Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
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This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander with the Earth in the background on Feb. 16, 2024. The image was captured shortly after separation from SpaceX's second stage on Intuitive Machines' first journey to the moon. (Intuitive Machines via AP)
Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
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This image provided by Intuitive Machines shows its Odysseus lunar lander over the near side of the moon following lunar orbit insertion on Feb. 21, 2024. (Intuitive Machines via AP)
Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
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Flight controllers monitor the progress of the moon landing at Intuitive Machines’ headquarters in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2024. (X: @Int_Machines)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt

Private US spacecraft enters orbit around the moon ahead of landing attempt
  • Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients
  • Controllers will lower the orbit from just under 92 km to 10 km on Thursday before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A private US lunar lander reached the moon and eased into a low orbit Wednesday, a day before it will attempt an even greater feat — landing on the gray, dusty surface.

A smooth touchdown would put the US back in business on the moon for the first time since NASA astronauts closed out the Apollo program in 1972. The company, if successful, also would become the first private outfit to ace a moon landing.
Launched last week, Intuitive Machines’ lander fired its engine on the back side of the moon while out of contact with Earth. Flight controllers at the company’s Houston headquarters had to wait until the spacecraft emerged to learn whether the lander was in orbit or hurtling aimlessly away.
Intuitive Machines confirmed its lander, nicknamed Odysseus, was circling the moon with experiments from NASA and other clients. The lander is part of a NASA program to kickstart the lunar economy; the space agency is paying $118 million to get its experiments on the moon on this mission.

On Thursday, controllers will lower the orbit from just under 60 miles (92 kilometers) to 6 miles (10 kilometers) — a crucial maneuver occurring again on the moon’s far side — before aiming for a touchdown near the moon’s south pole. It’s a dicey place to land with all the craters and cliffs, but deemed prime real estate for astronauts since the permanently shadowed craters are believed to hold frozen water.
The moon is littered with wreckage from failed landings. Some missions never even got that far. Another US company — Astrobotic Technology — tried to send a lander to the moon last month, but it didn’t get there because of a fuel leak. The crippled lander came crashing back through the atmosphere, burning up over the Pacific.




Flight controllers monitor the progress of the moon landing at Intuitive Machines’ headquarters in Houston, Texas, on Feb. 21, 2024. (X: @Int_Machines)

A rundown on the moon’s winners and losers:
First victories
The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 successfully touches down on the moon in 1966, after its predecessors crash or miss the moon altogether. The US follows four months later with Surveyor 1. Both countries achieve more robotic landings, as the race heats up to land men.
Apollo rules
NASA clinches the space race with the Soviets in 1969 with a moon landing by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Twelve astronauts explore the surface over six missions, before the program ends with Apollo 17 in 1972. Still the only country to send humans to the moon, the US hopes to return crews to the surface by the end of 2026 or so, a year after a lunar fly-around by astronauts.
China emerges
China, in 2013, becomes the third country to successfully land on the moon, delivering a rover named Yutu, Chinese for jade rabbit. China follows with the Yutu-2 rover in 2019, this time touching down on the moon’s unexplored far side — an impressive first. A sample return mission on the moon’s near side in 2020 yields nearly 4 pounds (1.7 kilograms) of lunar rocks and dirt. Another sample return mission should be launching soon, but this time to the far side. Seen as NASA’s biggest moon rival, China aims to put its astronauts on the moon by 2030.
Russia stumbles
In 2023, Russia tries for its first mooc landing in nearly a half-century, but the Luna 25 spacecraft smashes into the moon. The country’s previous lander — 1976’s Luna 24 — not only landed, but returned moon rocks to Earth.
India triumphs on take 2
After its first lander slams into the moon in 2019, India regroups and launches Chandrayaan-3 (Hindi for moon craft) in 2023. The craft successfully touches down, making India the fourth country to score a lunar landing. The win comes just four days after Russia’s crash-landing.
Japan lands sideways
Japan becomes the fifth country to land successfully on the moon, with its spacecraft touching down in January. The craft lands on the wrong side, compromising its ability to generate solar power, but manages to crank out pictures and science before falling silent when the long lunar night sets in.
Private tries

A privately funded lander from Israel, named Beresheet, Hebrew for “in the beginning,” crashes into the moon in 2019. A Japanese entrepreneur’s company, ispace, launches a lunar lander in 2023, but it, too, wrecks. Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh company, launches its lander in January, but a fuel leak prevents a landing and dooms the craft. Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines plan more moon deliveries.

 


Kodi, star of ‘Dog on Trial,’ takes home Cannes’ top dog prize

Kodi, star of ‘Dog on Trial,’ takes home Cannes’ top dog prize
Updated 24 May 2024
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Kodi, star of ‘Dog on Trial,’ takes home Cannes’ top dog prize

Kodi, star of ‘Dog on Trial,’ takes home Cannes’ top dog prize
  • The Griffon mix was praised for his “breathtaking” performance as Cosmos, a guide dog for a visually impaired man
  • Xin, the greyhound who made a star turn in Chinese director Guan Hu’s “Black Dog,” was awarded the Palm Dog’s Grand Jury Prize

CANNES, France: There was lots of tail-wagging and face-licking as Kodi, this year’s winner of the Palm Dog, the canine equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, went up to receive his red collar for the French comedy “Dog on Trial” on Friday.
The Griffon mix was praised for his “breathtaking” performance as Cosmos, a guide dog for a visually impaired man, who goes on trial over an attack, in a case whose outcome could mean death.
“This film is very significant because it not only explores the bond between humans and dogs but it takes a satirical, comedic but quite profound look at the way that we domesticate dogs and the way that we relate to dogs, and the way our justice system relates to dogs,” said critic and jury member Anna Smith.
Xin, the greyhound who made a star turn in Chinese director Guan Hu’s “Black Dog,” was awarded the Palm Dog’s Grand Jury Prize.
Xin was in Cannes to don the red collar for the film about an ex-convict tasked with ridding his town of stray dogs who befriends one of them.
The unofficial awards show, which was created in 2001, is now in its 24th edition.
Kodi succeeds last year’s winner, Messi from Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall,” who converted his star power into a French TV show in which he, through the voice of French humorist Raphael Mezrahi, interviews people at this year’s festival.
Other past winners include Brandy, a pit bull belonging to Brad Pitt’s character in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Tilda Swinton’s spaniels, who co-starred with her in a film directed by Joanna Hogg.


Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
Updated 24 May 2024
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Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images

Massive cradle of baby stars revealed in new space telescope images
  • The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday
  • Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: A massive cradle of baby stars has been observed in new detail by a European space telescope, adding to its celestial collection of images.

The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday.

They were taken following the telescope’s Florida launch last year as a warm-up act to its main job currently underway: surveying the so-called dark universe.

From its perch 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky.

The shape and size of all these galaxies can help scientists understand the mysterious dark energy and dark matter that make up most of the universe.

“Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the universe,” the space agency’s director general, Josef Aschbacher, said in a statement.

Among the newly released pictures is one of an enormous cradle of baby stars some 1,300 light-years away known as Messier 78. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. Euclid’s infrared camera peered through the dust enveloping the stellar nursery, revealing new regions of star formation, according to ESA.


Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says
Updated 23 May 2024
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Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says

Daily marijuana use outpaces daily drinking in the US, a new study says
  • In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers,
  • The number of daily users suggests that more people are at risk for developing problematic cannabis use or addiction, says researcher

For the first time, the number of Americans who use marijuana just about every day has surpassed the number who drink that often, a shift some 40 years in the making as recreational pot use became more mainstream and legal in nearly half of US states.

In 2022, an estimated 17.7 million people reported using marijuana daily or near-daily compared to 14.7 million daily or near-daily drinkers, according an analysis of national survey data. In 1992, when daily pot use hit a low point, less than 1 million people said they used marijuana nearly every day.
Alcohol is still more widely used, but 2022 was the first time this intensive level of marijuana use overtook daily and near-daily drinking, said the study’s author, Jonathan Caulkins, a cannabis policy researcher at Carnegie Mellon University.
“A good 40 percent of current cannabis users are using it daily or near daily, a pattern that is more associated with tobacco use than typical alcohol use,” Caulkins said.

Marijuana plants are displayed at a shop in San Francisco on March 20, 2023. (AP Photo/File)

The research, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, was published Wednesday in the journal Addiction. The survey is a highly regarded source of self-reported estimates of tobacco, alcohol and drug use in the United States.
From 1992 to 2022, the per capita rate of reporting daily or near-daily marijuana use increased 15-fold. Caulkins acknowledged in the study that people may be more willing to report marijuana use as public acceptance grows, which could boost the increase.
Most states now allow medical or recreational marijuana, though it remains illegal at the federal level. In November, Florida voters will decide on a constitutional amendment allowing recreational cannabis, and the federal government is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.
Research shows that high-frequency users are more likely to become addicted to marijuana, said Dr. David A. Gorelick, a psychiatry professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
The number of daily users suggests that more people are at risk for developing problematic cannabis use or addiction, Gorelick said.
“High frequency use also increases the risk of developing cannabis-associated psychosis,” a severe condition where a person loses touch with reality, he said.
 


Russian court fines man for hair dyed in colors of Ukrainian flag, OVD-Info says

Russian court fines man for hair dyed in colors of Ukrainian flag, OVD-Info says
Updated 21 May 2024
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Russian court fines man for hair dyed in colors of Ukrainian flag, OVD-Info says

Russian court fines man for hair dyed in colors of Ukrainian flag, OVD-Info says
  • Photographs of Stanislav Netesov posted online show the 25-year-old’s close-cropped hair colored bright blue, green and yellow
  • Netesov was found guilty of discrediting the armed forces on May 3, an online court notice shows, although it does not specify a fine

LONDON: A Russian man who had his hair dyed in some of the colors of the Ukrainian flag has been fined 30,000 roubles ($330) by a court for “discrediting” the Russian army, rights group OVD-Info reported on Monday.
Photographs of Stanislav Netesov posted online show the 25-year-old’s close-cropped hair colored bright blue, green and yellow. Blue and yellow are the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
More than 20,000 people have been detained for their anti-war stance since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with over 900 people charged with criminal offenses.
Netesov was found guilty of discrediting the armed forces on May 3, an online court notice shows, although it does not specify a fine.
In court, Netesov denied his hair color was meant as a statement of protest, saying that he does not support either Ukraine or the Russian army, independent news outlet Mediazona reported. He said he has dyed his hair bright colors for years.
Netesov could not be reached for comment.
The case against the Muscovite began in late April, when he was attacked by unknown people while returning home from work late at night.
The assailants stole his mobile phone and knocked out one of his teeth, Netesov told OVD-Info, which assists those targeted for opposing the war.
When he went to the police to file a report, officers noticed his hair and charged him under the “discrediting” statute, Mediazona reported.
“The aforementioned visual propaganda clearly expressed a negative attitude toward the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Mediazona cited the police report as saying.
Officers also gave Netesov a summons to report to a military enlistment office. He then revealed to them he was a transgender man, after which they canceled the summons, Mediazona said.


Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji

Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji
Updated 21 May 2024
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Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji

Swarmed with tourists, Japan town blocks off viral view of Mt. Fuji
  • The mass of visitors and their refusal to obey rules on littering and parking had become a nuisance and traffic hazard

FUJIKAWAGUCHIKO, Japan: Japan’s majestic Mt. Fuji was some 700,000 years in the making, but on one sultry May morning, it was gone.
At least on one side of a busy road, views of the 3,776-meter (12,388 foot) symbol of Japan and the Lawson convenience store beneath it have vanished, as officials finished a 20-meter by 2.5-meter barrier to obstruct a photo spot that had become viral among tourists.
For locals, the mass of visitors and their refusal to obey rules on littering and parking had become a nuisance and traffic hazard.
“I’m really happy that foreigners are coming to our town,” said Kikue Katsumata, 73, a lifelong resident of Fujikawaguchiko. “But when it comes to taking pictures from the Lawson, the road is a bit narrow and it can be dangerous when people dash across without using a crosswalk.”
March and April set all-time records for visitor arrivals, driven by pent-up demand after the pandemic and as the yen’s slide to a 34-year low made Japan an irresistible bargain. That’s been good news for the economy, with travelers spending a record 1.75 trillion yen ($11.2 billion) in the first three months of 2024, according to the tourist agency.
The drastic decision to block the view of Mt. Fuji symbolizes tensions across the country as Japan reckons with the consequences of its tourism boom. The western metropolis of Osaka and the hot spring resort town Hakone are among municipalities considering new tourism taxes to deal with deluge of visitors.
Cyril Malchand, a 45-year old visitor from France, found out about the fence online and made a special trip to be among the last to take in the view. He said he empathized with the locals.
“When I see that there could be problems with people crossing the road without watching cars, I don’t find it that bad that they’re setting up that fence,” he said.