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NASA’s rover lands on Mars to look for signs of ancient life

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(Last Updated On: February 19, 2021)

The NASA Perseverance rover landed on Mars Thursday, after a 203-day journey traversing 472 million kilometers.

The Perseverance, the most advanced car-sized robot ever sent to the Red Planet, was launched July 30, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States.

Just minutes after the rover safely landed on Mars, the spacecraft sent back the first two images of the Red Planet.

The mission will look for signs of past microbial life and collect rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth.

NASA said in a statement, “the size of a car, the 2,263-pound (1,026-kilogram) robotic geologist and astrobiologist will undergo several weeks of testing before it begins its two-year science investigation of Mars Jezero Crater.”

“While the rover will investigate the rock and sediment of Jezero’s ancient lakebed and river delta to characterize the region’s geology and past climate, a fundamental part of its mission is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. To that end, the Mars Sample Return campaign, being planned by NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), will allow scientists on Earth to study samples collected by Perseverance to search for definitive signs of past life using instruments too large and complex to send to the Red Planet,” the statement read.

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA stated that “Because of today’s (Thursday) exciting events, the first pristine samples from carefully documented locations on another planet are another step closer to being returned to Earth.”

“Perseverance is the first step in bringing back rock and regolith from Mars. We don’t know what these pristine samples from Mars will tell us. But what they could tell us is monumental – including that life might have once existed beyond Earth,” Zurbuchen said.

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On eve of takeover anniversary, Ghani defends decision to flee Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

On the eve of the anniversary of the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan’s former president on Sunday defended what he said was a split-second decision to flee, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrender to the insurgents.

Ashraf Ghani also told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, with the IEA at the gates of the Afghan capital, he was the last one at the presidential palace after his guards had disappeared. He said the defense minister told him earlier that day that Kabul could not be defended, Associated Press reported.

Ghani had previously sought to justify his actions on the day Kabul fell but offered more details Sunday. He alleged that one of the cooks in the palace had been offered $100,000 to poison him and that he felt his immediate environment was no longer safe.

“The reason I left was because I did not want to give the Taliban (IEA) and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign over the legitimacy of the government,” he said. “I have never been afraid.”

Critics say Ghani’s sudden and secret departure August 15 left the city rudderless as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years.

Ghani also denied persistent allegations that he took tens of millions of dollars in cash with him as he and other officials fled in helicopters.

In a report issued last week, a congressional watchdog said it’s unlikely Ghani and his senior advisers transported that much cash on the escape helicopters, AP reported.

“The hurried nature of their departure, the emphasis on passengers over cargo, the payload and performance limitations of the helicopters, and the consistent alignment in detailed accounts from witnesses on the ground and in the air all suggest that there was little more than $500,000 in cash on board the helicopters,” wrote the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which has tried to monitor the massive U.S. spending in the country over the years.

The agency added, “It remains a strong possibility that significant amounts of U.S. currency disappeared from Afghan government property in the chaos of the Taliban (IEA) takeover, including millions from the presidential palace” and the vault of the National Directorate of Security. The report, however, said the watchdog was unable to determine how much money was stolen and by whom.

In the end, the IEA seized the capital without significant fighting last August, capping a weekslong military blitz in which they rapidly captured provincial capitals without much resistance from the increasingly demoralized Afghan security forces.

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Dozens dead and missing in Parwan floods

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

At least 32 people died and 20 others were injured in flash floods on Sunday in Shinwari and Siagard districts of Parwan province, local sources said Monday.

According to sources, at least 100 people are missing and 17 died in Ghorband valley in Parwan.

This comes after several provinces witnessed heavy rain on Sunday, which damaged dozens of houses.

Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, was also hit hard overnight. Many houses collapsed in the rain, leaving at least nine people dead, officials said.

The ministry of defense confirmed that the air force had been sent in to help save people in Parwan province and to deliver humanitarian aid.

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Pakistan envoy says trade between Islamabad and Kabul continues to grow

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, said Sunday that cooperation has expanded between Islamabad and Kabul in the areas of trade and transit, and that imports and exports between the two nations have increased.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event at the embassy in Kabul, to mark the 75th anniversary of independence, Ahmad Khan said Islamabad has collaborated with Kabul in resolving its problems during the last year, adding that Pakistan is committed to continuing cooperation with Afghanistan.

He also added that border tensions between the two countries have been resolved.

“Our relationship with Afghanistan is very good and we tried to make it good. In the past year, there were many problems for Afghanistan, but Pakistan helped and cooperated with Afghanistan, and these cooperations were in the areas of evacuation, humanitarian aid and creating facilities at the borders. Also, in the transit and trade sector, our cooperation has increased, exports and imports have also increased and we are committed to always cooperating with Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Khan.

He however emphasized that despite challenges the IEA had over the past year, it did not have satisfactory performances.

He has also said that education is the basic right of all people and women who make up 50 percent of the society should have access to education.

“Education is considered an important part of the country, in the same way, women make up 50 percent of the society. The current government of Afghanistan also says that it is working on the education of women in Afghanistan,” he added. “They are working on a process so that girls can continue their education according to Islamic conditions and according to Afghan culture.”

Moreover, this Pakistani official considers the fight against terrorism as a common goal in the region and added that the war against terrorism is currently underway.

The ambassador of Pakistan in Kabul also emphasized that the problem of issuing Pakistani visas will be completely resolved in the coming days.

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