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SpaceX gets ready to launch first all-civilian crew to orbit

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(Last Updated On: September 12, 2021)

Yet another billionaire entrepreneur is set to ride into space this week, strapped inside the capsule of a SpaceX rocketship, as part of an Astro-tourist team, poised to make history as the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.

Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will lead three fellow spaceflight novices on a trip expected to last three days from blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to splashdown in the Atlantic.

The 38-year-old tech mogul has plunked down an unspecified but presumably exorbitant sum to fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly Isaacman and three specially selected travel mates into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) on Wednesday. That window will be narrowed or possibly altered a few days before, depending on the weather.

Dubbed Inspiration4, the orbital outing was conceived by Isaacman primarily to raise awareness and support for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center. He has pledged $100 million personally to the institute.

But a successful mission would also help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with several companies vying for wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space.

Setting acceptable levels of consumer risk in the inherently dangerous endeavor of rocket travel is also key and raises a pointed question.

“Do you have to be both rich and brave to get on these flights right now?” said Sridhar Tayur, a professor of operations management and new business models at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in an interview with Reuters on Friday (September 10).

Inspiration4 officials stress that the mission is more than a joyride. Once in orbit, the crew will perform medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights,” the group said in its press materials.

“There is a certain amount of frivolousness and ego in it. But I also believe that we have moved in our understanding of science and our capability and technologies because people have taken these kinds of extraordinary risks. I mean, that is the human endeavor to push the limits,” Tayur said.

The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before – into Earth orbit.

There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound. The target altitude is 575 kilometers, or nearly 360 miles high, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station or even the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating their spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles, though two members – Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor – are licensed pilots.

Rounding out the crew are “chief medical officer” Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission “specialist” Chris Sembroski, 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer.

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Islamabad wants Beijing to talk to Kabul about terrorism, Pakistani minister says

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

Islamabad would like Beijing to speak to Kabul about the issue of terrorism, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said.

Speaking in an interview with VOA released on Sunday, Iqbal said that Pakistan has concerns on certain groups that are operating out of Afghanistan and carrying out terrorism actions.

“The terrorists who committed the recent incident against Chinese workers also came from Afghanistan, so I think this is a cause of concern, and we also hope that China would also persuade Afghanistan because Afghans listen to the Chinese government in the region,” Iqbal said.

The official said that as a result of crises and conflicts over the last couple of decades in Afghanistan, Pakistan has not been able to invest in its infrastructure, and its economy has developed two major bottlenecks – energy blockage and infrastructure blockage.

Referring to Afghanistan, he said that Pakistan has an agreement with China to have a third country as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has previously rejected Pakistan’s allegations against Afghanistan over security incidents.

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Floods leave 18 dead, destroy hundreds of homes in Faryab

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

At least 18 people have died and two others have been injured following floods in Faryab province on Saturday night, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation announced Sunday.

The flash floods occurred in Pashtunkot, Almar, Qaisar, Belcheragh, Khyber and Dawlat Abad districts, the ministry said in a statement.

560 houses, 850 acres of agricultural land, 110 shops and a mobile clinic were destroyed as a result of the floods, according to the statement.

In addition, 300 livestock perished and 2,000 fruit trees were destroyed, the statement said.

This comes just a week after deadly floods left over 300 people dead in northern Afghanistan.

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IEA leader approves law on prevention of begging

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2024)

The Ministry of Justice announced Saturday that Mawlawi Hebatullah Akhundzada, the leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), has approved the law on collection of beggars and preventing begging.

The law has three chapters and 27 articles, and is published in the official gazette of the Ministry of Justice.

According to the law, begging is prohibited for healthy and working people and those who can secure their one-day meal.

The law also prohibits the use of children and the disabled for begging.

According to the law, professional beggars who use a child or a mentally ill person or a disabled person for the purpose of begging, will be sentenced to one month in prison by the court, and their organizers will be sentenced to up to six months in prison.

In 2022, the leader of the Islamic Emirate ordered the collection of beggars. Tens of thousands of beggars have been rounded up so far.

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