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Cassini to dive into Saturn at 113,000 kms per hour

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casssini aircraft to dive into sun
casssini aircraft to dive into sun (photo credit NASA)

When Cassini ends its 13-year tour of the Saturn system with an intentional plunge into the planet on Friday, the spacecraft’s speed will be approximately 113,000 kms per hour, NASA has said.

The final plunge will take place on the day side of Saturn, near local noon, with the spacecraft entering the atmosphere around 10 degrees north latitude, NASA said.

The spacecraft’s fateful dive is the final beat in the mission’s Grand Finale, 22 weekly dives, which began in late April, through the gap between Saturn and its rings.

No spacecraft has ever ventured so close to the planet before.

The mission’s final calculations predict loss of contact with the Cassini spacecraft will take place on Friday at 7:55 a.m. EDT.

Cassini will enter Saturn’s atmosphere approximately one minute earlier, at an altitude of about 1,915 kilometres above the planet’s estimated cloud tops.

When Cassini first begins to encounter Saturn’s atmosphere, the spacecraft’s attitude control thrusters will begin firing in short bursts to work against the thin gas and keep Cassini’s saucer-shaped high-gain antenna pointed at Earth to relay the mission’s precious final data.

As the atmosphere thickens, the thrusters will be forced to ramp up their activity, going from 10 per cent of their capacity to 100 per cent in the span of about a minute.

Once they are firing at full capacity, the thrusters can do no more to keep Cassini stably pointed, and the spacecraft will begin to tumble.

When the antenna points just a few fractions of a degree away from Earth, communications will be severed permanently, NASA said.

The predicted altitude for loss of signal is approximately 1,500 kilometres above Saturn’s cloud tops.

From that point, the spacecraft will begin to burn up like a meteor. Within about 30 seconds following loss of signal, the spacecraft will begin to come apart. Within a couple of minutes, all remnants of the spacecraft are expected to be completely consumed in the atmosphere of Saturn, NASA said.

Due to the travel time for radio signals from Saturn, which changes as both Earth and the ringed planet travel around the Sun, events currently take place there 83 minutes before they are observed on Earth.

This means that, although the spacecraft will begin to tumble and go out of communication at 6:31 a.m. EDT at Saturn, the signal from that event will not be received at Earth until 83 minutes later.

“The spacecraft’s final signal will be like an echo. It will radiate across the solar system for nearly an hour and a half after Cassini itself has gone,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

“Even though we’ll know that, at Saturn, Cassini has already met its fate, its mission isn’t truly over for us on Earth as long as we’re still receiving its signal,” Maize added.

Live mission commentary and video from Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mission Control will air on NASA TV and the agency’s website from 7 to 8:30 a.m. EDT (4.30 to 6 pm India time)on Friday.

Launched in 1997, Cassini arrived in orbit around Saturn in 2004 on a mission to study the giant planet, its rings, moons and magnetosphere.

 (IANS)

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife charged with fraud

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Jerusalem, June 21: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara on Thursday charged with fraud over alleged misuse of funds at latter’s residence.

Suspicions included the misuse of around $100,000 in official funds for catering services at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, Reuters reported citing the ministry said in a statement.

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Trump signs executive order ending family separations at border

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Donald Trump

Washington, June 21 : US President Donald Trump has bowed to public pressure and signed an executive order promising to “keep families together” in migrant detentions.

Trump reversed his own policy amid international fury over the separation of undocumented parents and children.

He said he had been swayed by images of children who have been taken from parents while they are jailed and prosecuted for illegal border-crossing.

It was not immediately clear when Trump’s order would be implemented.

“It’s about keeping families together,” Trump said at the signing ceremony on Wednesday, reports BBC.

“I did not like the sight of families being separated,” he said, but added the administration would continue its “zero tolerance policy” of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.

The executive order states that immigrant families will be detained together, except in cases where there are concerns about the child’s welfare, but it is unclear for how long.

Trump’s order also calls for prioritising immigration cases involving detained families.

The President said his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, who reportedly have been applying pressure on him to drop the policy in recent days, “feel strongly” about ending the practice of separating migrant families.

“I think anybody with a heart would feel very strongly about it,” he said. “We don’t like to see families separated.”

Vice-President Mike Pence and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who has emerged as the face of the White House policy, were both present for Wednesday’s order signing.

Republican congressional leader Paul Ryan said the House of Representatives will vote on Thursday “on legislation to keep families together”.

He did not immediately provide details of the bill, but said it resolves the issue of so-called Dreamers, undocumented adult migrants who entered the US as children, “in a very elegant way”.

On Wednesday, American Airlines, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines said they did not want their planes used by the US government to transport the migrant children.

United chief executive Oscar Munoz said: “We want no part of it.”

For days administration officials have insisted they were simply following the law as written and their “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossings meant they “have to take the children away”, in the president’s words.

Critics have countered that Mr Trump unilaterally created the situation that produced the heart-rending accounts of children separated from their parents, and he could unilaterally fix it.

By taking executive action, the president is effectively acknowledging they were correct.

Now the fight will probably move to the courts, with legal challenges to the administration’s decision to hold detained families together while their immigration status is adjudicated.

That is more politically hospitable ground for Republicans, who already face challenging mid-term congressional elections.

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Turkey hits US with retaliatory tariffs

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Ankara, June 21 : Turkey on Thursday became the latest country to hit back at the US for its tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Turkey’s Ministry of Economy said that it was imposing tariffs worth $267 million on US goods, targeting items like coal, paper, walnuts, tobacco, rice, whiskey and cars after negotiations with Washington failed to yield meaningful progress, CNN reported.

“Turkey is committed to active, robust and reciprocal trade relations with the US — but with the understanding that fairness cannot be one-sided,” Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said in a statement. “We cannot and will not allow Turkey to be wrongly blamed for America’s economic challenges.”

The US enacted 25 per cent tariffs on imported steel and 10 per cent tariffs on imported aluminium in March. Exemptions were initially given to the EU, Canada and Mexico, but the Trump administration let them lapse at the beginning of the month.

Turkey didn’t receive an exemption.

Later, the EU, Canada and Mexico announced retaliatory tariffs against the US. China imposed tariffs on $3 billion of US products in early April in response to the steel and aluminium measures.

Turkey is the world’s eighth largest steel exporter, according to a report prepared in March by the Department of Commerce. The US was Turkey’s top market for steel in 2017.

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