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SpaceX launches four astronauts to International Space Station

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(Last Updated On: April 23, 2021)

NASA and Elon Musk’s commercial rocket company SpaceX launched a new four-astronaut team on a flight to the International Space Station on Friday, the first crew ever propelled into orbit by a rocket booster recycled from a previous spaceflight.

The company’s Crew Dragon capsule, Endeavour, streaked into the darkened pre-dawn sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as its nine Merlin engines roared to life at 5:49 a.m. (0949 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The blastoff was aired live on NASA TV.

The crew is due to arrive at the space station, which orbits some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, early on Saturday following a flight of about 23 hours.

 

Within 10 minutes of launch, the rocket’s second stage had delivered the crew capsule to Earth orbit, traveling at nearly 17,000 miles per hour, according to launch commentators.

The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You.

The mission marks the second “operational” space station team to be launched by NASA aboard a Dragon Crew capsule since the United States resumed flying astronauts into space from U.S. soil last year, following a nine-year hiatus at the end of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011.

It is also the third crewed flight launched into orbit under NASA’s fledgling public-private partnership with SpaceX, the rocket company founded and owned by Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur who is also CEO of electric carmarker Tesla Inc.

The first was an out-and-back test mission carrying just two astronauts into orbit last May, followed by SpaceX’s first full-fledged four-member crew in November.

Friday’s Crew 2 team consists of two NASA astronauts – mission commander Shane Kimbrough, 53, and pilot Megan McArthur, 49 – along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, 52, and fellow mission specialist Thomas Pesquet, 43, a French engineer from the European Space Agency.

The four helmeted crew members, dressed in their white flight suits and black boots, were briefly glimpsed seated side by side in the capsule just after reaching orbit in a video clip captured by an onboard camera.

They are expected to spend about six months aboard the orbiting research platform conducting science experiments and maintenance before returning to Earth.

The four members of Crew 1, sent to the space station in November, are slated to fly home on April 28.

The Crew 2 mission made a bit of spaceflight history due to the fact that its Falcon 9 rocket blasted off with the same first-stage booster that lofted Crew 1 into orbit five months ago, marking the first time a previously flown booster has ever been re-used in a crewed launch.

Reusable booster vehicles, designed to fly themselves back to Earth and land safely once they separate from the rest of the rocket minutes after launch, are at the heart of a re-usable rocket strategy that SpaceX helped pioneer to make spaceflight more economical.

SpaceX has logged dozens of successful Falcon 9 booster return landings, and the company has refurbished and re-used most of them, some for multiple flights. But all of those flights, until Friday’s mission, only carried cargo.

Crew 2’s pilot, McArthur, made a bit of history herself as the first female pilot of the Crew Dragon and the second person from her family to ride aboard the SpaceX capsule. She is married to NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who flew the SpaceX demonstration flight with fellow astronaut Doug Hurley last year. The same Crew Dragon was used for that flight as well.

If all goes well, McArthur and her three crewmates will be welcomed aboard the space station Saturday by the four Crew 1 astronauts – three from NASA and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA. Two Russian cosmonauts and a U.S. astronaut who shared a Soyuz flight to the space station are also aboard.

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Day 3 of ceasefire: MoD accuses Taliban of violating ceasefire

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Saturday that Taliban has violated the three-day ceasefire in seven provinces across the country that killed and wounded dozens of civilians.

“The ceasefire has been violated in several cases and several points of the country and terrorist groups under Taliban leadership violated the ceasefire. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is committed to the ceasefire, but enemies are not committed and violated the ceasefire,” said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the MoD.

This comes after an IED was reportedly detonated inside a mosque in Shakardara district in Kabul during Friday prayers. On Saturday, sources said 14 people were killed, including the mosque’s Imam.

The following incidents were reported on Saturday, day three of the ceasefire.

1 – One policeman and two civilians were wounded in an explosion in Surobi district of Kabul province on Saturday.

2- Two civilians were killed and two others were wounded in Kunduz province in an IED explosion.

3- Two civilians killed in Ghazni province in an explosion

4- Two explosions were reported in Kandahar province that killed and wounded civilians.

5- An explosion in Kapisa reportedly killed and wounded civilians.

In addition to this, Mohammad Omar Sherzad, the governor of Uruzgan province said that Taliban attacked Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) in the province.

“In two areas of Uruzgan province the ceasefire has been violated. One attack was on a security forces convoy along the Kandahar-Uruzgan highway and second they (Taliban) attacked an ANDSF check post close to Tarin Kot city, that wounded Afghan forces. The Taliban are not committed to their commitments,” said Sherzad.

Meanwhile, some members of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) said that all the attacks are not carried out by the Taliban.

“Shakardara attack was a series of killings of religious scholars; such attacks are carried out by Takfiri (non-believing) groups; but attacks in Uruzgan, Kandahar and other provinces are Taliban actions,” said Mohammad Arif Rahmani, an MP.

The three-day ceasefire was widely welcomed by the Afghan people but most called for the tenuous truce to be extended and to become permanent.

However, going into the ceasefire, the Taliban said it would observe the truce but would resume hostilities after the Eid holidays.

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Atmar conveys condolences to Palestine just hours before media offices bombed

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TRT World
(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, Riyad Al-Maliki, on Saturday and condemned the escalation of attacks and encroachment on the Palestinian people during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.

In a statement issued by his office, Atmar said the bloody attacks were unacceptable for Islamic countries and the world’s peace-loving nations. 

He also called for an immediate end to the violence in the region.

Expressing the Afghan people’s solidarity with the people of Palestine, Atmar stated that Afghanistan supported the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to an independent state, within the borders set out in the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution.

Atmar’s conversation came just hours before Israel bombed a building in Gaza City that houses The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of other foreign media outlets. 

The airstrike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed residential apartments. 

The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked, AP reported

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. 

AP reported the strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon after the building’s owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that it would be hit. AP’s staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.

Al-Jazeera, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

 

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Taliban faction’s deputy dies in Kabul from injuries sustained in Herat skirmish

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

Deputy head of the Taliban splinter group in the western part of the country, Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, died in Kabul on Saturday from injuries sustained last week in a skirmish in Herat.

Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed his death and said he had been transferred to a Kabul hospital on Thursday afternoon due to the severity of his wounds. 

Niazi, who was reportedly shot three times in the head, was initially taken to Herat District Hospital after being seriously wounded in an apparent Taliban-on-Taliban attack. 

Sources said three insurgents were killed and three others were wounded in the clash. 

Provincial officials told Ariana News last week that Niazi was wounded on Wednesday in a skirmish with Taliban militants in the Guzara district of the province.

The sources stated at the time that Niazi, a pro-Taliban commander, was taken to Herat’s public hospital.

According to the sources, three of Niazi’s bodyguards were killed in the skirmish.

The Taliban has not commented in this regard.

Niazi was believed to have been Mullah Mohammad Rasool’s deputy – the head of the faction that split from the Taliban in November 2015, following the announcement in July that year that the Taliban’s longtime leader Mullah Omar was dead.

The dissident faction’s announcement was at the time believed to be the first public and official split of the Afghan Taliban since the group formed in the 1990s.

Omar’s deputy at the time was Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, who claimed power — sparking a battle over the group’s leadership.

Rasool and Niazi were among several Taliban commanders who challenged Mansoor’s appointment as leader. Mansoor was the leader of the group from 29 July 2015 to 21 May 2016 but was killed in a drone strike by the United States in Pakistan.

Niazi was born 1968 in Pashtoon Zarghoon district, in Herat province and served as governor of Kabul Province under the Taliban regime.

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