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NASA capsule buzzes moon, last big step before lunar orbit

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(Last Updated On: November 22, 2022)

NASA’s Orion capsule reached the moon Monday, whipping around the far side and buzzing the lunar surface on its way to a record-breaking orbit with test dummies sitting in for astronauts.

It’s the first time a capsule has visited the moon since NASA’s Apollo program 50 years ago, and represents a huge milestone in the $4.1 billion test flight that began last Wednesday.

Video of the looming moon and our pale blue planet more than 370,000 kilometers in the distance left workers “giddy” at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, home to Mission Control, according to flight director Judd Frieling. Even the flight controllers themselves were “absolutely astounded.”

“Just smiles across the board,” said Orion program manager Howard Hu.

The close approach of 130 kilometers occurred as the crew capsule and its three wired-up dummies were on the far side of the moon. Because of a half-hour communication blackout, flight controllers in Houston did not know if the critical engine firing went well until the capsule emerged from behind the moon. The capsule’s cameras sent back a picture of the Earth — a tiny blue dot surrounded by blackness.

The capsule accelerated well beyond 8,000 kph as it regained radio contact, NASA said. Less than an hour later, Orion soared above Tranquility Base, where Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on July 20, 1969. There were no photos of the site because the pass was in darkness, but managers promised to try for pictures on the return flyby in two weeks.

Orion needed to slingshot around the moon to pick up enough speed to enter the sweeping, lopsided lunar orbit. Another engine firing will place the capsule in that orbit Friday.

This coming weekend, Orion will shatter NASA’s distance record for a spacecraft designed for astronauts — nearly 400,000 kilometers from Earth, set by Apollo 13 in 1970. And it will keep going, reaching a maximum distance from Earth next Monday at nearly 433,000 kilometers.

The capsule will spend close to a week in lunar orbit, before heading home. A Pacific splashdown is planned for Dec. 11.

Orion has no lunar lander; a touchdown won’t come until NASA astronauts attempt a lunar landing in 2025 with SpaceX’s Starship. Before then, astronauts will strap into Orion for a ride around the moon as early as 2024.

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NASA’s Orion spacecraft enters lunar orbit

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

NASA’s Orion spacecraft was placed in lunar orbit on Friday, as it neared the halfway mark of its test flight.

About ten days after the spacecraft blasted off from Florida bound for the moon, flight controllers “successfully performed a burn to insert Orion into a distant retrograde orbit,” NASA said on its website.

According to the US space agency, Orion will fly about 64,400 kilometers above the moon.

Orion is expected to take astronauts to the moon in the years to come. This first test flight without a crew on board is intended to ensure the safety of the vehicle.

While in lunar orbit, flight controllers will monitor Orion’s key systems and perform checks while in the environment of deep space, the agency said.

The spacecraft will reach a maximum distance of almost 432,000 kilometers from the Earth in a few days. That will set a new distance record for a capsule designed to carry people.

It will take the capsule about a week to perform a half orbit around the moon, after which it will exit the lunar orbit again to begin its return to the Earth.

Orion’s landing in the Pacific Ocean is scheduled for December 11, after just over 25 days of flight.

The success of this mission will determine the future of the Artemis 2 mission, which aims to take astronauts around the moon without landing in 2024.

It will be followed by the Artemis 3 mission, which is expected to finally mark the return of humans to the lunar surface in 2025.

NASA aims to land US astronauts on the moon again for the first time in almost 50 years. The US sent 12 astronauts to the moon between 1969 and 1972.

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Pakistan-made footballs make it to this year’s FIFA World Cup

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2022)

Pakistan, ranked 194th in FIFA ranking, won’t be at Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022 but Pakistan-made footballs will be at the world’s most prestigious sporting event.

Pakistan is one of the suppliers of the official match ball “Al Rihla” for Qatar World Cup.

Pakistan’s Forward Sports, in the city of Sialkot, is one of two manufacturers that have provided FIFA with at least 300,000 balls for this event. The other company is a China-based firm.

Forward Sports told local media it has produced about one-third of the total number of balls, called Al Rihla, which is Arabic for “the journey” and that the ball was unveiled in March by German sportswear company Adidas as the official World Cup ball.

This was the third successive contract after the company also landed deals for the 2014 and 2018 World Cup events.

“There is a match ball — used by players during the international game. But there is another — the more economical balls that are sold in the open market. We have a 35 percent share in match balls (for 2022), but a substantially higher proportion of the open-market product at around 70 percent,” Hassan Masood, director at Forward Sports, was quoted as saying in Business Recorder.

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Europe’s space agency gets 1st ‘parastronaut’

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2022)

The European Space Agency made history Wednesday by selecting an amputee who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident to be among its newest batch of astronauts — a leap toward its pioneering ambition to send someone with a physical disability into space.

John McFall, a 41-year-old Briton who lost his right leg when he was 19 and went on to compete in the Paralympics, called his selection at Europe’s answer to NASA “a real turning point and mark in history.”

“ESA has a commitment to send an astronaut with a physical disability into space … This is the first time that a space agency has endeavored to embark on a project like this. And it sends a really, really strong message to humanity,” he said.

The newly-minted parastronaut joins five career astronauts in the final selection unveiled during a Paris news conference — the conclusion of the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade aimed at bringing diversity to space travel, associated Press reported.

The list also included two women: France’s Sophie Adenot and the UK’s Rosemary Coogan, new ambassadors for another greatly underrepresented section for European astronauts. A small minority of those who have explored space have been women, and most of those were Americans.

ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration David Parker said it was still a “long road” for McFall but described the fresh recruitment as a long-held ambition.

Parker said it started with a question. “Maybe there are people out there that are almost superhuman in that they’ve already overcome challenges. And could they become astronauts?”

Parker also says that he “thinks” it may be the first time the word “parastronaut” has been used, but “I do not claim ownership.”

“We’re saying that John (McFall) could be the first parastronaut, that means someone who has been selected by the regular astronaut selection process but happens to have a disability that would normally have ruled him out,” he said.

It will be at least five years before McFall goes into space as an astronaut — if he is successful.

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