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Sunita Williams among 9 astronauts to fly into space from US soil

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Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is among the nine astronauts named by NASA on Friday for its first human spaceflight programme from the US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

The astronauts will fly on the spacecraft developed by Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and global aviation firm Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, as part of the US space agency’s Commercial Crew programme to send humans to the ISS on private US spacecraft.

Williams has been named for the Boeing programme to the ISS — the first test flight scheduled to take place in the middle of 2019.

“For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Born in Euclid (Ohio), Williams came to NASA from the Navy where she was a test pilot and rose to the rank of captain before retiring.

Since her selection as an astronaut in 1998, she has spent 322 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for Expeditions 14/15 and Expeditions 32/33, commanded the space station and performed seven spacewalks, the US space agency said in a statement.

“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” said Mark Geyer, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can’t wait to see them aboard the ISS,” he added.

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded a combined $6.8 billion in contracts from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of flying crews to the space station.

SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon’s first uncrewed demonstration mission (Demo-1), three months later than the previous schedule released by NASA early this year.

The crewed demonstration flight, with two astronauts on board, will follow in April 2019, four months later than previously announced.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, on the other hand, will likely perform two crucial test flights next year, instead of this year as planned.

Each test flight will provide data on the performance of the rockets, spacecraft, ground systems, and operations to ensure the systems are safe to fly astronauts.

The crew for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test and SpaceX’s Demo-2 flights will each include at least a flight commander and pilot aboard to test out the systems.

After successful completion of the flight tests with crew, NASA will review flight data to verify that the systems meet the agency’s safety and performance certification requirements and are ready to begin regular servicing missions to the space station, the US space agency said.

Additional crew members will be assigned by NASA’s international partners at a later date.

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NASA Shared Gorgeous New Images of Jupiter & Europa From the Hubble Telescope

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NASA Jupiter Picture

It might not sport the photogenic rings of Saturn, but the striped clouds of Jupiter are gorgeous. NASA and ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured a beautiful new image of the solar system’s biggest planet.

The image was taken on August 25 and just shared, but it’s already giving researchers a fresh look at the weather on the planet. That includes the larger-the-Earth storm that is the Great Red Spot. You can also see a new storm that NASA calls “a cousin” to the Great Red Spot.

Additionally, in the upper left of the image, you can spot the moon Europa, the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Recent research has upped the estimate of total moons for Jupiter, putting the number at as many as 600. Europa is high on the list of places that might have some form of life inside our solar system. (Last week, Venus also climbed into that conversation.)

The announcement calls the new storm “unique and exciting.” It “appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm” moving at more than 340 miles per hour. Storms in this region aren’t atypical, according to NASA, but this one “appears to have more structure.” The researchers say that this could be the start of a long-duration storm in the planet’s northern hemisphere, “perhaps to rival the legendary Great Red Spot that dominates the southern hemisphere.”

The image also provides a good look at the Oval BA, which has been nicknamed Red Spot Jr. It’s the storm sitting just below the Great Red Spot.

The second image comes in surprising colors because Hubble snapped the multiwavelength image in ultraviolet/visible/near-infrared light. The image, according to NASA, ” offers insights into the altitude and distribution of the planet’s haze and particles.”

It’s a gorgeous image. But, as always, there’s a more than beauty to the images Hubble is sending back for us to admire.

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Farm bills govt’s conspiracy to defeat Green Revolution: Congress

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New Delhi, Sep 18 : Even as the Lok Sabha passed two of the contentious agriculture reforms bill, the Congress on Thursday upped its ante against the Narendra Modi government over the issue, terming it a conspiracy to defeat the Green Revolution.

Slamming the government, Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said: “This government has been eyeing, how they can take the farmers’ land to benefit their capitalist friends, whether is the Land Acquisition Act, whether in the industrial system through weakening the labour courts and now this three-pronged attack on the Indian agricultural system through the two bills on farming – one related to APMC, the other one is related to contract farming and the third bill which is on essential commodities… a three-pronged attack on the Indian farmers.”

Noting the government says that this is a boon for farmers, he said: “Are farmers of India foolish that they don’t understand the bill. If this bill was in the benefit of Indian farmers, why are the farmers are out on the streets? Why are the farmers in Haryana being beaten by the police?”

Targeting the government, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Modi government is akin to Covid-19 pandemic as it is attacking lives and livelihoods of farmers.

“It is attacking farmers and farm labourers and was bartering agriculture at the doorsteps of crony capitalists,” he said.

“The draconian laws on agriculture will be a death knell for the future of farming in India,” he said, alleging that the BJP-led government is hell-bent upon destroying the farmer and was bartering the agriculture at the altar of a handful of crony capitalists.

Surjewala also claimed that 62 crore farmers and farm labourers have been agitating across India and over 250 farmers organisations are sitting on protest, on hunger strikes and are demonstrating across the length and breadth of India.

He accused the government of dictatorially subverting the “voice of farmers” representatives inside the Parliament and has unleashed a draconian “lathi-danda regime” on protesting farming community.

“The farmers and labourers will never forget the conspiracy of the Modi government to convert the disaster confronting the farmers into an opportunity for the capitalists under the garb of pandemic. The next generations of BJP will have to face the consequences of these anti-farmer misdeeds of the government,” Surjewala said.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the interest of farmers and farm labourers cannot be subjugated and be subservient to the “draconian majority” of the BJP in Parliament.

“The Congress shall continue to take on the dark design of a draconian, dictatorial and anti-farmer Modi government, both inside and outside the Parliament… We shall continue to voice the pain and suffering of teeming millions,” he said.

The Congress, along with many other opposition parties as well as NDA constituent Akali Dal, had been opposing the three farm Bills which were earlier brought in as Ordinances. All three – the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 – have been passed by the Lok Sabha.

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Congress MP Shakti Singh Gohil demands lions should not be radio-collared

Narendra Modi on June 10 in a tweet though had celebrated a historic rise of 29 per cent in the Asiatic lion population — 151 between 2015 and 2020.

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Shaktisinh Gohil

NEW DELHI: Congress MP Shakti Singh Gohil on Thursday raised the issue of death of Asiatic Lions in the Rajya Sabha. He demanded that cubs should not be radio-collared as it hampers their growth and leads to untimely death of the big cats.

“The collar is of 2.5kg which should not be used and more scientific ways must be adopted, ” Gohil said.

As per a Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change committee report, 92 Asiatic lions have died in Gujarat since January.

Narendra Modi on June 10 in a tweet though had celebrated a historic rise of 29 per cent in the Asiatic lion population — 151 between 2015 and 2020.

The Gir National Park spreads over eight districts of Gujarat, including Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Porbandar, Rajkot, Gir-Somnath, Botad and Jamnagar, according to the 14th Lion Population Estimation Report 2015.

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