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3 more Mars landers planned to follow NASA’s InSight in 2 years – National

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As Mars’ newest resident settles in, Planet Earth is working on three more landers and at least two orbiters to join the scientific Martian brigade.


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NASA’s InSight phones home, beams back 1st photos from Mars surface

NASA’s InSight spacecraft touched down on the sweeping, red equatorial plains Monday, less than 400 miles (640 kilometres) from Curiosity, the only other working robot on Mars.

That’s about the distance from San Francisco to Pasadena, California, home to Mission Control for Mars.

InSight — the eighth successful Martian lander — should be wrapping up two years of digging and quake monitoring by the time rovers arrive from the U.S., Europe and China.

NASA’s Mars 2020 will hunt for rocks that might hold evidence of ancient microbial life and stash them in a safe place for return to Earth in the early 2030s. It’s targeting a once-wet river delta in Jezero Crater.

WATCH: Why NASA sent its InSight robot to Mars






The European-Russian ExoMars also will sniff out possible past life, drilling a couple meters down for chemical fossils. A spacecraft that was part of an ExoMars mission in 2016 crash-landed on the red planet.

The Chinese Mars 2020 will feature both an orbiter and lander. The United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, aims to send its first spacecraft to Mars in 2020; the orbiter is named Hope, or Amal in Arabic.

It seems our neighbour Mars holds a siren song for Earthlings, even as NASA shifts its immediate attention back to our moon.


READ MORE:
Saskatoon woman’s product on NASA’s Mars InSight probe

Just three days after InSight’s landing, NASA announced a new commercial lunar delivery program. The space agency has chosen nine U.S. companies to compete in getting science and technology experiments to the lunar surface. The first launch could be next year.

NASA wants to see how it goes before trying something similar on Mars.

“The moon is where it’s at right now relative to commercial space,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science mission office, which is leading the lunar payload project.

WATCH: InSight probe successfully lands on the surface of Mars






At the same time, NASA is pushing for an orbiting outpost near the moon for astronauts, at the Trump administration’s direction. It would serve as a stepping-off point for moon landings, according to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, and provide critical experience close to home before humans embark on a two- to three-year mission to Mars.

Bridenstine envisions a trip to Mars for astronauts in the mid-2030s, admittedly a “very aggressive” goal.

“The reality is, yes, your nation right now is extremely committed to getting to Mars,” Bridenstine said following InSight’s touchdown, “and using the moon as a tool to achieve that objective as fast as possible.”


READ MORE:
NASA’s Mars Insight lander is set to dig into the red planet and listen for quakes

Mars is the obvious place for “boots on the ground” after the moon, said Zurbuchen.

What makes Mars so compelling — for robotic and, eventually, human exploration — is its relatively easy access, said InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One-way travel time is six months, every two years when the planets are closest. Conditions are harsh, but relatively hospitable. “Kind of like being in Antarctica without the snow,” said Banerdt.

On top of that, Mars may be one of the most likely places to find life outside of Earth, according to Banerdt.

Jupiter’s moon Europa may have harbored or even still hold life, but it would take so much longer and cost so much more to get there that Banerdt said it’s hard to imagine achieving such a mission anytime soon.

WATCH: NASA’s InSight lander to study interior of Mars






A life-seeking mission to Europa might come about every decade, Banerdt said, while it’s plausible to have robotic sniffers launching to Mars every two years. That’s five Mars missions for every single one at Europa, he noted.

Mars currently has two functioning spacecraft on the surface — InSight and Curiosity — and six satellites in working order from the U.S., Europe and India. The U.S. is the only country to successfully land and operate a spacecraft on Mars. Curiosity has been roaming the red surface since 2012. NASA’s much older Opportunity rover was working until June when a global dust storm disabled it.

In pursuit of the geological but not biological secrets deep inside Mars, InSight already is providing astounding pictures of a location “no human has ever seen before,” pointed out JPL director Michael Watkins. These photos remind us that in order to do science like this, “we have to be bold and we have to be explorers.”

NASA’s Mars 2020 launch window opens July 17 of that year. Touchdown would be Feb. 18, 2021.

“You’re all invited back,” Watkins told Monday’s jubilant landing-day crowd.



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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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