SpaceX Astronauts Welcomed Aboard International Space Station

The crew of the International Space Station welcomed U.S. astronauts Douglas Hurley and Bob Behnken after their privately built SpaceX capsule docked Sunday.  
 
NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner shook hands with their new station-mates as they climbed aboard.
 
“Welcome to Bob and Doug. I will tell you, the whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said back on Earth as his personal welcome.
 
“We sure appreciate that, sir,” Hurley said. “It’s obviously been our honor to be just a small part of this. We have to give credit to SpaceX, the commercial crew program, and, of course, NASA. It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business. And we’re just really glad to be onboard this magnificent complex.”Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File Embed” />Copy Download AudioWATCH: NASA, SpaceX Make History With Successful ISS Docking by VOA’s Arash Arabasadi.Hurley said he “couldn’t be happier” about the performance of the Crew Dragon space capsule, which brought them to the space station less than a day after liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
   
“The Dragon was a slick vehicle, and we had good airflow, so we had an excellent, excellent evening,” Hurley said.
 
The Crew Dragon was flown into orbit aboard a SpaceX rocket – a commercially built spacecraft. It is the first time astronauts or cosmonauts have flown into space aboard a ship not built by a government agency.  
 
SpaceX owner Elon Musk said he was “quite overcome with emotion” when he saw his dream come true with a perfect liftoff Saturday.
 
“It’s been 18 years working towards this goal,” he said. “This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars.”
 
Hurley and Behnken will participate in a number of scientific experiments during what is expected to be a three-month stay on the space station.   

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Online Divisions: Twitter, Facebook Diverge on Trump’s Words

President Donald Trump posted identical messages on Twitter and Facebook this week. But while the two social platforms have very similar policies on voter misinformation and glorifying violence, they dealt with Trump’s posts very differently, proof that Silicon Valley is far from a united front when it comes to political decisionsTwitter placed a warning label on two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted problems with the November elections. It demoted and placed a stronger warning on a third tweet about Minneapolis protests that read, in part, that “when the looting starts the shooting starts.”Facebook left the posts alone.“Facebook doesn’t want to alienate certain communities,” said Dipayan Ghosh, co-director of the digital platforms and democracy project at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “It doesn’t want to tick off a whole swatch of people who really believe the president and appreciate his tweets.”Twitter, on the other hand has a history of taking stronger stances, he added, including a complete ban on political advertisements that the company announced last November.That’s partly because Facebook, a much larger company with a broader audience, caught in the crosshairs of regulators over its size and power, has more to lose. And partly because the companies’ CEOs don’t always see eye to eye on their role in society.“Our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on his social network Friday.FILE – Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on the second day of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 15, 2020.Referring to the president’s comments about the Minneapolis protests, Zuckerberg said that he had “a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.” But Facebook decided, he said, to keep the president’s comment’s on the site because “we read it as a warning about state action, and we think people need to know if the government is planning to deploy force.”More broadly, Zuckerberg has often said Facebook does not seek to be “the arbiter of truth.”Still, Facebook has long used fact checks on its site, done by third-party news organizations such as The Associated Press, and it constantly uses algorithms to decide what to show its 2.5 billion users. And it is setting up an oversight board to decide whether to remove controversial posts.FILE – Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leaves after his talk with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 7, 2019.Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted that Twitter will “continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.” But he added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’”This is not the first time that a social media company clashed with the president. And with six months to go before the election, it won’t be the last.“It sure looks like, in the face of pressure to follow the White House’s preferred speech policies, Facebook chose appeasement and Twitter chose to fight,” said Daphne Keller, a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society. “Why the difference? … Maybe Facebook thinks it has more to lose by alienating Republicans.”Trump and fellow conservatives have been claiming for years that Silicon Valley tech companies are biased against them. But there is no evidence for this — and while the executives and most employees of Twitter, Facebook and Google may lean liberal, the companies have stressed they have no business interest in favoring on political party over the other.The trouble began in 2016, two years after Facebook launched a section called “trending,” using human editors to curate popular news stories. Facebook was accused of bias against conservatives based on the words of an anonymous former contractor who said the company downplayed conservative issues in that feature and promoted liberal causes.Zuckerberg met with prominent right-wing leaders at the time in an attempt at damage control. In 2018, it shut down the “trending” section but by then the narrative of conservative bias had spread far and wide. Congressional hearings about conservative bias followed, with the leaders of Google, Twitter and Facebook defending their companies and explaining that it would not be in their interest to alienate half of their U.S. users.While critics have accused both Zuckerberg and Dorsey of cozying up with one side of the political alley or the other, Zuckerberg appears more intent on remaining in the mushy middle — even when that’s proving increasingly difficult.“Facebook doesn’t want to alienate anybody,’’ said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media. “Twitter seems more comfortable saying: ‘Look, as a private platform we reserve the right to do whatever want to do.’ … They’re right. This is not a First Amendment issue’’ involving government censorship.Zuckerman said that tech companies’ approach to handling misinformation and incitement to violence has had to change. “Both Zuckerberg and Dorsey are from the generation of internet entrepreneurs that had a very strong freedom of speech bias… you should be able to say whatever you want, and no should block it,’’ Zuckerman said.But that hands off approach no longer appears sustainable.Perhaps even more than Trump’s provocative tweets the coronavirus pandemic is forcing tech firms to rethink what goes unchallenged on their platforms. Zuckerman noted, for example, that both Facebook and Google have been vigilant about barring the conspiracy theory video “Plandemic,” which makes false claims about COVID-19 and therefore poses a potential threat to public health.“It’s really a no-win scenario’’’ for social media companies, said Patrick Hedger, research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Conservatives will complain if they block or correct Trump statements. Liberals will cry foul if they don’t.Hedger also noted that “the unmoderated world does exist,’’ pointing to Gab.com, which has become a haven for extremist views. “The unmoderated internet is not a pretty place,’’ he said. 

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Asia Today: India Reports over 8,000 New Virus Cases 

India reported more than 8,000 new cases of the coronavirus in a single day, another record high that topped the deadliest week in the country.Confirmed infections have risen to 182,143, with 5,164 fatalities, including 193 in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.Overall, more than 60% of the virus fatalities have been reported from only two states — Maharashtra, the financial hub, and Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The new cases are largely concentrated in six Indian states, including the capital New Delhi.Public health experts have criticized the Modi government’s handling of the outbreak. A joint statement by the Indian Public Health Association, Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine and Indian Association of Epidemiologists, which was sent to Modi’s office on May 25, said it was “unrealistic” to eliminate the virus at a time when “community transmission is already well-established.”India has denied of any community transmission even though new cases have continued to mount significantly.The health experts said that the infections were rising exponentially despite the “draconian lockdown,” which began March 25.The restrictions have slowly been relaxed, with the government announcing Saturday a phased “Unlock 1” plan from June onwards that allows more economic activities. The restrictions in so-called containment zones — areas that have been isolated due to the outbreaks — will remain through June 30.Modi, who addressed the nation through his monthly radio program on Sunday, said India was faring better than other countries.India has a fatality rate of 2.8%.There are concerns that the virus may be spreading through India’s villages as millions of jobless migrant workers return home from cities during the lockdown. Experts warn that the pandemic is yet to peak in India.In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: German engineer tests positive in China: A German engineer who flew to China on a special charter flight Saturday has tested positive for the coronavirus. The Tianjin city government said in a social media post that the 34-year-old man from Blaustein, Germany, had a body temperature of 36.3 Celsius (97.3 Fahrenheit) and no COVID-19 symptoms. It did not give his name. He has been transferred to a hospital where he will be kept for medical observation. About 200 people arrived on the chartered Lufthansa A340 from Frankfurt. A second flight is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for Shanghai. China has banned most foreigners from entering the country to try to prevent the introduction of new infections, but agreed to allow the two German flights to bring back business people as it tries to revive economic growth after the coronavirus shutdowns.27 new cases in South Korea: South Korea on Sunday reported 27 new cases of the coronavirus, including 21 from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions linked to clubgoers and warehouse workers. The figures announced by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on brought national totals to 11,468 cases and 270 deaths. Twelve of the new cases were international arrivals. South Korea was reporting about 500 new cases each day in early March but seemed to stabilize the outbreak with aggressive tracking and tracing, which allowed authorities to ease social distancing guidelines. A rise in infections in the greater capital area has caused alarm as millions of children have begun returning to school. KCDC said more than 100 infections were linked to workers or visitors at a warehouse of local e-commerce giant Coupang, which has seen orders spike during the epidemic.China reports two new cases: China reported two new cases of COVID-19, bringing its total to 83,001. Both cases were imported ones in Shandong province south of Beijing, bringing the number of cases from abroad to 1,740. China has cut international flights drastically to try to keep new cases out, though it allowed a chartered Lufthansa A340 with employees of Volkswagen and other German companies operating in China to arrive Saturday from Frankfurt. It was the first of two such flights from Germany aimed at restarting the economy. No new domestic cases have been reported for a week, since an outbreak that infected 42 people was tamped down in Jilin province in the northeast. The country’s official death toll stands at 4,634.Restrictions easing in Australia: COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most of Australia, but authorities say they’ll be watching carefully to ensure the country’s success in containing the pandemic remains on track. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said the lifting of restrictions is a balancing act between socioeconomic benefits and the public health risk. “We’re taking a deliberately safe and cautious approach,” Coatsworth said. “Most importantly we’re taking the time to gather the data over the coming weeks to determine whether it’s safe to move to the next round of lifting restrictions.” Coronavirus cases remain low in Australia by international standards, with 7,180 infections and 103 deaths. The more flexible restrictions, which differ across the states, will mean more movement in public places, including pubs, cafes, and restaurants. But authorities have renewed their call for safe hygiene and social distancing measures to remain. 

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FEMA Predicts Above-Average Year for Hurricanes Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

U.S. officials are predicting an “enhanced” Atlantic hurricane season that may create new challenges for Americans already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials briefed President Donald Trump on Thursday, outlining preparations for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.The season, which officially begins Monday, has already seen two named tropical storms, Arthur and Bertha.“The big concern this year is the Atlantic Ocean. We’re expecting an above-average year,” said Neil Jacobs, acting director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). “This is above average; this does not necessarily mean they’ll make landfall.”“So you think we could have a slightly enhanced hurricane season. That’s just what we want,” Trump said. “Let’s see. Hopefully, that won’t be the case, but we’ll see.”The president and FEMA officials were quick to say that they are prepared for the abnormally active season but did acknowledge the difficulties presented by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.“There will be unique challenges in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “When people are displaced by tropical storms or hurricanes, they often know and are used to congregating at a local school or a local gymnasium. There’ll be different challenges now.”FEMA released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 season to help emergency managers at every level devise new strategies to evacuate, shelter and care for people, while protecting against the spread of the coronavirus, administrator Peter Gaynor said.“We’re in a really great place when it comes to funding, personnel and supplies,” Gaynor added. FEMA was recently allocated $40 billion as part of recent coronavirus emergency legislation, bringing the agency’s disaster relief fund total to $80 billion.A typical Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts June 1 and ends November 30, produces 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, with three on average becoming major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 storms). This year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting between 13 and 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes.There is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. The high probability of a season with above-average activity is because of the combination of several climate factors, including warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and reduced vertical wind shear. The absence of an El Nino pattern to suppress hurricane activity and weakened tropical Atlantic trade winds is also expected to allow a more active season, NOAA officials said in a statement.Tropical Storm Arthur formed off the coast of Florida on May 16, becoming the first named storm of 2020, continuing a six-year-long trend that a named storm forms before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

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US Astronauts Blast Into Space Aboard SpaceX Rocket

Two American astronauts lifted off into space Saturday afternoon, for the first time on a private rocket, nearly a decade after the last launch of astronauts from American territory.Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lifted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT, right on schedule, from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a rocket designed and built by a private company.The California-based SpaceX Aerospace Co. is owned by billionaire Elon Musk.“Let’s light this candle,” Hurley said before liftoff.The first launch attempt scheduled for last Wednesday was postponed because of stormy weather in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern state of Florida.Meet NASA Astronauts Taking America Back to Space from US Soil A SpaceX rocket will carry a Dragon capsule with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space StationAstronauts were last launched into space from the U.S. in 2011, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, retired its space shuttle fleet, forcing the U.S. to rely on partnerships with Russia’s space agency to carry U.S. astronauts to the orbiting International Space Station.Hurley and Behnken are to orbit the Earth inside the newly designed Crew Dragon capsule for about 19 hours before trying to dock at the space station.Launch Marks New Era in US Space Travel – But With a Twist Space X is the first of several private companies in the new ‘space race’ to regularly launch passengers commercially into Earth orbitU.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence flew to Florida for the launch, the second time this week. They were joined by more than 3 million viewers online, according to NASA’s count, and more spectators in person who lined beaches and roads nearby.

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US Astronauts Set to Blast Into Space Aboard SpaceX Rocket

The U.S. is set to resume launching astronauts into space Saturday, for the first time on a private rocket, nearly a decade after the last launch of astronauts from American territory.Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will blast into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center on the SpaceX rocket, the first by a private company, if all goes as planned.The California-based SpaceX Aerospace Company is owned by billionaire Elon Musk.The first launch attempt scheduled for last Wednesday was postponed because of stormy weather in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern state of Florida.Meet NASA Astronauts Taking America Back to Space from US Soil A SpaceX rocket will carry a Dragon capsule with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space StationAstronauts were last launched into space from the U.S. in 2011, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, retired its space shuttle fleet, forcing the U.S. to rely on partnerships with Russia’s space agency to carry U.S. astronauts to the orbiting International Space Station.If the launch of the 24-story-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is successful, Hurley and Behnken will orbit the Earth inside the newly designed Crew Dragon capsule for about 19 hours before trying to dock at the space station.Launch Marks New Era in US Space Travel – But With a Twist Space X is the first of several private companies in the new ‘space race’ to regularly launch passengers commercially into Earth orbitSaturday’s National Weather Service forecast at the Kennedy Space Center launch complex calls for showers and thunderstorms.

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‘No Decision’ on Next Launch Attempt for SpaceX-NASA Mission

A final decision on a launch attempt for SpaceX’s milestone mission to the International Space Station on Saturday afternoon will take place after assessing the weather that morning, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said Friday.Fears of a lightning strike postponed the initial takeoff attempt Wednesday of what would have been the first crewed rocket launch from U.S. soil in almost a decade, and the first time a commercial company had achieved the feat.”No decision on weather right now for Saturday’s test flight of @ SpaceX’s #CrewDragon spacecraft. Will reassess in the morning,” tweeted Bridenstine.Earlier in the day, NASA said the chances of a Saturday launch at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) were 50 percent. A chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms was in the forecast for the area.Next chance: SundayThe next window, which is determined by the relative positions of the launch site to the space station, would be Sunday at 3:00 pm EDT (1900 GMT). Storms were again in the forecast.NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, former military test pilots who joined the space agency in 2000, are to blast off from historic Launch Pad 39A on a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.The same launch pad was used by Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crewmates on their historic journey to the moon, as NASA seeks to revive excitement around human space exploration ahead of a planned return to Earth’s natural satellite and then Mars.The mission comes despite shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with the crew in quarantine for more than two weeks. NASA has urged crowds to stay away from Cocoa Beach, the traditional viewing spot, but that did not deter many space fans on Wednesday.President Donald Trump, who flew in for the previous launch attempt, is expected to attend again.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File Embed” />Copy Download AudioTriumph for SpaceXNASA has had to pay Russia for use of its Soyuz rockets to take its astronauts to space since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 and the decision was taken to shift focus to commercial partners for missions in low Earth orbit.The mission is a defining moment for SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk in 2002 with a goal of tearing up the rules to produce a lower-cost alternative to human spaceflight.By 2012, it had become the first private company to dock a cargo capsule at the ISS, resupplying the station regularly ever since.Two years later, NASA ordered the next step: to transport its astronauts there by adapting the Dragon capsule.$3 billion-plusThe U.S. space agency paid more than $3 billion for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips.The project has experienced delays, explosions and parachute problems — but even so, SpaceX has beaten its competitor,  aerospace giant Boeing, to the punch.Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS about 19 hours after liftoff, for a duration that is yet to be finalized, but is likely to last to early August.Wednesday’s scheduled flight was scrubbed 17 minutes before blastoff because of high levels of atmospheric electricity that could have triggered a lightning strike on the rocket. 

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