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After Months Of Silence, NASA’s Voyager 2 Sends Message Back to Earth From 11.5 Billion Miles Away

NASA has finally reconnected with its Voyager 2 space craft.

Justin MacLachlan

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After months of radio silence, NASA has finally reconnected with its Voyager 2 space craft. The Voyager 2 spacecraft has been scouring the cosmos for longer than 40 years, all that time staying in contact with NASA’s team of engineers. However, in March of this year, NASA closed communication with the craft.

The space agency left the shuttle to spend a secluded few months in space without signal to upgrade its communication system. Flying some 11.5 billion miles away from Earth, Voyager 2 was left to its own equipment in mid-March.

But on October 29th right before Halloween, NASA briefly reconnected with Voyager 2 while testing its new Deep Space Network antennas (DSN), NASA reported. Voyager 2 was on an important scientific mission originally to study the outer planets, and now in its extended mission, to study deep Interstellar Space in general.

It’s also one of the furthest manmade objects from Earth. NASA notes that Voyager 2 has left the Solar System entirely. To communicate with the spacecraft, NASA relies on the Deep Space Network antennas (DSN).

The DSN is reliable. But much like the Voyager 2, it’s old, very old. To be more precise, it’s more than 70 years old. To put that into perspective, the system was first created when NASA launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958. The DSN is used to communicate with an estimated 30 spacecraft every day and it runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As another fun fact, the system is spread out across three joint sites located in the United States, Australia, and Spain.

As NASA prepares for numerous new missions to the moon and mars, all launching in the next few years, the DSN is certainly overdue for a much-needed upgrade to its systems and software.

NASA also started its critical work with an antenna denominated Dss43 that is 230-feet-wide, about the size of a 20-story building, and is located in Canberra, Australia. Dss43 has been operational for 48 years and some of its components, including the conductor used to actively communicate with Voyager 2, have never been given a tune-up. NASA has now drastically improved Dss43’s heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment, and other devices used to operate. On October 29th, NASA sent a brief call to Voyager 2 to test the new equipment to make sure it was operational.

“What makes this task unique is that we’re doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extend above the rim,” Brad Arnold, the DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California, said in a statement. “This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”

In the test, NASA’s mission control operators on the ground transmitted a series of commands to Voyager 2, and the spacecraft executed the commands, confirming the test was a success.

NASA is going to cut off its communications to Voyager 2 again until later next year. Dss43 will not be fully back online until February 202, so Voyager 2 will have to endure several more months without communication to ground control, which is worrying for engineers.

“Having the antenna down for one year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or for many other NASA missions,” Philip Baldwin, operations manager for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program, said in a statement. “The agency made the decision to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it’s better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”

Thankfully, Voyager 2 doesn’t have humans on board and its just a space probe, otherwise, things could get really serious if communication had to be cut off.

Corruption

Derek Chauvin Found GUILTY of Murdering George Floyd

Elias Marat

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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man whose death at Chauvin’s hands last May sparked a long period of unrest and major protests against policing and racism in America.

After deliberating for about 10 hours over two days, the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter for the killing of Floyd on a street corner last year on Memorial Day.

The second-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years. The third-degree murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and second-degree manslaughter can carry up to 10 years.

In harrowing video footage from the May 25, 2020, incident that has been seen billions of times across the globe, Chauvin could be seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd for over nine minutes while fellow Minneapolis officers Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane stood by. Meanwhile, a horrified crowd of bystanders filmed and pled with officers as the event transpired.

On Monday, the prosecution and defense presented their closing arguments to the jury.

Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions directly led to Floyd dying from low oxygen, or asphyxia. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said that Chauvin “chose pride over policing,” calling his actions “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.” He also reminded the jury that Chauvin’s hundreds of hours of training over the course of 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department should have led to a different outcome than Floyd’s death during a crisis.

The prosecution also focused on the fact that Chauvin knee was on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

The defense, however, argued that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and a pre-existing heart condition were to blame and that “the totality of the circumstances,” including exposure to carbon monoxide, led to his death in police custody.

38 witnesses were called by prosecutors, including the teenager who recorded the widely seen video that has been played endlessly over the past year. She and other bystanders testified that they remain haunted by Floyd’s death. The defense called seven witnesses, including two experts.

Floyd’s death rekindled a long-seething anger over police brutality and racial oppression in the United States, with cities across the U.S. and the world rising up in protest over his killing and the killings of other victims of law enforcement.

President Joe Biden had expressed his wish for “the right verdict” without specifying explicitly whether the verdict would be guilty or not guilty. Biden had been careful not to comment on a potential outcome in Chauvin’s trial while urging calm.  

Residents, activists and journalists descended on the Hennepin County Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis when the announcement was made at 2:30 pm local time that the verdict has been reached. The crowd greeted the judge’s announcement of Chauvin’s guilty charges with applause and cheers.

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Good News

Cliffhanger: Mountain Biker Saved From “Imminent Death” After Falling Into Canyon

Elias Marat

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A Southern California mountain biker is likely counting his blessings after he was rescued from what authorities describe as “imminent death”” after falling from the side of a cliff in the Angeles National Forest.

The mountain biker, described as an older man, fell into the canyon at Mt. Wilson on Thursday morning and was dangling hundreds of feet above the ground before his fellow bikers, and eventually a special team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, rescued him.

For some time the man dangled by a thin cord around his ankle that was tied to his bicycle while hanging on for dear life “like a cat,” Capt. Tom Giandomenico of the LASD special enforcement bureau told the Los Angeles Times.

“He knew he was in such a precarious situation. He was just scared to even rotate his head to look at us. He just didn’t want to move a muscle,” LASD Deputy Richard Thomsen told CBSLA.

Additionally, when the helicopter team arrived it wasn’t just a matter of simply hoisting the man to safety, as the air generated by the helicopter’s rotor would have sent the man plummeting to “imminent death,” Giandomenico added.

“Because he was head-down on the rock face there, that dropped probably a good 40 feet before it hit some soft dirt and a boulder,” Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Helbring said. “And beyond that was hundreds of feet down to the bottom of the canyon.”

Instead, one of the members of the special enforcement team composed of former SWAT officers devised a plan to rappel down to the man and move him to a ledge below, from which the two could be airlifted to safety.

However, due to a lack of boulders or trees, there was nothing to tie a rope to – and thus no way to rappel down to anything.

So instead, the special enforcement team used the man’s brother and another friend to be their anchor, a plan that ultimately succeeded.

Giandomenico called the rescue “one of the more significant, courageous maneuvers I’ve seen.”

“Heroic, in my opinion,” he added.

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Bizarre

Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells

Elias Marat

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For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.

Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.

Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.

Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25  pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.

After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.

However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.

“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.

“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.

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