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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

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US sanctions Myanmar military personnel, units over human rights abuse

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Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) The US Treasury Department on Friday announced to sanction four commanders and two military units in Myanmar, accusing them of being related with human rights abuse cases in the country.

In a statement, the Treasury said the targeted commanders were from Burmese military and Border Guard Police (BGP), Xinhua reported.

Together with the 33rd Light Infantry Division (LID) and the 99th LID, the commanders were punished over the alleged involvement in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State and “other widespread human rights abuses” in Kachin and Shan States.

These individuals and entities were designated according to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016 that targeted “perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.”

Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in the statement that the US government “will continue to systematically expose and bring accountability to human rights abusers in this region.”

As a result of these actions, any property, or interest in property, of those designated within U.S. jurisdiction is blocked.

Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.

Building upon the act, US President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, or “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption.” To date, 84 individuals and entities have been sanctioned under the order.

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Imran Khan elected as Pakistan Prime Minister

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Islamabad, Aug 17: Cricketer-turned-politician PTI chief Imran Khan elected as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister by the National Assembly on Friday. 

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief won with 176 seats while his opponent, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) President Shehbaz Sharif, secured 96 votes , Dawn online reported.

Khan, whose party attained victory in the July 25 general election, will take the oath of office on Saturday.

According to the poll body’s figures, the PTI has 158 members in the National Assembly after the joining of nine Independents and bagging of 33 seats reserved for women and minorities.

With the support of the country’s smaller and regional parties, a total of 175 lawmakers backed Khan.

WeForNews 

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Flags in Mauritius at half mast in Vajpayee’s honour

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Port Louis, Aug 17: In an unprecedented gesture, the government of Mauritius will fly both the Mauritian and Indian national flags at half mast on Friday in honour of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“Following the passing away of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the government has decided that both the Mauritius and India flags will remain at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on Friday,” a directive issued by the office of Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said.

“An appeal is also being made to the private sector for ll flags to be flown at half-mast during the same period,” it said.

Vajpayee passed away in Delhi on Thursday at the age of 93 after prolonged illness.

Around 68 per cent of Mauritius’s population of nearly 1.3 million are of Indian descent. Many are descendants of Indian indentured labour brought to work on sugarcane plantations on the Indian Ocean island nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In a condolence message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jugnauth said that Vajpayee “shaped the destiny of India through his bold leadership and his deep-rooted empathy for the common man”.

“Today, as India shines as a beacon of progress and development on the global stage, we cannot forget the strong and able stewardship of Vajpayee,” Jugnauth stated.

“His was a leadership characterised by determination, perseverance, fairness and equity.”

Jugnauth also recalled Vajpayee’s deep affection for Mauritius and its people and said that “we were honoured to receive him in March 2000 as chief guest at the National Day celebrations and whenever he visited Mauritius”.

“Mauritius mourns the loss of a man who stood not only for India but also for Mauritius,” he said.

IANS

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