of Labour's senior Maori MPs, who had been considered a potential prime minister herself, has described Hipkins as decisive and an "incredibly strong" leader.
"He is extremely competent, with a track record of delivering for New Zealand as one of our most senior ministers over the past six years," she said.
Hipkins told journalists he liked cycling, gardening, DIY work and being outdoors, but conceded: "Maybe I don't have the best fashion sense in parliament."
Asked whether having a red-haired prime minister would be a historic moment for the country, he said: "I think it was about time we had a ginger at the top."
The incoming New Zealand leader studied politics and criminology at Victoria University in the capital Wellington and then worked in the industry training sector.
Before becoming an MP in 2008, he worked as a senior adviser to two education ministers and former prime minister Helen Clark.
Although known as a personable and laid-back operator, Hipkins is also capable of playing hard-nosed politics -- and was involved in some high-profile spats with Australia's former conservative government.
In 2021, he accused Australia of "exporting its garbage" to New Zealand -- a reference to Canberra's controversial policy of deporting criminals back to their country of birth.
Hipkins was admonished by Ardern in 2017 after he was accused of orchestrating the resignation of Australia's then-deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce.
Information released to Hipkins showed Joyce was a dual citizen of both Australia and New Zealand -- which disqualified him from sitting in parliament under Australia's constitution.

 


US venture capital firm launches Riyadh-based accelerator program

US venture capital firm launches Riyadh-based accelerator program
Updated 24 January 2023

US venture capital firm launches Riyadh-based accelerator program

US venture capital firm launches Riyadh-based accelerator program
  • Program focuses on startups in MENA that are growing their businesses

RIYADH: Techstars, a US venture capital firm, announced a new partnership to continue the Techstars Riyadh Accelerator in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Raed Ventures and the National Bank of Saudi Arabia. 

The accelerator focuses on startups in the Middle East and North Africa that are establishing and growing their businesses, with the goal of paving the way for future innovation in the region’s digital economy. 

“I am very excited about the growth of the startup ecosystem in the Kingdom, and between the Kingdom’s investment in entrepreneurship and its pivotal location, Riyadh can attract global emerging talent to the entire region,” Techstars CEO Maëlle Gavet said. 

“The best entrepreneurs can influence the world no matter where they are, and part of what we do at Techstars is help them connect their innovations to the rest of the world,” Gavet added.

Abdullah Al-Shamrani, director of digital entrepreneurship at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, emphasized the importance of technological and innovative entrepreneurship in achieving Vision 2030. 

The accelerator is accepting applications for a 13-week program from June to September 2023. Funding and fundraising opportunities, as well as curated workshops and resources, will be available to each company. Participants will also benefit from a network of mentors from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the National Bank of Saudi Arabia and Raed Ventures.

 


16th Al-Dhafra Festival starts Sunday

16th Al-Dhafra Festival starts Sunday
Updated 21 January 2023

16th Al-Dhafra Festival starts Sunday

16th Al-Dhafra Festival starts Sunday
  • Festival continues until Feb. 2 as part of Abu Dhabi’s camel beauty contest season
  • Organizing committee chairman hails UAE leadership’s support for heritage preservation projects

AL-DHAFRA, UAE: Competitions and activities of the 16th Al-Dhafra Festival begin on Sunday as part of Abu Dhabi’s camel beauty contest season.
The festival, held under the patronage of UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, will continue until Feb. 2 in Madinat Zayed, the Emirates News Agency reported on Saturday.
Organized by the Abu Dhabi Cultural Programs and Heritage Festival committee, with strategic partner ADNOC, the festival aims to preserve and develop heritage activities, and enable camel owners to continue the tradition of breeding and caring for camels.
The festival also highlights the camel’s role in Emirati and Gulf culture.
Faris Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, the committee chairman, hailed the UAE leadership’s support for heritage preservation projects and festivals.
He also praised the leadership’s support for falconry competitions, and purebred Arabian horse and heritage competitions, which make the capital a unique role model in the field of organizing heritage festivals.
Al-Mazrouei said that since its first edition in 2008, the festival has been a key pillar in preserving Emirati heritage and traditions for generations to come.