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  1. How Pittsburgh Is Leading the U.S. Back to the Moon Jeffrey Kluger Thu, June 23, 2022 at 10:36 AM·11 min read The Peregrine lander in its clean room in Astrobotic's Pittsburgh headquarters Credit - Astrobotic It’s not easy to get from North Lincoln Avenue to the Lake of Death. North Lincoln Avenue is in Pittsburgh; the Lake of Death is on the moon—meaning there’s a tidy 385,000 km (over 239,000 mi.) between them. But before the end of the year, that gap should close—thanks to a modest company in a modest building just a third of a mile northwest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field, tucked humbly between a Wendy’s and a McDonald’s. The building is the headquarters of Astrobotic, which—if all goes according to plan—will launch its Pittsburgh-made Peregrine spacecraft from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center in the fourth quarter of this year, landing it in the Lake of Death, high in the north lunar hemisphere. It would mark the first time the U.S. has put metal on the moon since the soft touchdown of Apollo 17, just shy of 50 years ago. The moon has been on NASA’s mind a lot lately. The space agency is promising that its Artemis program will have astronauts back on the lunar surface by the middle of this decade. Unlike the Apollo crews and their brief flags-and-footprints visits, however, the Artemis crews will ultimately be establishing a long-term presence at fixed lunar bases. But well-supplied bases don’t build and equip themselves—and they don’t come cheap, especially considering NASA’s always tight budget. Enter the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. In 2018, the space agency established CLPS to outsource the delivery of cargo and rovers to the lunar surface to the private sector—much the way NASA’s commercial crew program outsourced the delivery of astronauts to the International Space Station to SpaceX and Boeing. The CLPS companies are contracted to build spacecraft that can do jobs as diverse as scouting for water ice deposits on the moon that can be used for drinking, breathable air, and rocket fuel; studying the radiation of the lunar environment to determine the hazard levels for long-duration crews; and ferrying up power-generating solar panels as well as construction material for lunar greenhouses and even habitats. International and other commercial partners could also pay for the privilege of flying their own payloads aboard the CLPS missions, sweetening the financial pot for the companies. Plus, CLPS contractors own the rights to any ships they design, allowing them to build more for the private sector, should any other customers beyond NASA come calling. Fourteen companies, including giants like Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and Blue Origin have been selected for CLPS contracts, but it is little Astrobotic that is set to be first out of the gate. It is an improbable pick. Never mind SpaceX and its 12,000 employees, or Lockheed Martin with its 114,000. At last count Astrobotic had just 169 workers (though they boast that they have 11 new jobs opening soon). But the 15-year-old company is doing a lot with a little. Sealed inside a clean-room in its unassuming headquarters is the company’s Peregrine lander, 1.9 m (6.2 ft.) tall and 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) wide, stuffed with a suite of 24 instruments and other payloads from five different countries, including 11 different experiments from NASA—all of which will operate autonomously or be run by controllers back on Earth. Also on board are five mini-rovers from the Mexican space agency—each measuring just 12 centimeters (4.7 in) across—meant to test how semi-autonomous machines can coordinate their work on another world; a radiation sensor from the German space agency; and a rover the size of a microwave oven built and designed by students from nearby Carnegie Mellon University. All of this has at once put Astrobotic—and Pittsburgh—very much on the cosmic map. “We’ve been called the spearhead of Artemis,” says Astrobotic director of marketing Alivia Chapla of the company’s first-in-line position. “This mission is bringing America back to the moon.” JOE ZEFF DESIGN Humble Beginnings Astrobotic’s upcoming landing on the moon has its roots in a time the company failed to do just that. In 2007, Google announced it was offering a prize of $30 million to the first private company that could build and launch a rover capable of landing softly on the lunar surface, driving at least 500 meters, and sending back pictures and video of its travels. The so-called Google X-Prize was intended to stimulate invention and competition in the private sector. While it ended in 2018 without a winner, it still made its mark—giving rise to multiple small companies that outlasted the prize itself, including Astrobotic, which began with just 18 employees. “We started with the X-Prize, and while nobody ended up winning, it did help us prove our chops,” says John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO. “It gave us the time and the runway to build up our lunar payload delivery side.” What earned Astrobotic not only inclusion in the CLPS program but the honor of going first is the nimbleness and capability of the Peregrine and the speed with which the company has built it. The spacecraft, which is compact compared to the rovers NASA sends to Mars, nonetheless has enough room on board for its two dozen different payloads. In addition to the German, Mexican, and Carnegie Mellon contributions, the 11 NASA instruments include a neutron spectrometer to search for evidence of water ice on or near the surface; a flux magnetometer to study energy and particle pathways moving throughout the lunar environment; a near-infrared spectrometer that will search for methane and carbon dioxide near the surface that, like water ice, could be used for fuel and breathable air; and a laser reflector, similar to the ones left on the moon by Apollo astronauts, off of which astronomers on Earth can bounce laser beams to precisely measure the distance between the Earth and the moon, and even study such phenomena as moonquakes. Fitting all of the cargo—to say nothing of the electronics and other mechanical guts of the ship—into so relatively small a chassis was, says Victoria Dulla, project manager for Peregrine’s electrical systems team, a little like playing a game of Tetris. If laid end to end, the harnesses that hold all of the ship’s wiring in place would stretch over a mile. “People would walk by my desk and ask, ‘Why are you drawing lines all over your screen all day?’” she says. “I got to grow the design from start to finish and it really has been a dream for the past three years.” Designing and building the spacecraft has been one thing. Actually flying it to the moon will be another matter, and Peregrine’s trip to the lunar surface will be a comparatively patient and poky one. In the Apollo days, astronauts traveled an as-the-crow flies route to the moon, with the powerful upper stage of the Saturn V rocket blasting them out of Earth orbit on a direct moonward trajectory, delivering them to their destination in just three days. For uncrewed spacecraft without as prodigious a rocket as the Saturn V, things are slower. Peregrine will launch atop United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket and, once it separates from the rocket, will spend the better part of a month flying, first in a long, looping Earth orbit and then swinging out far enough to enter an equally swooping lunar orbit before slowly approaching the moon closer and closer, until it finally descends and lands. The Lake of Death—or Lacus Mortis, as it is known to astronomers—was chosen in part because of intriguing surface features that are nothing more or less exotic than caves, carved out by ancient volcanic activity. In addition to water ice on the lunar surface, caves are perhaps the second most prized lunar features, since they may provide spots for early astronauts to build sealed habitats, protected from dangerous radiation coming from space. A species that long ago lived as cave people on Earth could repeat those humble beginnings on the moon. “There’s one cave in particular that has been discovered by ground penetrating radar [from lunar orbit] that could fit the city of Philadelphia inside,” says Thornton. “The water gets all the attention but I think the caves are just as big a discovery because it’s where we’re going to settle.” For all of the work the Astrobotic crew is putting into Peregrine, the new spacecraft will not last long on the moon’s surface. Its lifespan is expected to be just two weeks—or one lunar day—before the Lake of Death is plunged into the cold and darkness of the two-week lunar night, during which temperatures plummet to as low as -130°C, (-208°F), blacking out the spacecraft’s solar panels, freezing its delicate innards, and, in effect, leaving it a derelict bit of once-prized space junk. Spacecraft like the 45-year-old Voyagers do survive the deep cold of deep space with the help of nuclear-fueled radiothermal generators, but it is the rare mission that carries them, mostly because of the dangers inherent in launching radioactive material. “It’s potentially a dirty bomb if something goes wrong,” says Thornton. “There’s a ton of regulation and controls around that kind of launch, so it’s very difficult for a private company to do.” Peregrine, powered only by its solar panels, will thus live a short, but, Astrobotic hopes, productive life. Impressive as Peregrine is, it is not the only lunar spacecraft Astrobotic is building for NASA. The company has won a total of $350 million in contract awards from the space agency and nearly $200 million of that funding is going to build another, larger ship the company plans to launch in 2023 aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Dubbed the Griffin lander, after the mythical four-legged flying creature, the spacecraft measures 3.7 m (12 ft) in width and length and stands 2.4 m (8 ft.) tall. It is headed for the south lunar pole where water ice is known to exist in permanently shadowed craters, and where astronauts could also set up base camps. Unlike Peregrine, with its suite of two dozen instruments, Griffin will carry just one very important piece of cargo: NASA’s 450 kg (nearly 1,000 lb.) VIPER rover, a machine about the size of a golf cart, equipped with instruments to go looking—and even drilling—for water ice. “This giant rover is being sent aboard our Griffin lunar lander,” says Chapla, “and this Griffin lander is the largest lunar lander that’s been built since the Apollo program’s lunar module.” The Space Dividend What Astrobotic accomplishes on the moon, it hopes to match—or at least complement—with what it accomplishes at home in Pittsburgh. The company is opening what it has dubbed its Moonshot Museum adjacent to its headquarters, in partnership with the existing Carnegie Science Center and planetarium. The new facility will not only include familiar space museum exhibits, but will also feature a large window looking into the clean room where Peregrine now sits and where Griffin will soon be. Astrobiotic is also joining hands with academic researchers from the University of Pittsburgh to seed the development of new software for lunar landers as well as Earth-orbiting satellites. At least 40 local contractors and subcontractors are participating in the development of Peregrine and Griffin, spawning a sort of mini-version of Florida’s famed space coast in a formerly sooty steel city. “I like to call us the blue collar space company,” says Chapla, “because we built this through hard work and grit and have turned Pittsburgh into a new center for space innovation.” Peregrine and Griffin are not alone in the CLPS lineup. NASA so far has six CLPS missions scheduled for 2022 and 2023, with the overall program, running through 2028, budgeted at $2.6 billion. Indeed, late this year, not long after Peregrine launches, Houston-based Intuitive Machines plans to launch its own spacecraft with its own collection of NASA science instruments to a spot between the moon’s Sea of Serenity and Sea of Crises in the lunar northeast. Whether NASA will indeed succeed in getting humans back onto the moon’s surface in the mid-2020s is impossible to say. But the infrastructure and experiments needed to make landings on—and the ultimate settlement of—the moon possible are already set to fly. And first out of the chute will be Pittsburgh’s Peregrine—a homegrown machine from an unlikely place, getting ready to make an industrial city’s mark on another world. https://news.yahoo.com/pittsburgh-leading-u-back-moon-143601675.html
  2. https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/rare-albino-galapagos-giant-tortoise-makes-debut-at-swiss-zoo/47645996
  3. 'Just say it was corrupt' and 3 other takeaways from Thursday's Jan. 6 hearing A president desperate to retain power and enmeshed in fringe internet conspiracies engaged in a multi-layer conspiracy, pressuring top Justice Department officials and grasping for straws of legitimacy for his election lies – facts be damned. "Just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen," former President Trump said, according to testimony Thursday from Richard Donoghue, former acting deputy attorney general, in the fifth Jan. 6 committee hearing. Donoghue, who took contemporaneous notes on that conversation, and several others with the former president, emphasized that it was an "exact" quote. Trump made the remarks in the transition period between the 2020 presidential election he lost and the Jan. 6 insurrection. It was just one of many dramatic moments from the hearing that painted — in vivid color — scenes that seemed straight from a Hollywood political thriller. But this was no movie. It was the last days of the Trump presidency – and these hearings have shown just how thin a string was holding together American democracy. Here are four takeaways from the hearing: 1. The details of the pressure on the Justice Department showed Trump crossing all over the lines of the department's independence. Justice Department officials serve at the pleasure of the president, but presidential interference in the department's investigations and inner workings have long been frowned upon in the American tradition. None of that seemed to matter to Trump, according to multiple witnesses Thursday. Trump called and met nearly every day after Election Day with top Justice Department officials, peppering them with false allegations to investigate. But when he was told there was no evidence for conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, it wasn't enough for him, witnesses said. "We have an obligation to tell people that this was an illegal, corrupt election," Donoghue recalled Trump telling him, his notes shown on the screen behind committee members. The clock was ticking on Trump, and the committee showed Trump to be a man who would do nearly whatever it took to stay in power — and saw the Justice Department as a key vehicle. He publicly disagreed with his attorney general, Bill Barr, who quit under the pressure. Trump wanted Barr to appoint a special counsel. Conspiracy theorist lawyer Sidney Powell testified on camera that Trump asked her to be that special counsel. Trump leaned on the new acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, calling or meeting with him nearly every day with the exceptions of Christmas and New Year's Eve, Rosen testified. And Trump threatened to replace Rosen with someone who would act on his election lies. 2. If senior DOJ officials wouldn't go along, Trump would find someone who would. Trump threatened to install Jeffrey Clark, a lower-level DOJ environmental lawyer, in the top job. Rep. Scott Perry introduced Clark to Trump, and Clark was ready to do Trump's bidding. Clark was going behind his superiors' backs to meet with the president, violating department protocols, the officials said. Clark had drafted a letter pressuring state officials to take steps to overturn the election, citing evidence he didn't have for problems with the voting. "This other guy just might do something," Trump told Rosen, Rosen recalled, noting Trump's frustration with Rosen for not pursuing his election lies as legitimate. Donoghue, for the record, said he and others in the department investigated each of Trump's far-flung conspiracies. All were without merit, he said. He and Rosen testified to that and that they told Trump so – repeatedly correcting him "in a serial fashion," as Trump went from one allegation to another. Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows even bandied about a far-flung conspiracy theory that Italian satellites had been rigged to switch votes from Trump to Biden. This went so far that, despite Donoghue calling the theory "pure insanity" and "patently absurd," acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, at Meadows' request, called the Defense attache in Rome, who also knocked down the conspiracy. Trump, though, thought there was something there. Why? "You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do," Trump said, per Donoghue's notes. Frustrated, Trump very nearly appointed Clark attorney general. He only balked when Donoghue emphatically noted in a high-pressure Oval Office meeting that he and many others would resign if Trump took that drastic step. "What do I have to lose?" Trump said at one point, per Donoghue. Donoghue tried to convince him he, personally – and the country – had quite a bit to lose. Donoghue told Trump that Clark's promises were hollow, that he could not deliver what Trump wanted and do so in a matter of days, especially because the allegations had already been investigated – and proven false. "It's absurd," Donoghue said he told Trump. "It's not going to happen, and he's going to fail." 3. Several members of Congress sought pardons Another striking element of Thursday's hearing was the revelation that several right-wing Republican members of Congress, who were in one way or another involved in Jan. 6, sought pardons. Multiple witnesses, including lawyers and White House staff, testified that at least five, perhaps six, Republicans asked for pardons – Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Mo Brooks, R-Ala., Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Scott Perry, R-Pa. There was some question as to whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. asked for one, as well, as a White House staffer testified that she heard Greene did, but didn't know firsthand. Greene denies that she asked for one. All have denied wrongdoing. "The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is if you committed a crime," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who led the questioning Thursday, said. Of course, it's also possible that these members, so deeply enmeshed in conspiracy, in their minds, felt a newly minted Justice Department under a Democratic president, would go after them. "It's not a crime to request a pardon in the United States of America," said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the committee, on CNN after the hearing of his colleagues who asked for pardons. "No one can be prosecuted for that, but I think if we use our common sense, if we use our Tom Paynian common sense, then it would indicate some consciousness of guilt or some fear that you could be prosecuted for what you did." 4. No one was too big or too small for Trump's pressure campaign in his desperate attempt to stay in power. These five days of hearings have revealed just how far Trump would go to hold onto power. His pressure was unrelenting and multifaceted. And no one was immune, from people as high up in the government as his vice president and top Justice Department officials to others doing the work of implementing elections, like Wandrea "Shaye" Moss. Moss testified on Tuesday that her life had been turned upside down, that her personal life had literally been destroyed because of Trump's no-holds-barred bid to cling to the White House. He pressed diligent local election officials, who don't normally get any attention – let alone death threats – to go along with schemes he and those around him concocted to upend the American election system. It has to pain Trump that it didn't work, that for all of his effort, he couldn't pull it off. With all this cast into a bright light, it will be notable to see how Americans move after this. Does Trump continue to wield the kind of influence in the Republican Party, or will he seem more vulnerable if he decides to run again in 2024? https://www.npr.org/2022/06/23/1106701188/just-say-it-was-corrupt-and-3-other-takeaways-from-thursdays-jan-6-hearing
  4. Key takeaways of Jan. 6 panel Day 5: Trump wanted DOJ to promote his interests After four years in power, Donald Trump never grasped that government isn’t supposed to be a tool for promoting personal interests, the Jan. 6 committee argued as it presented evidence Thursday about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Witnesses described Trump’s desperate efforts to rope the Justice Department into a plot to overturn the election — trying at every turn to persuade government attorneys to act as an extension of his campaign. Senior officials whom Trump had appointed testified that they tried to explain the department’s unique role to him: They worked for the American people and represented the federal government. The message never stuck. Frustrated that the department’s leadership wouldn’t falsely claim the election was “corrupt,” Trump nearly replaced the acting attorney general with a loyalist, backing down when he was told the move would trigger a cascade of resignations. He sought to use the department’s prestige and power to plant doubts about the election’s validity, the committee showed. Lost on Trump was the department’s singular purpose: enforcing the law — not doing his bidding. “He wanted the Justice Department to help legitimize his lies, to baselessly call the election corrupt, to appoint a special counsel to investigate alleged election fraud, to send a letter to six state legislatures urging them to consider altering the election results,” said the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. A few takeaways from the hearing: Government officials repeatedly debunked conspiracy theories for Trump The Justice Department looked into various allegations of voter fraud and found nothing that would have overturned the results. Trump never let up. He browbeat department leaders, growing more insistent that they weren’t looking hard enough for fraud as Jan. 6, 2021 neared and Congress would certify Joe Biden’s victory. Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, testified that from Dec. 23, 2020, to Jan. 3, 2021, he heard from Trump virtually every day, with the president taking a break on Christmas. Trump would fixate on meritless allegations. Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general, described multiple meetings in which Trump pointed to a report alleging voter fraud in Antrim County, Michigan. The report contended that the error rate in the county was 68 percent. Trump wanted the Justice Department to use the report to show that the results “weren’t trustworthy,” Donoghue said. Donoghue said that the report was wrong and that the actual error rate turned out to be less than 0.01 percent. He said he told Trump it was an example “of what people are telling you is not true and you cannot and should not be relying on.” On another occasion, Trump told him about allegations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, where there had been about 200,000 more votes than there were voters. Donoghue said he asked a U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, to investigate. Brady concluded that there was no wrongdoing — merely a state election website that hadn’t been updated. “In the weeks leading up to Jan. 6, the Department of Justice was fielding almost daily requests from the president to investigate claims of election fraud,” said committee member Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “Each claim was refuted time and time again, an effort [former] Attorney General Barr described as ‘whack-a-mole.’” Trump never found his Roy Cohn Early in his term, Trump would complain that he didn’t have an attorney general in the mold of Roy Cohn, his onetime personal lawyer, who worked for red-baiting Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin in the 1950s. Trump soured on his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for appointing a special counsel to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Barr quit. And Trump nearly fired Rosen for failing to produce evidence of voter fraud. Rosen told the committee that “the common element” of his meetings with Trump “was the president expressing his dissatisfaction that the Department of Justice had not done enough, in his view, to investigate election fraud.” One person ready to accommodate Trump never got the job. Jeffrey Clark was a Justice Department environmental official whom the president considered elevating to acting attorney general in the final weeks of his term, in place of Rosen. The committee showed how Clark was ready to send letters inviting officials in Georgia and other swing states to throw out Biden’s victory because of “significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election.” In a job audition of sorts, Trump met with Clark and other senior Justice Department leaders on Jan. 3, 2021. Sitting before Trump, Clark made an argument for why he should get promoted. He told the president that he would “conduct real investigations that would, in his view, uncover widespread fraud” and that he had the “intelligence and the will and the desire to pursue these matters in the way that the president thought most appropriate,” Donoghue said. Trump was tempted. Pointing at Donoghue and Rosen, he said: “‘You two haven’t done anything,’” Donoghue recalled. In the end, Trump backed down and kept Rosen in place. Elevating Clark would have triggered mass resignations, crippling the department. Even as DOJ stayed publicly mum, a battle was brewing As the battle brewed behind the scenes at the Justice Department, the officials who testified Thursday were silent publicly. After Barr resigned in December 2020, the new leadership kept quiet as Trump and his campaign spread falsehoods about the election and worked behind the scenes to bend the Justice Department to his will. Justice Department leaders typically try to stay out of politics, and the officials may have thought their best bet was to say nothing publicly and try to ensure a smooth transition. But the silence of the FBI and the Justice Department at the time allowed Trump’s claims to gain steam in the conservative media. That the Justice Department officials stayed silent for so long made Thursday’s hearing more revealing. Speaking out publicly gave their testimony added drama. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/key-takeaways-january-6-panel-day-5-department-justice-trump-rcna34972
  5. A selection of the week's best photos from across the continent and beyond: Image source, Reuters Image caption, Tennis great Serena Williams teams up with Tunisia's Ons Jabeur for the Eastbourne Internationals doubles quarter-final in the UK on Wednesday. Image source, AFP Image caption, On Sunday, Team Egypt compete in the technical artistic swimming event at the World Aquatics Championships. Image source, AFP Image caption, On the same day, hundreds of people join a mass yoga session on the beachfront in Durban, South Africa. Image source, Reuters Image caption, Meanwhile in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, artist Mohammed Mahmoud draws using felt pens attached to his fingers and toes. Image source, PA Media On Thursday in London, Ethiopian refugee and athlete Eskander Turki kneels next to pavement art depicting his journey to the UK. Image source, EPA Protesting nurses hold up their torn shoes in Zimbabwe on Tuesday, as health workers strike over what they say are poverty wages. Image source, AFP Mona Omar waters the wares at her nursery in Khartoum, Sudan, on Sunday... Image source, AFP .. attracting customers and pollinators alike. Image source, Getty Images Also in Khartoum days earlier, a handler lines up turtles at al-Bageir Wildlife Park. Image source, Reuters Tidal surges fuelled partly by climate change have destroyed much of Lagos' Alpha beach, seen here on Tuesday. Image source, AFP Senegalese striker Sadio Mané poses for the cameras at a press conference on Wednesday after signing for German football club Bayern Munich. Image source, AFP Members of Brussels' Congolese community march in tribute to independence hero Patrice Lumumba, whose murder historians say was backed by former colonial power Belgium and the US... Image source, AFP "I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will be free of all their enemies - both internal and external," read these T-shirts worn by well-wishers in DR Congo where Lumumba's only known remains - a tooth - were finally returned by Belgium. Images subject to copyright.
  6. ZDF in Concert 21st November 1984. 2013 rebroadcast
  7. Alison Moyet performs live "Only you"

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