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Despite Glitch, NASA Thrilled With Performance of Mars Helicopter

Scientists with the U.S. space agency NASA Friday said the tiny helicopter they sent to Mars has exceeded their expectations, despite a glitch that forced its fourth flight to be rescheduled.
During a virtual news briefing on the Mars mission, scientists and engineers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the Ingenuity helicopter’s first three flights showed them enough capability that they are expanding the operation of the aircraft by 30 days, doubling its originally planned mission time.
NASA had originally described the Ingenuity project as a technology demonstration designed to test flight capability in the thin Martian atmosphere. Project Manager Mi Mi Aung, said it performed so well that it is transitioning from a demonstration to operation phase, in which the craft will be used to show how its unique capabilities can be applied.
Aung told reporters “It’s like Ingenuity is graduating.”NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter unlocked its rotor blades, allowing them to spin freely, on April 7, 2021, the 47th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)The craft had been scheduled to complete its fourth flight Thursday, but a software glitch prevented it from transitioning to flight mode. If it goes off as planned later Friday, the NASA team hopes to fly it 133 meters from its starting point — more than twice as far as its last flight — taking color pictures of the terrain below before returning to where it started.
Aung said the pictures will be used to put together three-dimensional images of the Martian landscape, from which staff will select a new landing site for the helicopter, which she said will take at least a week. The landing site will be the destination for Ingenuity’s fifth flight.
NASA officials said that the Perseverance rover has, so far, acted in support of the helicopter, transferring data from the craft and taking pictures of its flights. The researchers say communication between the two vehicles is also working better than expected and they now believe they can be as much as a kilometer apart and still maintain strong contact.
The Ingenuity team says the helicopter is providing NASA with data for how future missions will be designed, how those missions will utilize aircraft to explore to determine where rovers should go and explore areas where they cannot.
The 1.8-kilogram aircraft arrived on the planet packed away on NASA’s Perseverance rover when it landed on Mars in February. Aside from solar batteries and a transmitter, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments.

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NASA Mars Helicopter Fails to Respond for 4th Flight

The U.S. space agency NASA said the experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity, after three successful flights, failed to respond to commands to lift off for a fourth flight Thursday.
Scientists with the Ingenuity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in southern California say a software problem similar to one that delayed the experimental craft’s initial flight 11 days ago prevented the helicopter from transitioning to “flight mode.” The scientists plan to try again Friday.
The 1.8-kilogram aircraft arrived on the planet packed away on NASA’s Perseverance rover when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover a little more than three weeks ago, and each of the three flights it has made so far have been successively more ambitious.
After first simply rising three meters off the Martian surface, hovering, and landing again,
Ingenuity’s second flight saw it rise to five meters, travel two meters to the east of its position, execute three turns, and return. On its third trip, it rose to five meters and traveled 50 meters, flying at a top speed of about two meters a second.
NASA scientists have planned the fourth flight to be the most ambitious yet. After rising to five meters, they plan to send the helicopter south, switch on its downward-facing navigation camera, and collect images of the surface every 1.2 meters until it travels a total of 133 meters. Ingenuity will then hover, take images with its color camera, and return to its original position.   
NASA has scheduled a news conference later Friday to discuss the overall mission.
 Our #MarsHelicopter has flown successfully three times & completed its mission objectives! What’s up next for the mighty little rotorcraft? Mission experts aim to push the limits. Find out how on Fri., April 30 at 12:30pm ET:— NASA (@NASA) April 29, 2021The space agency describes Ingenuity as a technology demonstration designed to test flight capability in the thin Martian atmosphere. It has specially designed rotors that spin much faster than they would have to on Earth to achieve flight. It also has innovative batteries and solar cells for recharging.
Aside from cameras, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments. 

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Катастрофа Ан-26 під Чугуєвом: ДБР повідомило про підозру ще трьом людей

Нові підозрювані – двоє заступників командира військової частини та депутат обради, який очолював Харківський національний університет Повітряних Сил імені Івана Кожедуба

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Looming Madagascar Famine Sparks Nutrition Emergency

Famine is looming in southern Madagascar and emergency food aid is needed for hundreds of thousands of people to head off a humanitarian disaster on the African island nation, the U.N. World Food Program warned.Five consecutive years of drought, exacerbated by unexpected sandstorms, have depleted people’s food stocks, forcing them to resort to desperate measures to survive. The WFP senior director of operations in Madagascar, Amer Daoudi, said at least 1.35 million people are suffering from acute hunger, many of whom are living off locusts, raw cactus fruits or wild leaves. He said malnutrition is soaring to alarming levels, putting the lives of many children under age five at risk. While on a diplomatic and governmental tour of the region, he said he saw horrific images of starving, malnourished and stunted children. FILE – Children shelter from the sun in Ankilimarovahatsy, Madagascar, a village in the far south of the island where most children are acutely malnourished, Nov. 9, 2020.”And not only the children,” Daoudi added. “Mothers, parents, and the population in the villages we visited. The situation is extremely, extremely worrisome, scary. They are on the periphery of famine.” The WFP official said most of Madagascar’s southern districts are in a nutrition emergency as acute malnutrition has almost doubled over the last four months. He said people are dying but it is difficult to get an accurate count. “If a child dies, they bury, there is no reporting, there is no official type of reporting to take these numbers,” he said. “Same thing with grownups. We are already witnessing whole villages shutting down and moving to the nearest urban centers.”   That movement, Daoudi said, is putting pressure on an already fragile food security situation in the cities.   He said WFP is short of money and limited in what it can do to address the hunger crisis.   Because of the cash crunch, he said his agency has been forced to cut food rations by half for up to 750,000 people who are living on a knife’s edge. WFP is asking for $75 million immediately to cover the needs of hundreds of thousands of starving people over the next few months. 

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US Aid Arrives as India Grapples with COVID-Triggered Humanitarian Crisis

The first emergency aid of critical medical supplies arrived in India from the United States on Friday, as the country grapples with a humanitarian crisis after being hit with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the death toll soaring past 200,000, the race to save lives is getting more frantic with India’s health care system virtually crushed under the relentlessly rising numbers.
A U.S. Super Galaxy military transporter brought more than 400 oxygen cylinders and other hospital equipment as well as rapid coronavirus tests to New Delhi.
U.S. officials said that special flights which will also bring equipment donated by companies and individuals, will continue into next week.
President Joe Biden has pledged to support India in its fight against the coronavirus. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar “to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-India partnership in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Expressing his appreciation for Indian assistance in America’s time of need, Secretary Blinken reviewed comprehensive ongoing U.S. government efforts in support of the Indian government’s COVID-19 response operations,” said Price. “He also noted the outpouring of support from U.S. industries, non-governmental institutions, and private citizens for COVID-19 relief efforts in India.”
Some 40 countries including major powers Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, and smaller countries such as Thailand and Taiwan, have promised to send medical supplies as part of an international aid effort to address the shortage of critical oxygen and medicine. China, with whom India’s ties are strained, has also offered to send aid.
“We are facing an unprecedented second wave of the pandemic,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday.
For ordinary citizens that “unprecedented” situation means waging a desperate battle to save loved ones. The anguished appeals for oxygen, hospital beds, intensive care units, medicines and even wood to cremate the dead continue to dominate social media. At its overburdened crematoriums, grieving people wait into the night to perform the last rites for their family members.
While the Indian capital is one of the worst hit by the second wave, the virus is also wreaking havoc in other parts of the country.COVID-19 relief supplies from the U.S. are being unloaded from a U.S. Air Force aircraft at the Indira Gandhi International Airport’s cargo terminal in New Delhi, India, April 30, 2021.Adding to India’s woes, vaccines are in short supply — several Indian states said they will be unable to expand the vaccination program to people over the age of 18 beginning Saturday, as planned, because they do not have stock. So far, the vaccination drive was restricted to those above 45 years of age.
With hospitals overwhelmed, the Indian army has opened several of its hospitals to civilians and is helping in setting up medical facilities in several cities.
Amid the outcry from citizens, the Indian government has defended itself. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said this week that the country’s fatality rate per million was the lowest in the world and that the oxygen supplies were “adequate.”
India reported 386,452 news cases in the past 24 hours, while deaths from COVID-19 jumped by 3,498, according to health ministry data. For more than a week, the country has set a daily global record reporting over 300,000 infections.
But many experts say India’s official death count and total count of 18.8 million cases is an underestimate. There is also criticism that India did not pay sufficient attention to a new variant of the coronavirus that is infecting people.
About 350 scientists and medical researchers in an online appeal urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow them access to government data such as sequencing of virus variants, testing and recovered patients that could help study, predict and curb the spread of the coronavirus. The data is not available to non-government experts.
“While new pandemics can have unpredictable features, our inability to adequately manage the spread of infections has, to a large extent, resulted from epidemiological data not being systematically collected and released in a timely manner to the scientific community,” the appeal stated.
Public health experts say India’s health facilities are failing under the exponential rise in numbers because health officials neglected to ramp up health infrastructure during the six months when cases dipped amid complacency that the worst of the pandemic was over.
“We were clearly underprepared for the second wave. A lot of temporary facilities set up and staff were let go after the first wave,” said Anant Bhan, a public health expert. “So, when the cases increased, we were found wanting. The second issue is we took things too lightly too soon. There was not much adherence to public health measures such as masking, and large religious and political events were held, which aided the spread of the infection. Also, the spread of new variants which are more infectious in nature have led to this situation.” 

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«Кварталівська» кінокомпанія в Росії збільшила доходи – «Схеми»

Російська компанія «Грин Филмс», співзасновником якої до весни 2019 року був Володимир Зеленський, а досі є перший помічник президента Сергій Шефір, прозвітувала про збільшення доходів

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NASA Astronaut Collins Remembered for ‘Carrying the Fire’

NASA Astronaut Michael Collins, who made history as part of the 1969 Apollo 11 crew to first land a person on the moon, has died at age 90.  In interviews with VOA’s Kane Farabaugh, Collins reflected on the importance of the mission and the contributions of the astronauts of his era, while keeping a focus on the future of crewed spaceflight and exploration.Producer and camera: Kane Farabaugh. 

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Alarm Grows in Africa as it Watches India’s COVID-19 Crisis

Africa is “watching with total disbelief” as India struggles with a devastating resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the continent’s top public health official said Thursday, as African officials worry about delays in vaccine deliveries caused by India’s crisis.The African continent, with roughly the same population as India and fragile health systems, “must be very, very prepared” since a similar scenario could happen here, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters.An Indian man sleeps next to a sign urging people to stay at home as a precaution against coronavirus in the premises of a hospital in Hyderabad, India, April 29, 2021.”What is happening in India cannot be ignored by our continent,” he said, and urged African countries to avoid mass gatherings including political rallies. “We do not have enough health care workers, we do not have enough oxygen,” he warned.Africa’s vaccine supply heavily relies on India, whose Serum Institute is the source of the AstraZeneca vaccines distributed by the global COVAX project to get doses to low- and middle-income countries. India’s export ban on vaccines “has severely impacted the predictability of the rollout of vaccination programs and will continue to do so for the coming weeks and perhaps months,” Nkengasong said.”We are living in a world that is extremely uncertain now,” he added.Just 17 million vaccine doses have been administered across the African continent for a population of some 1.3 billion, according to the Africa CDC.The situation in India is “very sad to observe,” the World Health Organization’s Africa chief told reporters in a separate briefing. “We are very concerned about the delays that are coming in the availability of vaccines,” Matshidiso Moeti added.Her WHO colleague, Phionah Atuhebwe, called the delay “quite devastating for everybody” and said most African nations that received their first vaccine doses via COVAX will reach a “gap” in supply while waiting for second doses as early as May or June.”We call upon countries that have extra doses to do their part,” Atuhebwe said, adding that the WHO is reviewing the Chinese-made Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines this week.One unexpected COVID-19 vaccine donor is Congo, which Nkengasong said wants to give back some 1.3 million doses so they can be distributed to other African nations since it hasn’t been able to do it at home.There is “a lot of vaccine hesitancy” in the vast country, Nkengasong said. He didn’t immediately know how many people have received the doses there.A Muslim man walks past COVID-19 guidelines at the gate of Lekki Central mosque, in Lagos, Nigeria, April 16, 2021.There is a five-week timeline to get the doses administered elsewhere, he said, and Congo is working with COVAX to hand them over. He expressed hope that the doses can reach other people quickly during what he called “an extremely critical time.”Nkengasong didn’t know of other African countries saying they’re unable to use their doses but he urged them not to wait until the last moment to hand them back. Other countries in Europe, North America and Asia “can have their luxury” of vaccine options, he said, but “we do not have choices.”Moeti with the WHO commended Congo for its decision, calling it “extremely wise of the government to make this estimation” in a country with gaps in its health care system.She also warned that African countries must step up key public health measures to help avoid India’s scenario occurring here. The rate of testing for the coronavirus has dropped in “quite a few countries,” she said, and mentioned seeing data from one African nation in which the proportion of people not wearing face masks has risen to almost 80%.Only 43 million tests for the virus have been conducted across the African continent since the pandemic began, the Africa CDC chief said, with a 26% drop in new tests conducted in the past week.Nkengasong warned against travel bans, however, after Kenya this week announced it will suspend all passenger flights to and from India for two weeks starting midnight Saturday, while cargo flights continue.”It’s really unfortunate we are reacting in a very ad hoc manner in respect to flight movements,” he said, emphasizing the strength of authentic negative PCR tests. “It’s not people who are a threat, it’s the virus.”

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India’s Daily COVID Count Is Almost 400,000

The daily tally of COVID-19 cases in India continues to climb toward the 400,000 mark. Friday, the health ministry reported 386,452 new infections. The daily toll of new cases has been over 300,000 for nine consecutive days. Indian media are reporting that some public health experts believe that the actual tally of new infections may be at least five times higher than the official count.Aid from the U.S. and other countries arrived in India on Friday. U.S. assistance includes oxygen supplies, rapid diagnostic tests, and vaccine manufacturing materials.The second wave of the coronavirus has pushed India’s health care system to the brink of collapse, with hospitals at full capacity and an acute shortage of oxygen aggravating an already desperate situation. Many parks and parking lots have been converted into makeshift crematories that are working day and night to burn dead bodies.Indian public health experts have blamed the spread on more contagious variants of the virus, plus the easing of restrictions on large crowds when the outbreak appeared to be under control earlier this year.Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s European regional director, warned Thursday that “It is very important to realize that the situation in India can happen anywhere … when personal protection measures are being relaxed, when there are mass gatherings, when there are more contagious variants and the vaccination coverage is still low. This can basically create a perfect storm in any country.”Only the U.S. has more COVID cases than India. The U.S. has more than 32 million infections, while India has 18.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.More than a quarter of British health care workers are wary of the COVID-19 vaccine. Reasons for their reluctance included several conspiracy theories and the lack of people of color in vaccine trials.Vaccine maker Pfizer has begun exporting doses manufactured at one of its U.S. plants according to a report filed by Reuters. Reuters reports the vaccines went to Mexico.Meanwhile, the head of Australia’s drug regulatory agency said Thursday there is no evidence the AstraZeneca vaccine was responsible for the deaths of two people shortly after their inoculations.Two men in New South Wales state, including one in his 70s, died within days after receiving the vaccine.John Skerritt, the head of the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration, told reporters the men’s deaths are being investigated, but said “the current evidence does not suggest a likely association” between the deaths and the vaccination.The AstraZeneca vaccine has had a troubled rollout across the world, with many nations suspending its use after reports first surfaced of a severe side effect that combines blood clots with low platelet counts following inoculation, including a handful of deaths.

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US Wants to Help India Produce Oxygen Fast

The United States, which has sent emergency aid to India, wants to quickly help the country increase its oxygen capacity to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, a U.S. official said Thursday.A first military plane loaded with equipment, including nearly 1 million rapid screening tests and 100,000 N95 masks, arrived early Friday in New Delhi. The shipment is part of a more than $100 million support plan, according to the White House.The priority “is to try to meet some of their immediate needs to deal with the serious challenges they face in their hospitals,” said Jeremy Konyndyk of the U.S. Agency for International Development.”We also need to help them address some of the underlying challenges, on the volume of oxygen the country can produce,” he told AFP.The United States is discussing with India how to develop its oxygen supply chain, including using technologies to convert industrial-grade oxygen into medical oxygen and improving its transport.Washington has also promised to help India by providing it with vaccines. But according to Konyndyk, for a country of more than a billion people facing skyrocketing cases, that is more of a medium-term measure.”Right now, there just aren’t enough vaccines in the world and not the ability to deliver them quickly enough to control this kind of outbreak,” he said.The United States announced Monday that it will provide other countries with 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not authorized for use in the U.S.Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is sending equipment to India to produce more than 20 million doses of Covishield, a cheaper version of the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in India.Biden has been criticized by those who believe he should have shared vaccine doses with the rest of the world more quickly. 

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Brazil Tops 400,000 Virus Deaths Amid Fears of Renewed Surge

Brazil on Thursday became the second country to officially top 400,000 COVID-19 deaths, losing another 100,000 lives in just one month, as some health experts warn there may be gruesome days ahead when the Southern Hemisphere enters winter.April was Brazil’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with thousands of people losing their lives daily at crowded hospitals.The country’s Health Ministry registered more than 4,000 deaths on two days early in the month, and its seven-day average topped out at above 3,100. That figure has tilted downward in the last two weeks, to less than 2,400 deaths per day, though on Thursday, the Health Ministry announced another 3,001 deaths, bringing Brazil’s total to 401,186.Local health experts have celebrated the recent decline of cases and deaths, plus the eased pressure on the Brazilian health care system — but only modestly. They are apprehensive of another wave of the disease, like those seen in some European nations, due to a premature resumption of activity in states and cities combined with slow vaccination rollout.Fewer than 6% of Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, an online research site. President Jair Bolsonaro, who is now being investigated by a Senate panel over his administration’s handling of the crisis, has repeated he will be the last to get a shot, and he has attacked mayors and governors who enforce restrictions to control the virus’ spread.Shortly after the grim landmark was published, Bolsonaro said in a live broadcast on his social media channels that “a big number of deaths has been announced,” adding that he is “sorry for every death.” But he repeated his stance against social distancing measures.”I pray to God so there is not a third wave” of the coronavirus, the president said. “But if the lockdown policies continue, this country will be dragged to extreme poverty.”Epidemiologist Wanderson Oliveira, one of the Health Ministry’s top officials at the start of the pandemic, said he expects a third wave to hit by mid-June. He told radio station CBN on Tuesday that the country’s immunization effort won’t prevent a new surge because many people won’t receive shots before winter, when indoor gatherings and activities are more common even in the tropical nation.”Our vaccination is such that in 2022, maybe we will have a much less tragic summer than we did now,” he said, referring to the last few months.He added he expects limited help from local leaders’ partial shutdowns, which have yielded weaker results than European-style lockdowns. Many Brazilians flouted social distancing recommendations and partial shutdowns even in the throes of the pandemic’s peak.Brazil’s vaccination program, though a far cry from its triumphant campaigns of decades past, has slowed the pace of deaths among the nation’s elderly, according to death certificate data published on Monday. Younger people remain unprotected and have begun falling ill in far greater numbers as a more transmissible variant circulates in Brazil.Adding to concerns, Brazil’s Health Ministry has repeatedly cut its outlook for vaccines in the short term. The country’s two biggest laboratories are facing supply constraints for imports from producers in China and India, which has become the pandemic’s global epicenter.