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Elon Musk’s SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

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SpaceX completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts in the next few months, mimicking an emergency escape shortly after liftoff Sunday.

No one was aboard for the wild ride in the skies above Cape Canaveral, just two mannequins.

The nine-minute flight ended with the Dragon crew capsule parachuting safely into the Atlantic, after separating and speeding away from the exploding rocket.

“I’m super fired up,” Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, told reporters. “It’s just going to be wonderful to get astronauts back into orbit from American soil after almost a decade of not being able to do so. That’s just super exciting.”

NASA astronauts have not launched from the U.S. since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the next Crew Dragon could launch with a pair of NASA astronauts in the second quarter of this year — as early as April.

The Falcon 9 rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into its supersonic flight, the Dragon crew capsule catapulted off the top 12 miles (20 kilometers) above the Atlantic. Powerful thrusters on the capsule propelled it up and out of harm’s way, as the rocket engines deliberately shut down and the booster tumbled out of control and exploded in a giant fireball.

The capsule reached an altitude of about 27 miles (44 kilometers) before parachuting into the ocean just offshore to bring the test flight to a close. Everything appeared to go well despite the choppy seas and overcast skies. Within minutes, a recovery ship was alongside the capsule.

Recycled from three previous launches, the SpaceX rocket was destroyed as it burst apart in flight and slammed in pieces into the sea. SpaceX normally tries to recover its boosters to drive down launch costs, landing them upright on a floating platform or back at the launch site.

NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, said the launch abort test was “our last open milestone” before allowing SpaceX to launch Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station. Their launch date will depend, in part, on whether NASA decides to keep them for months at the orbiting lab, versus just a week or two. A longer mission will require more training before flight.

The astronauts monitored Sunday’s flight from the firing room. Hurley said it was “pretty neat to see” the capsule aboard the recovery ship within two hours. By all early accounts, the test was successful.

“We’ll see what the data show and go from there,” Hurley said. “But it certainly is a confidence builder from the standpoint if you ever got into that situation, that Dragon can get us away from the booster quickly.”

The astronauts also will have access to speed before liftoff. During a launch dress rehearsal Friday, Hurley and Behnken drove a white Tesla Model X from Kennedy Space Center’s crew quarters to the launch pad, their sleek white and black spacesuits matching the electric sports car with wing-like doors. Musk, who also runs Tesla, used the cars to get around the space center Sunday.

Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday’s launch from Kennedy brought together hundreds of SpaceX, NASA and Air Force employees on land, at sea and in the air. Tourists and locals alike packed the adjoining visitor complex and nearby beaches to see the dramatic fiery spectacle of an out-of-control rocket. Musk brought along his own family, including his brother.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing a decade ago to transport astronauts to and from the space station for billions of dollars. Both companies struggled with technical problems, adding years of delay and forcing NASA to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars extra for Russian rocket rides.

After multiple cargo deliveries for NASA, SpaceX successfully flew an enhanced crew capsule to the space station last March without anyone on board, but it exploded a month later during ground testing. The emergency escape thrusters — the kind used in Sunday’s test — had to be retooled. In all, SpaceX has tested these powerful Super Draco thrusters some 700 times.

Last month, meanwhile, Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule ended up in the wrong orbit on its first test flight and had to skip the space station. The previous month, only two of the Starliner’s three parachutes deployed during a launch abort test.

Lueders said it’s too soon to know whether Boeing will need to send another Starliner to the space station without a crew or go straight to launching astronauts later this year. An investigation team is still looking into why the Starliner’s automated timer was off by 11 hours during the December test flight.

The importance of launch escape was demonstrated in 2017 when two astronauts, an American and a Russian, were pulled to safety during a failed launch from Kazakhstan. They experienced up to seven times the force of gravity during the abort, but walked away from the accident.

The SpaceX in-flight abort system, Musk pointed out, should be gentler for the crew and is good from the launch pad all the way to orbit.

Musk said the Dragon’s escape system should work — in principle — even if the capsule is still attached when the rocket erupts in a fireball. He said that could look like “something out of ‘Star Wars’” with the capsule flying right out of a fireball.

“Obviously we want to avoid doing that,” he quickly added, taking note of all the NASA personnel around him.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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From UP stopped from entering Haryana to sell paddy crop at government-run mandis

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A day after the agriculture bills have been signed into law by the President, around fifty farmers from Uttar Pradesh were stopped from entering neighbouring Haryana’s Karnal district on Monday to sell their paddy crop at government-run mandis.

On Saturday, the Karnal Deputy Commissioner, Nishant Yadav had issued orders to prevent farmers from crossing the state border to sell non-basmati varieties of rice.

The act was done to ensure that the same crop grown by local farmers is given preference.

“There is no law which bars farmers from other states from selling their produce in Haryana. However, we have a portal where farmers upload their details so it is easier for us to buy from them. Due to Covid procurement has been staggered. Every registered farmer gets an SMS about their arrival date at the market,” PK Das, Additional Chief Secretary (Food and Civil Supplies), said, reported NDTV.

“We have asked these farmers to register on that portal. Once they do it they will also receive a similar text and then, on their scheduled date, they can come with their produce,” he added.

Yesterday morning, the protesting farmers had set a tractor on fire near India Gate in Delhi in the morning during protests.

The police came in action and removed the tractor and the fire has been put out by the fire department.

The three bills were introduced by the government contending that they will benefit the farmers.

Introducing the Bill, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said, “I want to assure everyone that the bills have nothing to do with MSPs. MSPs were there and will continue. I would request everyone to reconsider their views on the farm bills. The two bills are historic and will bring a change in the lives of the farmers. The farmers will be able to freely trade their produce anywhere in the country.”

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Dalit woman from UP, who was raped two weeks ago, succumbed to injuries in Delhi hospital

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After two weeks of being gang-raped by a group of upper-caste men, a 19-year-old Dalit woman from Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh succumbed to injuries at a hospital in New Delhi.

The girl was raped on September 14 and was initially admitted to a district hospital with her tongue cut off and spinal cord severely injured, among other serious injuries.

The girl was first admitted to the ICU of a hospital in west UP’s Aligarh and later shifted to Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital.

The four accused belonging to the upper caste community were charged with gangrape and attempt to murder, apart from charges under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The accused were arrested based on a statement provided by the victim on September 23.

She gave her statement after she briefly regained consciousness.

She had accused three men – Sandeep, his uncle Ravi (35) and their friend Luv Kush, of committing the crime.

As reported by the Indian Express, the family alleged the main accused, Sandeep, and his family had “always harassed Dalits in their area”.

As per the reports, nearly two decades ago, Sandeep’s grandfather had been booked under the SC/ST Act and served three months in prison for allegedly thrashing the victim’s grandfather over a petty issue.

In a couple of tweets in Hindi, Priyanka Gandhi said, “The rape victim of UP’s Hathras has succumbed to injuries in Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital. For two weeks, she was struggling for her survival. The series of rape incidents in Hathras, Shahjahanpur and Gorakhpur have shaken the state.”

“The law and order situation in UP has been disturbed to an extent. There is no arrangement for the women safety. Criminals are committing crime without any fear. The perpetrators should be severely punished,” she said.

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‘Second wave of coronavirus at its peak in Delhi,’ says Arvind Kejriwal, cites experts

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Delhi was witnessing the second wave of coronavirus and has now turned the corner, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Thursday.

The sudden spike in case, crossing 4,000 which took place earlier this month was the second wave of the disease, he said.

CM’s remarks came while speaking at a programme in PUSA (Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University).

“On September 16, Delhi recorded approximately 4,500 cases. After that, the cases started to decline and in the last 24 hours, 3,700 cases have come up in the national capital. In the coming days, the numbers will decline further,” he said.

“From July 1 to August 17, cases were in control. So experts are believing that the second wave of coronavirus which had hit Delhi is now on peak and its intensity will be less in the coming days,” he contended.

With a fresh spike of 86,508 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, India has crossed the 57 lakh mark, according to Ministry of Health on Thursday.

India, which continues to remain the second-worst affected country’s total Covid-19 caseload now stands at 57,32,518 out of which 9,66,382 are active coronavirus cases which account for 16.85 per cent of all cases.

With 87,374 patients that have recovered from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the recoveries continue to remain more than the number of new coronavirus infections for the fifth consecutive day, according to data by Ministry of Health.

Delhi’s total coronavirus case load after daily spike of 3,714 cases now stands at 2,56,789 Covid-19 cases.

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