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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.

IANS

Middle East

Yemen’s new PM sworn in, vows to ease sufferings of Yemenis

According to state-run Saba news agency, Hadi congratulated the new Prime Minister and asked him to place economy and basic services as top priorities.

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Maeen Abdulmalik

Aden (Yemen), Oct 19 : Yemen’s newly appointed Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik was sworn in on Thursday to lead the internationally-backed government in the war-torn Arab country.

Maeen was appointed as Prime Minister by Yemen’s President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi earlier this week, replacing his sacked predecessor Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, reported Xinhua news agency.

According to state-run Saba news agency, Hadi congratulated the new Prime Minister and asked him to place economy and basic services as top priorities.

Hadi said he trusted Maeen’s abilities and determination to achieve in the economic field.

“We do understand the obstacles created by the Houthi militia’s war. However it does not exempt anybody from shouldering his responsibilities and explore every possible means to do his duties successfully,” Hadi noted.

Maeen thanked Hadi for his trust, vowing to work with other government members to ease Yemenis’ suffering from the economic collapse.

On Monday, President Hadi sacked Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr over sharp economic crisis and currency slump, and referred him to investigation over “carelessness and failure” of his government.

Earlier this month, the pro-secession Southern Transitional Council blamed the Yemeni government for rampant corruption, calling for a public uprising in the port city of Aden and other neighbouring main cities.

In response, the Yemeni government and its Interior Ministry beefed up security around government institutions in Aden and vowed to protect the city from sabotage elements.

The southern port city of Aden, where Yemen’s government is temporarily based, has been suffering from frequent power outages and lack of basic services including water, leading to public anger against the local authorities.

The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including the capital Sanaa, in late 2014.

IANS

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UN seeks immediate action to avoid another war in Gaza

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United Nations, Oct 19 : The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, has demanded that Palestine and Israel take immediate action to reduce current tensions in the area and avoid another armed conflict in Gaza.

“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” said Mladenov in a videoconference speech to the Council on Thursday.

“Barring substantial steps to reverse the current course, this precarious sense of calm is doomed to give way under the mounting pressure. It is already beginning to fray,” he said, reports Efe.

The diplomat called on Hamas and other groups to “immediately” halt all “provocations and attacks” and to stop all violence along the border, while adding that Israel must facilitate access of goods and people to Gaza and ensure that its security forces are acting with maximum restraint.

Mladenov addressed the Security Council to review the new escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, where on Wednesday Israel staged about 20 airstrikes in reprisal for the launching of rockets from the Palestinian enclave.

Mladenov, who is working with Egypt in negotiations to try and stabilize the situation in Gaza and facilitate reconciliation among the Palestinian factions, said that the arrangements that have maintained a certain calm in recent years are breaking down under growing pressure.

The UN official said he was afraid that there is no more time for mere words and that the international community and the local parties must act now.

The upsurge in violence is taking place as Israeli society and members of the country’s Cabinet debate whether to launch a broad new military operation against Gaza to guarantee calm, after six months of mobilizations in the Strip, the launching of hundreds of incendiary balloons and dozens of attempts to damage the border fence and infiltrate into Israel, some by armed militias.

These actions come amid the so-called Great March of Return, which began on March 30 resulting in the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians in demonstrations and in violent incidents or Israeli bombings against militias.

Mladenov emphasized that the situation in Gaza is absolutely not sustainable: “Gaza is collapsing. This is not hyperbole. It is not alarmism. It is a reality.”

He said that the economy of the Strip is in free fall, with unemployment of 53 percent, and 70 percent unemployment among young people.

All the key indicators – humanitarian, economic, security and political – continue to deteriorate, he said.

Mladenov emphasized that there is a clear and growing international consensus about the need to act to respond to the situation, above all with humanitarian initiatives, adding that reducing the humanitarian pressure on the ground will directly reduce the threat of escalation and provide space for efforts led by Egypt to return the legitimate Palestinian government to Gaza, which is currently under the control of the Islamist Hamas movement.

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Tackle Mediterranean migrant deaths:UN to European leaders

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Geneva, Oct 18 :Concerned over the record rate of drownings in the Mediterranean Sea,the United Nations called on European leaders to tackle  migrant deaths.

UNHCR and IOM urged European leaders to focus this week’s summit discussions “on the practical solutions that are urgently needed and ensuring responsibilities are properly being shared among European States.”

“Arrival numbers are falling but the rate at which people are losing their lives is on the rise,” said Filippo Grandi, chief of the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The two UN agencies voiced concern over the “dangerously toxic” political rhetoric on refugees and migrants being touted in some countries even as arrivals to Europe have plunged since last year.

“The current tenor of the political debate – painting a picture of Europe under siege – is not only unhelpful but completely out of touch with reality,” said Grandi. “Debate is welcome – scapegoating refugees and migrants for political gain is not,” he said.

With more than 1,700 lives lost since the start of 2018, the rate at which people are perishing while trying to cross the Mediterranean – the world’s most perilous waterway – has risen sharply this year.

The current political climate is stoking groundless fears and hampering progress towards solutions by making it harder for countries to work together, according to Grandi and International Organisation for Migration boss Antonio Vitorino.

“Perilous irregular migration is in no one’s interest,” said Vitorino.
“Together we must invest more in regular migration, enhanced mobility and integration to foster growth and development that benefits both sides of the Mediterranean.”

Besides strengthening search and rescue capacity, UNHCR and IOM said they have proposed “a workable regional arrangement” that would make disembarkation and processing predictable and swift.

 

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