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NASA’s rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life

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(Last Updated On: February 19, 2021)

The NASA Perseverance rover landed on Mars Thursday, after a 203-day journey traversing 472 million kilometers.

The Perseverance, the most advanced car-sized robot ever sent to the Red Planet, was launched July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States.

Just minutes after the rover safely landed on Mars, the spacecraft sent back the first two images of the Red Planet.

The mission will look for signs of past microbial life and collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth.

NASA said in a statement, “the size of a car, the 2,263-pound (1,026-kilogram) robotic geologist and astrobiologist will undergo several weeks of testing before it begins its two-year science investigation of Mars Jezero Crater.”

“While the rover will investigate the rock and sediment of Jezero’s ancient lakebed and river delta to characterize the region’s geology and past climate, a fundamental part of its mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. To that end, the Mars Sample Return campaign, being planned by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), will allow scientists on Earth to study samples collected by Perseverance to search for definitive signs of past life using instruments too large and complex to send to the Red Planet,” the statement read.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA stated that “Because of today’s (Thursday) exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth.”

“Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth,” Zurbuchen said.

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Kabul’s air pollution a serious ‘threat to life’, say doctors

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Doctors warned Sunday that the air pollution level in Kabul is dangerously high and that it was threatening the lives of many people.

One doctor Mohammad Hashim Wahaj, who spoke to Ariana News, said: “Air pollution is a serious and dangerous problem in Kabul.”

Doctors and resident’s called on government to take measures to stop people from burning fuels such as plastic and rubber and get them to rather use gas or electricity.

“People burn coal and other materials that produce smoke. That should be stopped,” said Mohammad Rasoul, a Kabul resident.

“People should use gas and electricity if they can afford it and avoid burning plastic and coal,” said Sohrab, another Kabul resident.

Kabul Municipality meanwhile said efforts are being made to reduce the air pollution level and that they have closed down a number of bathhouses, that burn fuel to heat the water.

Naimatullah Barakzai, the municipality’s head of public awareness and publications department, said that among the central heating systems used in the city are two that run on gas.

According to him there are at least 1,100 other types but these run on coal and wood.

Barakzai said while the municipality would like more people to use gas furnaces and heaters, most of them are not able to afford it.

He said if the people had the money they would rather use “modern equipment”.

Kabul’s air pollution levels increase dramatical each winter as people make fires to keep warm. But, poverty-stricken residents often resort to burning toxic materials such as plastic, car tyres and coal to heat their homes.

In addition to this, the city lies in a valley surrounded by towering Hindu Kush mountain peaks, which reduces the mixing of air, particularly in winter when temperature inversions regularly form and with little rain to remove the pollution from the atmosphere, this accumulates during winter.

Afghanistan documented nearly 5,000 deaths attributed to air pollution in 2020 – deaths due to respiratory and heart diseases that were considered to be caused by air pollution, a health official said in January.

Kabul meanwhile was also considered the world’s worst polluted city last year and is on track to remain among the most polluted cities in 2021.

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Qatar in talks with Turkey on managing Kabul Airport

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Qatar’s foreign minister said that discussions are being held with Turkey about them taking responsibility for the operational control of Kabul International Airport.

Addressing the Mediterranean Dialogues (MED) forum in Rome on Saturday, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that all issues around fully reopening Kabul airport are being discussed with Turkish officials.

This comes after airlines stopped flying into Kabul at the end of August. However, limited commercial flights resumed in recent weeks, including Afghanistan’s Kam Air and Ariana Airlines, as well as Pakistan’s PIA. Qatar Airways has also had regular chartered flights into Kabul.

Al-Thani meanwhile said Doha officials have been hard at work to get the Kabul airport fully operational.

“We have been working together very closely on the issue of the airport, whether on the assessment of requirements to get the airport operational again, or on the management agreement with the Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government to operate the airport in the future.”

Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) said that in the event of a contract being drawn up with a foreign country, national interests will be preserved.

“No contract for Kabul International Airport has been signed so far. We have made our conditions clear for companies based on our national interests. If company’s respect our national interests, we will sign contracts with them,” said Amamudin Ahmadi, a spokesman for the ACAA.

 

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Passport offices to open in another 14 provinces: IEA

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said Sunday that government will begin the application and distribution process of passports in 14 additional provinces this week.

According to the IEA, the distribution process will start in Farah, Nimruz, Badghis, Paktika, Samangan, Laghman, Uruzgan, Kunar, Takhar, Zabul, Jawzjan, Bamiyan, Panjsher, and Baghlan provinces on Monday.

Alam Gul Haqqani, Head of the Passport Department, stated the department is providing fair services to all Afghans, and urged the public not to pay passport forgers money.

Haqqani added that the distribution of passports in Kabul would be resumed as soon as technical issues have been resolved.

“We have purchased new machines. As I have said before, some of these [machines] arrived, and the rest will be delivered [in the future]. Inshallah, we will resume our work as soon as we receive our machines,” Haqqani said.

The process of issuing passports also started in Balkh, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Nangarhar, Khost and Paktia provinces three weeks ago.

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