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NASA satellite snaps adorable Earth image on way to Mars

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Washington, May 16: NASA has just shared a new version of the famous “pale blue dot” image originally snapped on February 14, 1990 by the agency’s Voyager 1 spacecraft from its perch at that time beyond Neptune.

Now a class of tiny, boxy spacecraft, known as CubeSats, have just taken their own version of a “pale blue dot” image, capturing Earth and its moon in one shot, NASA said on Tuesday.

NASA set a new distance record for CubeSats on May 8 when a pair of CubeSats called Mars Cube One (MarCO) reached one million kilometres from Earth.

One of the CubeSats, called MarCO-B used a fisheye camera to snap its first photo on May 9.

That photo is part of the process used by the engineering team to confirm the spacecraft’s high-gain antenna has properly unfolded.

As a bonus, it captured Earth and its moon as tiny specks floating in space, the US space agency added.

“Consider it our homage to Voyager,” said Andy Klesh, MarCO’s Chief Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“CubeSats have never gone this far into space before, so it’s a big milestone. Both our CubeSats are healthy and functioning properly. We’re looking forward to seeing them travel even farther,” Klesh added.

The cameras of Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990, pointed back toward the Sun and took a series of pictures of the Sun and the planets, making the first ever “portrait” of our solar system as seen from the outside.

Taking these images was not part of the original plan, but the late Carl Sagan, a member of the Voyager imaging team at the time, had the idea of pointing the spacecraft back toward its home for a last look. The title of his 1994 book, “Pale Blue Dot,” refers to the image of Earth in this series.

This “family portrait” captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1’s unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in — Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the Sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim.

NASA said the MarCO spacecraft are the first CubeSats ever launched into deep space.

Most never go beyond Earth orbit; they generally stay below 800 kilometres above the planet.

Though they were originally developed to teach university students about satellites, CubeSats are now a major commercial technology, providing data on everything from shipping routes to environmental changes.

The MarCO CubeSats were launched on May 5 along with NASA’s InSight lander, a spacecraft that will touch down on Mars and study the planet’s deep interior for the first time.

InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, will attempt to land on Mars on November 26, NASA said.

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UK Parliament to vote on May’s Brexit ‘Plan B’ on Jan 29

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London, Jan 17 : The UK Parliament will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s “Plan B” for Brexit on January 29, the Leader of House of Commons said on Thursday.

Andrea Leadsom told lawmakers that the Prime Minister would put forward a motion and make a statement to the lower chamber on what her next steps would be on January 21, Efe news reported.

“A full day’s debate on the motion will take place on January 29, subject to the agreement of the house,” she told the Parliament.

Leadsom spoke as May met with lawmakers and opposition leaders for cross-party consultations, urging them to “put self-interest aside” and “work constructively together” to find a way forward for Brexit, following her slim victory in a no-confidence vote.

On Tuesday night, MPs voted against May’s plans for Brexit by a historic margin: 432 votes against to 202 in favour — the largest defeat for a sitting government in history.

May is currently trying to resolve a political deadlock set up by her antagonists, both from the hard-Brexit and anti-Leave camps.

One of the demands is that May should rule out any possibility that the UK might crash out of the European Union (EU) in March without any deal in place.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.

In a statement in Downing Street shortly after midnight on Thursday morning, May had said: “It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this (Brexit) done.”

The Prime Minister said she wanted to approach the discussions in a “constructive spirit”.

May is expected to hold meetings with both Conservative Brexiteers and the DUP on Thursday.

May has scheduled meetings with Scottish nationalists, Welsh nationalists and pro-EU Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru all spoke with Theresa May on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Last night’s offer of talks with party leaders turned out to be simply a stunt, not the serious attempt to engage with the new reality that is needed.”

“I say to the Prime Minister again – I am quite happy to talk but the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out, taken off the table, and we can talk about the future of the plans that we will put forward and the future relationship with Europe,” he added.

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May’s government braces for no-trust vote after Commons defeat

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London, Jan 16: UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party government braced for a vote of no confidence on Wednesday, a day after she suffered a historic defeat in Parliament where lawmakers roundly rejected her Brexit plan.

Her agreement setting out the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, the result of two years of negotiations with Brussels, was rejected in the House of Commons by a majority of 230 lawmakers — the worst defeat for a sitting government in the country’s democratic era.

It was turned down by a crushing 432 votes to 202. The confidence vote was expected to be held at about 7 p.m. GMT, the BBC reported.

In response to the significant defeat, which had been widely predicted by political observers, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would table a motion of no confidence against May’s government.

“This is a catastrophic defeat. The house has delivered its verdict on her deal. Delay and denial has reached the end of the line,” Corbyn told the Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, as he announced the motion, something which had also been expected in case of May’s defeat.

The Prime Minister told MPs she would return to the Commons with an alternative plan next week, provided she survives the confidence vote.

“The House has spoken and this government will listen,” she said on Tuesday night, offering cross-party talks to determine a way forward.

May delayed the initial parliamentary vote on her deal in December when it became clear that it would not make it through the chamber.

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the withdrawal process was “at a standstill”.

“So, in this context, it is up to the British authorities today or tomorrow to assess the outcome of this vote and up to the British government to find how we are to take things forward on March 29 towards an orderly withdrawal,” he told the European Parliament.

Some 118 members of May’s Conservative Party, including pro-European Tory MPs and hardline Brexit supporters, rebelled against the government in Tuesday’s vote. As did the 10 parliamentary members of the DUP, a right-wing unionist party from Northern Ireland and ally of the Conservative government.

The formation of right-wing Tory backbenchers, collectively known as the European Research Group, and the DUP signalled they would back May in the motion of no confidence, making it less likely for Corbyn to be able to force a general election.

If May gets ousted, then the government would have 14 days to present a new leader. However, if that candidate also fails to secure the confidence of Parliament and no viable alternatives are presented, then the UK could head towards an early election.

May survived a no-confidence motion lodged by hardline members of her own party in December. According to Conservative Party rules, such a vote cannot be tabled for another year, meaning that if she withstands Labour’s attempt to oust her, her job would be safe.

The UK is slated to leave the EU on March 29, exactly two years after May officially notified the EU of the UK’s intention of exiting the bloc by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Also, there had been increasing calls for a second referendum. The UK electorate decided to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016.

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Man bedridden after selling kidney for iPhone, iPad

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Wang Shangkun, Image: AsiaWire

San Francisco, Jan 16: A Chinese man who sold his kidney as a teenager to buy the latest Apple iPad and iPhone in 2011 is now bedridden with organ failure, the media reported.

Wang Shangkun was 17 years old when he made the decision to undergo surgery and sell his right kidney in the black market to buy the Apple products.

Shortly after the illegal surgery, he began suffering from a decreased level of kidney function, news.com.au reported late on Monday.

“Shangkun had sold his kidney to black market organ harvesters in April 2011 where he received $4,500 Australian dollars. He purchased an iPhone 4 and iPad 2 with the funds,” the report added.

The man suffered renal failure in his second kidney after having one removed. It is said that it was due to the unsanitary conditions where the surgery took place.

In 2012, a total of nine individuals connected to the organ harvesting case were jailed for their involvement. Five surgeons involved with the procedure were among those convicted, according to Newsweek.

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