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NASA’s Orion Spaceship Slingshots Around Moon, Heads for Home

NASA’s Orion spaceship made a close pass by the moon and used a gravity assist to whip itself back toward Earth on Monday, marking the start of the return journey for the Artemis-1 mission.

At its nearest point, the uncrewed capsule flew less than 130 kilometers from the moon’s surface, testing maneuvers that will be used during later Artemis missions that return humans to the rocky celestial body.

Communication with the capsule was interrupted for 30 minutes when it was behind the far side of the moon, an area more cratered than the near side and first seen by humans during the Apollo era, although they didn’t land there.

The European Service Module, which powers the capsule, fired its main engine for more than three minutes to put the gumdrop-shaped Orion on course for home.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about how the spacecraft is performing,” Debbie Korth, Orion Program deputy manager, said later.

As spectacular footage flashed on their screens once communication was restored, she told a news conference, “everybody in the room, we just kind of had to stop and pause, and just really look — ‘Wow, we’re saying goodbye to the moon.'”

Monday’s maneuver was the last major one of the mission, which began when NASA’s mega moon rocket SLS blasted off from Florida on November 16. From start to finish, the journey should last 25½ days.

Orion will now make only slight course corrections until it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off San Diego on Sunday at 9:40 a.m. local time (1740 GMT). It will then be recovered and hoisted aboard a U.S. Navy ship.

Earlier in the mission, Orion spent about six days in “distant retrograde orbit” around the moon, meaning at high altitude and traveling opposite the direction the moon revolves around Earth.

A week ago, Orion broke the distance record for a habitable capsule, venturing 450,000 kilometers from Earth.

Once it returns to Earth, Orion will have traveled more than 1.4 million miles, said Mike Sarafin, the Artemis mission manager.

Re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere will present a harsh test for the spacecraft’s heat shield, which will need to withstand temperatures of around 2,800 degrees Celsius – or about half the temperature of the surface of the sun.

Under the Artemis program — named for the sister of Apollo in Greek mythology — the United States is seeking to build a lasting presence on the moon in preparation for an onward voyage to Mars.

Artemis 2 will involve a crewed journey to the moon, once again without landing.

The first woman and next man are to land on the lunar south pole during Artemis 3, which is set for no sooner than 2025, though likely significantly later given timeline delays.

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China Begins to Revive Arctic Scientific Ground Projects After Setbacks

Beijing is taking its first steps toward recovering from years of setbacks to its scientific, land-based projects in the Arctic, sending personnel to two outposts that have been vital to its policy of establishing China as a “near-Arctic” state.

China’s Arctic policy document, published in 2018, said scientific research to “explore and understand” the Arctic is the “priority and focus” of Chinese participation in Arctic affairs.

Over a 14-year period since 2004, China launched scientific projects in Arctic regions of four Western European nations — Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland — and sought to do the same in a fifth, Denmark’s autonomous island of Greenland.

The Biden administration, which published its own “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” in October, said those scientific projects have helped China to increase its influence in the Arctic and “exacerbated” strategic competition in a region where the U.S. has long been a major power.

The U.S. strategy document said China has “used these scientific engagements to conduct dual-use research with intelligence or military applications in the Arctic,” requiring the U.S. to respond by positioning itself to “effectively compete and manage tensions” in the region.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper quickly responded to the U.S. strategy with an article citing Chinese analysts as saying Washington has been “politicizing” China’s activities in the Arctic. It said the analysts see the U.S. “using ‘increased competition’ as an excuse in trying to control the region after seeing its increasingly prominent economic and military value.”

As it snipes publicly at the U.S., Beijing has been less vocal about setbacks to its land-based Arctic scientific projects in recent years and its nascent moves to revive some of them.

Arctic researchers have told VOA that China recently has sent and announced plans to imminently send several people to its two most important scientific outposts in Norway and Iceland after lengthy absences of Chinese scientists from both sites. But there have been no signs of China trying to renew two other scientific projects in Sweden and Finland where national organizations told VOA that Chinese activity is set to end or has ended.

The Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC) recently registered three projects in the scientific community of Ny-Alesund in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, where it has rented and operated a Norwegian-owned building since 2004 called Yellow River Station, its first Arctic ground facility. PRIC registered the projects on Norway’s Research in Svalbard Portal.

Scientist Geir Gotaas, leader of the Ny-Alesund Program at the Norwegian Polar Institute, said Chinese personnel have been mostly absent from Yellow River Station since the start of the pandemic because of travel restrictions. He said the last Chinese researcher departed in March after a solo three-month stay at the building, which has a capacity of 37 staff and accommodated the largest foreign contingent of scientists in Ny-Alesund before the pandemic.

Gotaas said four Chinese scientists will arrive in the Norwegian mainland this week before flying to Svalbard, with three staying for a few weeks in Longyearbyen and Ny-Alesund and the fourth remaining at Yellow River Station until March to maintain instruments over winter.

“The Chinese researchers are making a first step towards a return to regular operations in Ny-Alesund,” Gotaas said.

In northern Iceland’s Karholl, six Chinese personnel, including four scientists, arrived at the China Iceland Arctic Research Observatory (CIAO) late last month after a three-year Chinese absence from the complex, according to its spokesperson, Halldor Johannsson, director of the Arctic Portal.org news organization.

Johannsson said pandemic travel restrictions had kept the Chinese personnel away from CIAO, which opened in 2018 and is jointly operated by China’s PRIC and the Icelandic Center for Research (Rannis). The recently arrived Chinese contingent has met with local scientists and community leaders and was to depart in early December, he added.

CIAO consists of a new research building and several farmhouses for accommodation and other uses. China fully funded the building’s construction but does not own anything at the site and rents the property from Icelandic nonprofit group Aurora Observatory, Johannsson said.

In northern Sweden’s Esrange Space Center, contracts enabling three Chinese scientific agencies to use four satellite dish antennas built from 2008 to 2016 will not be renewed, according to Philip Ohlsson, Swedish Space Corporation (SSC) head of communications.

SSC controls all data received from and sent to satellites by the antennas, three of which are SSC-owned while the fourth is Chinese-owned, Ohlsson wrote in a series of emails. He said Chinese personnel have visited Esrange from time to time but never have been stationed there.

“In 2018, SSC took the decision not to enter into any new contracts with Chinese customers, given the limited size of our company in relation to the complexity of the Chinese market,” Ohlsson said.

He declined to reveal when the existing contracts will end, “out of respect for our customers and the confidentiality of these contracts.”

In northern Finland’s Sodankyla Space Campus, a joint research project launched by the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2018, ended last year when a three-year agreement expired, said Jouni Pulliainen, FMI Space and Earth Observation Center director.

CAS announced in 2018 that a joint research center for Arctic space observation and data sharing would be “constructed” in Sodankyla. But Pulliainen wrote in an email that there was no new construction at the space campus and the project mainly involved temporary visits by five Chinese researchers to Sodankyla’s existing facilities before the start of the pandemic.

Pulliainen said the outcome of the project was “not as impressive” as the Chinese side had originally expressed through state media.

“Due to changes in the world’s political situation, we were not any more so interested in deepening the cooperation activities, and we were not contacted from CAS about the renewal of the agreement,” he added.

China also never realized its 2017 proposal to build a satellite dish antenna ground station for remote sensing in the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk.

Beijing Normal University Dean Cheng Xiao held a “launch” ceremony in the Greenlandic town of Kangerlussuaq for the proposed Nuuk ground station on May 30, 2017. A group of more than 100 Chinese visitors attended the event along with two representatives of Greenlandic NGOs, but the project never won approval from the Greenlandic and Danish governments and did not proceed.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a VOA email asking why Beijing did not send personnel to the Norwegian and Icelandic project sites for lengthy periods, why it did not reach agreements to extend the Swedish and Finnish projects and why the Greenlandic project never got off the ground.

Marc Lanteigne, a social studies professor at the Arctic University of Norway, said China ran into local opposition for some of its projects.

“I’m thinking primarily of China’s plan to set up a research base in Greenland that was announced to great fanfare and then ran smack into Danish opposition,” Lanteigne said. Denmark, a NATO member, has been “very touchy about anything that might look like a Chinese strategic beachhead” in Greenland, he added.

Lanteigne said China’s diplomatic disputes with some European Arctic nations have undermined the progress of its other scientific projects.

“China’s relations with Sweden really have begun to sour over the past few years due to human rights issues, and that has affected the ability of Chinese researchers to set up any kind of a base in Sweden itself,” he said.

Nengye Liu, a law professor at Singapore Management University, said he expects Beijing to focus on developing its more established Arctic projects in Norway and Iceland rather than on smaller projects that ran into obstacles in other nations.

As Arctic ice melts because of climate change, China sees new opportunities for shipping, fisheries and oil and gas development in the region, Liu said.

“So all these scientific activities are meant to ensure that a major economic power like China won’t be left behind. That is why China describes itself as a ‘near-Arctic’ state,” Liu said.

VOA emailed the White House to request a National Security Council comment on what the U.S. is doing to manage tensions arising from China’s scientific projects in the Arctic but did not receive a response.

In an October forum at Washington’s Wilson Center, Devon Brennan, NSC director for maritime and Arctic security, said the U.S. is concerned that China’s exploitation of Arctic resources, such as fisheries and hydrocarbons, may diverge from what he called the rules-based international order.

But Brennan also said the U.S. recognizes that China has a “vested interest” in the region.

“While first and foremost, we will want to work with our like-minded partners and allies in the Arctic, there is room to cooperate with other non-Arctic nations for the betterment of the region,” he said.

Політика Столиця Шляхта

Чорногорія надає 11 відсотків військового бюджету як допомогу Україні

Прем’єр-міністр Чорногорії Дритан Абазович і президент України Володимир Зеленський підписали спільну декларацію про євроатлантичну перспективу України

Політика Столиця Шляхта

За слова про Бучу: прокурори в Росії вимагають 9 років увʼязнення для політика Іллі Яшина

Обвинувачення вважає, що Яшин вчинив злочин 7 квітня, коли під час прямої трансляції в Youtube «ствердно повідомив» про вбивства російськими військовими мирних жителів українського міста Буча

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UNICEF Seeks $10.3 Billion for Children Affected by Climate, Humanitarian Crises 

“Today, there are more children in need of humanitarian assistance than at any other time in recent history,” according to UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. 

Monday, UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, launched an emergency appeal for $10.3 billion, designed to help 173 million people, including 110 million children, that the agency says have been impacted by “humanitarian crises, the enduring effects of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide and the growing threat of climate-impacted severe weather events.” 

The agency says climate change “is also worsening the scale and intensity of emergencies,” with the last 10 years being the hottest on record. In the last 30 years, the number of climate-related disasters has tripled, UNICEF says.  

“Today, over 400 million children live in areas of high or extremely high-water vulnerability,” according to UNICEF.  

Russell said, “The devastating impacts of climate change are an ever-present threat to children” and that is why UNICEF is “prioritizing climate adaptation and resilience building as part of our humanitarian response.”   

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МВС: виявлено близько пів сотні місць катувань та є стільки ж проваджень про сексуальне насильство з боку військових РФ

З початку повномасштабного вторгнення РФ поліцейські розпочали 47 212 кримінальних проваджень за фактами вчинення на території України злочинів військовослужбовцями ЗСУ РФ та їхніми пособниками, повідомляє у понеділок пресслужба МВС.

«З них: 35 793 – за ст. 438 Кримінального кодексу України (порушення законів та звичаїв війни) 9100 – за ст. 110 Кримінального кодексу України (посягання на територіальну цілісність і недоторканність України) 2134 – за ст. 111-1 Кримінального кодексу України (колабораційна діяльність) 100 – за ст. 111 Кримінального кодексу України (державна зрада) 37 – за ст. 113 Кримінального кодексу України (диверсія)», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними МВС, на сьогодні на деокупованих територіях виявлено 48 місць, де війська РФ незаконно утримували і катували громадян. Також відкрито 47 кримінальних проваджень за фактами вчинення військовими РФ сексуального насильства.


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Work Starts on World’s Largest Radio Telescope in Australia

In a remote corner of the Western Australian outback, work has begun on the world’s largest radio telescope. Astronomers say the Square Kilometre Array will be capable of searching the stars for signals of intelligent life and listening back to the start of the universe.

It is an international scientific collaboration. 130,000 antennas and 200 satellite dishes will make up the Square Kilometre Array project, or SKA. It will comprise two giant and super sensitive telescopes at observatories in Australia and South Africa.

By listening and looking deep into space, scientists hope the project can help answer some fundamental questions: Are we alone in the universe? How did the first stars come to shine? and What exactly is “dark energy” — the mysterious phenomena that appears to be pulling the cosmos apart?

Experts have said the SKA needs to be set up far away from the disturbances of radio frequencies on earth like those from computers, cars and planes.

They have said it will be eight times more sensitive than existing telescopes and will map the sky 135 times faster.

Danny Price, a senior research fellow at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy at Curtin University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday that the SKA has unprecedented astronomical power.

“It is going to be one of the most sensitive instruments that humanity has ever built,” Price said. “To put it into perspective the SKA could detect a mobile phone in the pocket of an astronaut on Mars.”

Australia, South Africa, Canada and Britain are among more than a dozen countries providing funding to the project.

A land agreement between traditional Indigenous owners, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization — the CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency and the Western Australian and federal governments has allowed construction of the international Square Kilometre Array telescope to officially start Monday.

The giant radio telescope is expected to be operational by the end of the decade.