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NASA Marks 20 Years Since Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – As part of its annual tribute to astronauts who died in space, NASA remembered and honored the 20th anniversary of the Columbia space shuttle disaster on Thursday.

More than 100 people gathered at Kennedy Space Center under a grey sky to remember not only Columbia’s crew of seven but also the 18 other astronauts killed in the line of duty. More than half of the names etched into the black granite of the Space Mirror Memorial result from NASA’s two shuttle accidents; the rest result from plane crashes.

The Columbia astronaut family members did not attend the morning ceremony. But local rabbi Zvi Konikov remembered that Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, asked him how to keep the Sabbath while in orbit for two weeks and seeing multiple sunsets daily.

“Ilan delivered a powerful message to us. We must pause and reflect on why we are here on Earth, no matter how fast we are moving or how important our work is, and that is what we are doing today. “We take a moment to remember all those brave souls,” Konikov said.

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NASA Ship Was Destroyed Feb. 2003

Columbia was destroyed during reentry on February 1, 2003, because a piece of foam from the fuel tank had broken off and pierced the left wing 16 days earlier when the ship was taking off. The shuttle broke up over Texas only 16 minutes before it was supposed to land in Florida.

Despite the concerns of others, NASA managers dismissed the impact during the flight. The shuttle Challenger was lost during liftoff on January 28, 1986, killing all seven people on board, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.

On January 27, 1967, three astronauts were killed when the Apollo 1 launch pad caught fire.

Because these three dates are so close, NASA dedicates the last Thursday of January to remembering its fallen astronauts. Flags were lowered to half-staff at space centers across the country, and ceremonies were held alongside spaceflight safety discussions.

Former shuttle commander Bob Cabana, an associate administrator at NASA, says that the loss of Columbia could have been prevented, just like other tragedies at NASA.

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Three Astronauts Killed

“Why do we have to keep repeating the same difficult lessons?” he asked. “I never want to have to go through Columbia again.”

Columbia’s previous crew included commander Rick Husband, pilot Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark, and Ramon.

As the ceremony ended, a ship’s bell rang for each of the 25 names read.

Bob and Diane Ka lander’s sailing trip from Jamestown, Rhode Island, to Florida’s Key West was cut short of honoring the shuttle crews. Their daughter and her boyfriend also came to Kennedy.

“People’s memories are fading,” Diane Kalander said. “There has been a de-emphasis on space because people say, ‘Let’s worry about problems on Earth rather than future problems.'” We need to think about the future.”

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SOURCE – (AP)

 

Celebrity

2024: Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

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Bridgit Mendler, known for appearing on Good Luck Charlie and other Disney productions, is venturing into new territory: space.

Disney has effectively launched the careers of major stars such as Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. However, one former child actor who starred on the network is pursuing a different venture: a space corporation.

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Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Bridgit, a 31-year-old singer and actor best known for her role as Teddy Duncan on the Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, announced this week on X (formerly Twitter) that she is venturing into uncharted territory by launching Northwood Space, a California-based satellite data startup.

Bridgit will lead the company as CEO, while her husband, Gryphon Cleverly, whom she married in 2019, will serve as chief technical officer. “Expect the unexpected!” she posted on X, reacting to a CNBC reporter who broke the story.

According to Ari Eisenstat, the space programme director for the upcoming Texas Eclipse Festival, Bridgit’s venture into science “is a great example of space moving from the domain of governments to becoming accessible to everyone”. Eisenstadt adds that we should all look to “younger generations to see diverse entrepreneurs create social, economic, and environmental impact in the space community”.

According to Bridgit’s post on X, investors have already provided $6.3 million (£4.9 million) in preliminary funding for the startup to create “a data highway between Earth and space.” Mendler said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s the fun part.”

While it may come as a surprise to her followers, Mendler has always had interests beyond performing. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016 and began working at the MIT Media Lab in 2017. She enrolled in the graduate programme in 2018 and will begin her doctorate in philosophy at MIT in 2020. The next year, Mendler enrolled at Harvard Law School.

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Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Then, Mendler told CNBC that the seed of the Northwood idea was planted while she was in New Hampshire during the COVID-19 lockdown. “While everyone else was preparing their sourdough starts, we created antennae from whatever we could find at Home Depot. For me, the ground side is important because it brings the effects of space closer to people. However, it wasn’t until she started working at the Federal Communications Commission in 2022 that she understood her new path: she told CNBC it was when she “completely fell in love with space law”.

Mendler’s big news has her admirers excited to follow up, and her X announcement currently has over 23,000 likes. Northwood Space, which plans to mass-produce massive terrestrial antennas that connect to satellites in space, says: “The one-lane rickety road for space data needs to adapt to a ten-lane highway routing continuous traffic across the globe.”And, as a woman in science who changed careers to pursue her ambition, Mendler is likely to inspire other women to make timely career changes.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Laurie Bardon Syphard, an environmental science educator, says she’s impressed by Mendler’s credentials and is already excited about her new business. “My gut is telling me that she is going to go really far with this career in science and technology,” she adds, adding that the young scientist’s Disney admirers would most certainly keep an eye on her, especially given space is “one of the areas that just is exciting and inspires people”.

Mendler’s followers appear to agree and have taken to X to celebrate her continuous success. One fan wrote, “She’s Barbie. Like 12 different careers. Singer/songwriter, actor, Harvard PhD in law, MIT PHD student, startup CEO.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

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SAN DIEGO — China is to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its traditional gesture of friendship with the United States after nearly all of the famed bears on loan to U.U.S.oos were returned as relations between the two countries worsened.

San Diego Zoo officials told The Associated Press that if all licences and other criteria are fulfilled, two male and female bears should arrive by the end of the summer, about five years after the zoo’s last pandas were transferred back to China.

“We’re very excited and hopeful,” said Megan Owen, VP of Wildlife Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “They’ve expressed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to re-initiate panda cooperation starting with the San Diego Zoo.”

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China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The China Wildlife Conservation Association announced Thursday that it has signed cooperation agreements with zoos in Madrid, Washington, D.D.C., and Vienna.

According to the organisation, the relationship will encompass illness prevention and habitat protection research, as well as contributions to the creation of China’s national panda park.

“We look forward to further expanding the research outcomes on the conservation of endangered species such as giant pandas, as well as promoting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples through the new round of international cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated in Beijing.

Fears over the future of so-called panda diplomacy grew last year when the zoos in Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tennessee, sent their pandas to China, leaving only four pandas in the United States, all at the Atlanta Zoo. That financing agreement will expire later this year.

However, in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that his country will resume sending pandas to the United States after he and President Joe Biden met in Northern California for their first face-to-face encounter in a year and agreed to work to ease tensions.

According to Owen, a panda behaviour expert who has worked in San Diego and China, China is considering a pair that includes a female descendant of Bai Yun and Gao Gao, two of the zoo’s past residents.

Bai Yun was born in captivity in China and spent more than 20 years at the zoo, where she gave birth to six cubs. She and her son were the last pandas at the zoo, and they returned to China in 2019.

Gao Gao was born in the wild in China and resided at the San Diego Zoo from 2003 to 2018 before being returned.

Decades of wild conservation efforts and captive research spared the giant panda species from extinction, boosting its number from less than 1,000 to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity.

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China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The black-and-white bears have long been associated with the relationship between the United States and China, dating back to 1972, when Beijing donated a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.D.C., ahead of normalising diplomatic relations. China later lent pandas to zoos to assist in breeding cubs and increasing the population.

According to 2022 research by America’s Congressional Research Service, zoos normally pay a $1 million fee yearly for two pandas, with the money going towards China’s conservation efforts.

According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, the United States, Spain, and Austria were among the first countries to collaborate with China on panda conservation, with 28 pandas born in those countries.

Demands for the return of giant pandas, dubbed China’s “national treasure,” surged among the Chinese public as unverified reports of mistreatment by USU.S.oos inundated Chinese social media.

Many loan agreements were for ten years and were frequently extended much longer. However, last year’s attempts to prolong the agreements or send more pandas failed. China observers claimed that Beijing was progressively withdrawing its pandas from Western countries due to poor diplomatic relations with the United States and other nations.

Then, on November 15, 2023, a week after the National Zoo’s pandas left for China, Xi spoke at a dinner with American business executives in downtown San Francisco, hinting that more pandas would be sent. He stated that the San Diego Zoo and the people of California are “very much looking forward to welcoming pandas back.”

“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off,” he said.

Even after it no longer housed pandas, the San Diego Zoo continued collaborating with Chinese colleagues.

pandas

China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

According to Owen, China is particularly interested in exchanging information about the zoo’s successful captive panda breeding programme. Giant pandas are difficult to reproduce, partly because the female’s reproductive window is extremely limited, lasting only 48 to 72 hours per year.

Bai Yun’s first child, Hua Mei, was also the first panda born through artificial insemination to live to adulthood outside of China, and she went on to have 12 cubs on her own after being sent to China.

Meanwhile, Bai Yun stayed at the zoo and gave birth to two more girls and three males. Researchers followed her in her den using webcams, providing a better understanding of maternal care behaviour, according to Owen.

“We have a lot of institutional knowledge and capacity from our last cooperative agreement, which we will be able to parlay into this next chapter, as well as training the next generation of panda conservationists,” she said.

Owen said Chinese experts would accompany the bears to San Diego for several months.

She stated that the bears’ return benefits San Diego and the giant panda’s recovery as a species.

“We do talk about panda diplomacy all the time,” Owen said. “Diplomacy is an essential component of conservation in a variety of circumstances…. If we can’t learn to collaborate in often tough conditions or situations beyond the control of conservationists, we won’t succeed.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

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Even in the depths of Canada’s winter, the embers of last year’s record-breaking wildfire season persist. So-called zombie fires are burning at an unprecedented rate beneath thick layers of snow, increasing concerns about what the upcoming summer will bring.

In winter, people driving on the highway through Fort Nelson, British Columbia (BC), can see and smell the clouds of white smoke rising from the land around them.

Sonja Leverkus, a firefighter and scientist from the small north-eastern British Columbia hamlet, remembers travelling during a snowstorm in November, but the snow didn’t seem white.

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‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

Instead, she described it as blueish-grey due to the smoke in the air.

“I’ve never experienced a snowstorm that smelled like smoke,” said Ms. Leverkus, who has lived in northern British Columbia for over 15 years.

She said these plumes remained visible into February, even on extremely cold days when temperatures dropped to -40C (-40F).

‘Zombie Fires’ sparks record. Arctic carbon emissions

Zombie fires cause the Fort Nelson smoke, sometimes known as overwintering fires.

They are flameless smoulders that burn slowly beneath the surface and are kept alive by an organic soil known as peat moss found in North America’s boreal forests and heavy layers of snow that protect them from the cold.

These flames are not uncommon. Experts estimate that during the last ten years, British Columbia has witnessed an average of five or six that continue to burn over the cold months.

However, in January, the province experienced a historic peak of 106 active zombie fires, raising concerns among fire experts about the implications for the following wildfire season.

Most go out on their own before spring, but 91 are still burning in British Columbia, according to government data, and those that have not been extinguished by March may re-ignite as the snow melts and they are exposed to air.

As a result, scientists have linked them to the early onset of wildfire seasons.

The nearby province of Alberta is also experiencing an increase in these winter fires, with 57 burning as of early February, roughly ten times the five-year normal.

Jennifer Baltzer, a biology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change, said, “This continued smouldering through the winter, I think, is very alarming to see,” especially after last year’s record-breaking wildfire season.

Wildfires in Canada burned about 18 million hectares (44 million acres) of land in 2023, an area roughly the size of Cambodia, greatly exceeding the country’s 10-year average.

The season was one of the worst in recent history, with several firemen killed in the line of duty.
Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, and the impact extended far beyond Canada’s borders when smoke blanketed most of the United States in June.

According to Mike Flannigan, a professor and fire control expert at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, the devastating wildfire season is one of the reasons for the current high number of zombie fires.

The majority of them are fires that could not be completely extinguished by last autumn due to a shortage of resources, he explained.

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‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

By the end of the year, officials had recorded more than 2,200 wildfires in British Columbia.
Prof Flannigan also cited the province’s catastrophic drought over the last two years.

According to the province’s drought map, the majority of British Columbia was experiencing moderate to severe drought as of February.

According to Ms Leverkus, the dryness has been as noticeable as the zombie fires.
She noted in the forest last summer that a brook that used to run freely had become “just puddles”.

These drought conditions persisted throughout the winter. The province has received so little snow that one ski resort in BC’s South Cariboo region was forced to close for the rest of the season in early January.

Zombie fires were historically rare, but scientists claim they have become increasingly common in recent years due to a fast-warming environment.

According to Forrest Tower, a fire information officer with BC Fire, officials are now watching them.

fires

‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

He stated that many cannot be extinguished manually because most of the province’s firefighting force is on leave for the off-season. They do not constitute a threat currently, he stated.

However, the primary concern is that the flames may re-ignite if British Columbia receives little snow or rain this spring.

If this occurs, he stated that the province’s seasonal firefighting force might be activated as soon as March or April.

Prof Flannigan stated that it is too early to forecast exactly what the forthcoming fire season will look like in British Columbia, but what the province has witnessed thus far “is quite unusual”.
P

rof Flannigan stated that “the stage is set for a very active spring” because this is an El Nino year, which means hot and dry weather in western Canada.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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