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Jeff Bezos, world’s richest man, carries out inaugural space voyage

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(Last Updated On: July 20, 2021)

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, and three crewmates soared high above the Texas desert aboard his space venture Blue Origin‘s New Shepard launch vehicle on Tuesday and returned safely to Earth, a historic suborbital flight that helps to inaugurate a new era of private commercial space tourism.

The spacecraft ignited its BE-3 engines for a liftoff from Blue Origin’s Launch Site One facility about 20 miles (32 km) outside the rural town of Van Horn, flying about 66.5 miles (107 km) above the planet’s surface. There were generally clear skies with a few patchy clouds on a cool morning for the launch.

The 57-year-old American billionaire flew on a voyage lasting about 10 minutes and 20 seconds to the edge of space, nine days after Briton Richard Branson was aboard his competing space tourism company Virgin Galactic’s successful inaugural suborbital flight from New Mexico.

New Shepard was designed to hurtle at speeds upwards of 2,200 miles (3,540 km) per hour to an altitude beyond the so-called Kármán line – 62 miles (100 km) – set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

After the capsule separates from the booster, the crew was due to have unbuckled for a few minutes of weightlessness. Then the capsule returned to Earth under parachutes, using a last-minute retro-thrust system that expelled a “pillow of air” for a soft landing in the Texas desert.

Bezos gave a thumbs-up sign from inside the capsule after landing on the desert floor before stepping out, wearing a cowboy hat and blue flight suit, and giving company employees high fives.

The mission was part of a fiercely competitive battle between Bezos’ Blue Origin and fellow billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to tap a potentially lucrative space tourism market the Swiss bank UBS estimates will be worth $3 billion annually in a decade.

Bezos and the other passengers climbed into an SUV vehicle for a short drive to the launch pad before walking up a tower and getting aboard the gleaming white spacecraft, with a blue feather design on its side. Each passenger rang a shiny bell before boarding the craft’s capsule.

Branson got to space first, but Bezos was due to fly higher – 62 miles (100 km) for Blue Origin compared to 53 miles (86 km) for Virgin Galactic – in what experts call the world’s first unpiloted space flight with an all-civilian crew. It represents Blue Origin’s first crewed flight to space.

Bezos, founder of ecommerce company Amazon.com Inc, and his brother Mark Bezos, a private equity executive, were joined by two others. Pioneering female aviator Wally Funk, 82, and recent high school graduate Oliver Daemen, 18, become the oldest and youngest people to reach space.

Bezos embraced Funk after the landing.

The flight coincides with the anniversary of Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin becoming the first humans to walk on the moon, on July 20, 1969. New Shepard is named for Alan Shepard, who in 1961 became the first American in space.

Funk was one of the so-called Mercury 13 group of women who trained to become NASA astronauts in the early 1960s but was passed over because of her gender. Daemen, Blue Origin’s first paying customer, is set to study physics and innovation management in the Netherlands. His father, who heads investment management firm Somerset Capital Partners, was on site to watch his son fly to space.

The launch was witnessed by members of the Bezos family and Blue Origin employees, and a few spectators gathered along the highway before dawn. Spectators applauded during the flight.

MINUTES OF WEIGHTLESSNESS

New Shepard is a 60-foot-tall (18.3-meters-tall) and fully autonomous rocket-and-capsule combo that cannot be piloted from inside the spacecraft. It is completely computer-flown and had none of Blue Origin’s staff astronauts or trained personnel onboard.

Virgin Galactic used a spaceplane with a pair of pilots on board.

The reusable Blue Origin booster had previously flown twice to space.

The launch represented another step in the race to establish a space tourism sector that Swiss investment bank UBS estimates will reach $3 billion annually in a decade. Another billionaire tech mogul, Elon Musk, plans to send an all-civilian crew on a several-day orbital mission on his Crew Dragon capsule in September.

On Twitter, Musk wished the Blue Origin crew “best of luck” hours before the launch.

Blue Origin aims for the first of two more passenger flights this year to happen in September or October.

Blue Origin appears to have a reservoir of future customers. More than 6,000 people from at least 143 countries entered an auction to become the first paying customer. The auction winner, who made a $28 million bid, dropped out of Tuesday’s flight, opening the way for Daemen. Virgin Galactic has said 600 people have booked reservations, priced at about $250,000 per ticket.

Branson has said he aims ultimately to lower the price to about $40,000 per seat.

Bezos has a net worth of $206 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires. He stepped down this month as Amazon CEO but remains its executive chairman.

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Moscow in talks with IEA’s leaders about visit to Russia

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Moscow is discussing a possible visit by a delegation of the Taliban-appointed government to Russia with Kabul, the RIA news agency cited a Russian foreign ministry source as saying on Friday, Reuters reported.

Separately, RIA quoted Taliban deputy culture and information minister Zabiullah Mujahid as saying that Kabul was seeking such contacts, Reuters report said.

This comes after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged the international community to refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on the new Afghan government.

Speaking at an event on Thursday in Kabul, Mutaqi warned that if a country “pursues enmity with Afghanistan instead of friendship”, it will face the resistance of Afghans.

Muttaqi also called for the establishment of neutral political relations.

“Afghanistan is not the country it was 20 years ago, and the world should not try to put pressure on it.

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Kabul residents praise IEA on law and order, but hope for jobs

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Kabul residents on Thursday praised the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for their control of law and order, but concerns over job prospects and economic issues remain prevalent.

“Law and order is better under this government than under the previous government, that useless government, but they must work towards getting jobs for the people. They should pay attention to the economy, the unemployment situation,” said market porter Mohammad.

The IEA has asked to address world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s U.N. ambassador, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

Eventual U.N. acceptance of the ambassador of the IEA would be an important step in the new government’s bid for international recognition, which could help unlock badly needed funds for the cash-strapped Afghan economy.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the IEA’s desire for international recognition is the only leverage other countries have to press for inclusive government and respect for rights, particularly for women, in Afghanistan.

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IEA’s foreign minister calls for ‘neutral’ foreign relations

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged the international community to refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on the new Afghan government.

Speaking at an event on Thursday in Kabul, Mutaqi warned that if a country “pursues enmity with Afghanistan instead of friendship”, it will face the resistance of Afghans.

Muttaqi also called for the establishment of neutral political relations.

“Afghanistan is not the country it was 20 years ago, and the world should not try to put pressure on it.

“Afghanistan now has good relations with the rest of the world and the region and the pressure by some countries does not affect Afghanistan because it is not alone now,” said Muttaqi.

He also said strong economic ties between Afghanistan and the region would soon be established and that these would have a positive impact on the entire region.

At the same time, the foreign ministers of China and Pakistan, on the sidelines of the UN summit, called for the lifting of economic sanctions on the Afghan government.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Pakistani foreign minister said that the world had no choice but to engage with the new Afghan government and recognize it.

“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Shah Mahmood Hussein Qureshi told the AP.

“At the same time, the international community has to realise: What is the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”

Qureshi said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Islamic Emirate to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country”.

“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”

But some other countries, including Germany, have opposed the presence of a representative of the Islamic Emirate at the UN summit. German foreign minister said the new Afghan officials needed to show in practice that they were complying with international law.

“Unfortunately, since August 15, life has become very difficult for everyone: financial situation, poverty, level of violence, level of poverty, level of fear, level of losses are increasing day by day. We are not the women of 2001, we are not the women of the 90s. If they [Islamic Emirate] really want to rule and lead in Afghanistan, they cannot rule without [the participation of] the 50 percent of Afghanistan, women,” said Zarifa Ghafari, a women’s rights activist.

This comes after the IEA asked to address world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador.

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Reuters reported

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