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India launches Brazil satellite and 18 others into space

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

A Brazilian Earth observation satellite soared into space aboard an Indian rocket at about 4.30am local time along with 18 passenger satellites from the United States and India.

Space.com reported the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch of the rocket took place at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

An ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) carried Amazonia-1 and 18 smaller satellites into space.

“The satellite is in very good health,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said after the launch. “The solar panels have deployed and it is functioning very nicely.”

Amazonia-1 is optimized to focus on the cloud-covered region of the Amazon forest, since it has infrared capabilities that allow it to look at the forest cover regardless of the weather.

Brazil plans to use the satellite for “alert deforestation” in the region, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said in an Amazonia 1 mission description.

The satellite is also Brazil’s first independently designed, built and operated satellite, which country officials hailed after it reached orbit.

“This satellite has a very important mission for Brazil,” said Marcos Pontes, Brazil’s minister for science, technology and innovation, who is also the country’s first astronaut (he flew to the International Space Station in 2006). “It represents a new era of the Brazilian industry for satellite development in Brazil.”

Deforestation is an ongoing concern not only for the region’s unique flora and fauna, which are irreplaceable once extinct, but also for health outcomes of human residents. Back in August 2019, smoke from wildfires in the Amazon transformed São Paulo’s normal daylight hours into a smog-filled afternoon of darkness, amid a larger state of emergency in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

The 18 other satellites include a mix of Indian and American craft. The Indian-built satellites include Satish Dhawan SAT, which studies radiation, space weather and communications, the UNITYsat trio, for radio relay, and a technology demonstrator satellite called SindhuNetra.

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Gases from Canaries’ volcano not harmful to humans, official says

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

Levels of toxic gases emitted by the volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma are not dangerous for humans, Canary Islands’ Chief Vulcanologist Miguel Angel Morcuende said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

“There is no problem with the sulphur levels. The readings being taken are not dangerous for human health,” he said.

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Scientists get funding boost to bring back woolly mammoths

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

Ten thousand years after woolly mammoths vanished from the face of the Earth, scientists hope to bring the animals back to the Arctic tundra.

Discussions on this have been ongoing for more than 10 years but last week researchers announced they had raised $15 million in funding that could help make their dream a reality.

The funding comes in the form of $15m raised by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal, co-founded by Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who has pioneered new approaches to gene editing.

The Guardian reported that the scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA.

The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA, the Guardian reported.

These embryos would then be carried to term in a surrogate mother or potentially in an artificial womb. If all goes to plan the researchers hope to have their first set of calves in six years.

“Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees,” Church told the Guardian.

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SpaceX capsule with world’s first all-civilian orbital crew returns safely

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever sent into Earth orbit.

The successful launch and return of the mission, the latest in a recent string of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by their billionaire passengers, marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro-tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight, Reuters reported.

“Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation.

The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas shortly before sunset, following an automated reentry descent, as shown during a live SpaceX webcast on its YouTube channel.

Within an hour the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the capsule’s side hatch after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a SpaceX recovery vessel.

First out was Hayely Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee, a childhood bone cancer survivor herself who became the youngest person ever to reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration4 mission.

She was followed in rapid succession by geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42, and finally the crew’s billionaire benefactor and “mission commander” Jared Isaacman, 38.

“That was a heck of a ride for us,” Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, radioed from inside the capsule moments after splashdown. “We’re just getting started.”

He had paid an undisclosed sum – put by Time magazine at roughly $200 million – to fellow billionaire Musk for all four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

The Inspiration4 team blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

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