Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Paraguay: UN rights expert to assess indigenous peoples’ participation and land and resource rights

GENEVA / ASUNCIÓN (19 November 2014) – The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, will carry out an official visit to Paraguay from 21 to 28 November 2014 to study the situation of indigenous peoples in the country .

“I will explore, among others, the issues of land and resource rights, as well as participation and consent -which can be achieved through free, prior and informed consultations- and land and resource rights,” Ms. Tauli-Corpuz said, announcing the first visit ever to Paraguay by an independent expert tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on indigenous peoples’ rights worldwide.

“These issues were identified as the priorities of indigenous peoples’ in Paraguay during a series of dialogues with them prior to the visit,” she noted. “I hope this visit will contribute to raising awareness of the concerns of indigenous peoples in the country, concerns that are often ignored by the societies in which they live.”

The UN independent expert expressed her desire to “get a better understanding of the various experiences and views of indigenous peoples, including indigenous women, representatives of the Government, and other parties on the advances and challenges that exist with regard to enjoyment of human rights of indigenous peoples in the country."

During her eight-day visit, the Special Rapporteur will meet with indigenous representatives and officials of the Government of Paraguay in Asunción. She will also travel to the Occidental and Oriental regions where she will meet with local government representatives and indigenous organizations in El Chaco to explore issues related to the protection of their natural resources and will visit urban indigenous communities. In Oriental region, she will visit communities dealing with issues of protection, safety and security of indigenous peoples and of their lands and territories.

At the end of her mission, on Friday 28 November, Ms. Tauli-Corpuz will present her preliminary findings at a press conference that will be held at 10:30 am in Asunción in UNIC, United Nations Information Centre, UN House PB, Mcal. López y Saraví.

The Special Rapporteur will submit in 2015 a report to the UN Human Rights Council with her conclusions and recommendations on the issues studied during the mission.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its orbit

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles.

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 9:50 p.m. EDT.

“So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”

The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands. Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”

MAVEN launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages. It is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s combination of detailed measurements at specific points in Mars’ atmosphere and global imaging provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere.

“MAVEN is another NASA robotic scientific explorer that is paving the way for our journey to Mars,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Together, robotics and humans will pioneer the Red Planet and the solar system to help answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth.”

The spacecraft’s principal investigator is based at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at University of Colorado, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project and also provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley provided four science instruments for MAVEN. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

Photo Credits and source: NASA
To learn more about the MAVEN mission, visit:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NASA Chooses American Companies to Transport U.S. Astronauts to International Space Station

September 16, 2014
Image Credit: NASA
U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts NASA announced Tuesday. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.
Image Credit: NASA

U.S. astronauts once again will travel to and from the International Space Station from the United States on American spacecraft under groundbreaking contracts NASA announced Tuesday. The agency unveiled its selection of Boeing and SpaceX to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station using their CST-100 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively, with a goal of ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia in 2017.
"From day one, the Obama Administration made clear that the greatest nation on Earth should not be dependent on other nations to get into space," NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "Thanks to the leadership of President Obama, the hard work of our NASA and industry teams, and support from Congress, today we are one step closer to launching our astronauts from U.S. soil on American spacecraft and ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia by 2017. Turning over low-Earth orbit transportation to private industry will also allow NASA to focus on an even more ambitious mission – sending humans to Mars."

These Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts are designed to complete the NASA certification for human space transportation systems capable of carrying people into orbit. Once certification is complete, NASA plans to use these systems to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth.

The companies selected to provide this transportation capability and the maximum potential value of their FAR-based firm fixed-price contracts are:
-- The Boeing Company, Houston, $4.2 billion
-- Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, California, $2.6 billion

The contracts include at least one crewed flight test per company with at least one NASA astronaut aboard to verify the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected. Once each company’s test program has been completed successfully and its system achieves NASA certification, each contractor will conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station. These spacecraft also will serve as a lifeboat for astronauts aboard the station.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program will implement this capability as a public-private partnership with the American aerospace companies. NASA's expert team of engineers and spaceflight specialists is facilitating and certifying the development work of industry partners to ensure new spacecraft are safe and reliable.

The U.S. missions to the International Space Station following certification will allow the station's current crew of six to grow, enabling the crew to conduct more research aboard the unique microgravity laboratory.

"We are excited to see our industry partners close in on operational flights to the International Space Station, an extraordinary feat industry and the NASA family began just four years ago," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "This space agency has long been a technology innovator, and now we also can say we are an American business innovator, spurring job creation and opening up new markets to the private sector. The agency and our partners have many important steps to finish, but we have shown we can do the tough work required and excel in ways few would dare to hope."

The companies will own and operate the crew transportation systems and be able to sell human space transportation services to other customers in addition to NASA, thereby reducing the costs for all customers.

By encouraging private companies to handle launches to low-Earth orbit -- a region NASA's been visiting since 1962 -- the nation's space agency can focus on getting the most research and experience out of America's investment in the International Space Station. NASA also can focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions, including flights to Mars.
Source: NASA
For more information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program and CCtCap, visit:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ebola: a Disease Associated with Poverty

Image Prensa Latina

By Vivian Collazo Montano*

Havana (Prensa Latina) More than six months ago in Guinea Conakry began an outbreak of Ebola, which quickly spread to other West African nations. Since then, 2473 people got ill, 1350 of them died from the disease.
In just two days, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 106 deaths, 95 of them in Liberia, where the situation is more serious and it is seen as vital to contain the spread of the virus to control the outbreak.

Sierra Leone is the second most problematic country among the four affected in West Africa. It is considered that in these two countries pathogen transmission is high. In Nigeria, the situation is stable, although experts believe that the over all situation in the region is complex. The number of infections is growing every day, and the disease, which has no specific treatment, shows a high mortality rate.
However, the successful application of a serum under investigation to two Americans, who have already been discharged from hospital, opens up new hopes.

Known as ZMapp, the serum had not been tested on humans, but given the situation, WHO accepted the use of investigatory treatments with potential therapeutic or preventive purposes, aiming to save the lives of patients and stop the epidemic.
At the moment, it has also been used for Liberian patients with good results, although the same treatment was administered to a Spanish priest, who failed to overcome the disease and died.


On the other hand, Margaret Chan, WHO director, admitted that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is so large, severe and difficult to contain because of poverty.
In an article published in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the expert says that the most affected nations, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are among the poorest in the world.
Years of conflict and civil war left behind serious consequences in their health systems, people had been destroyed or severely disabled, and in some areas, there is a generation of children with no education, the article said.

In these countries, only one or two doctors are available for every hundred thousand inhabitants, and they are concentrated in urban areas. Isolation rooms, and even the capacity of the hospital to control infection, are practically nonexistent.
Contacts of infected individuals are tracked, but they are not continuously isolated for monitoring, Chan said in the report.

However, she noted that, although the situation is worsening, the response had gotten better in the last two weeks. Help came from various organizations and WHO is supervising the outbreak to identify areas of transmission and to ensure that assistance is coordinated and distributed quickly and rationally.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the United States, are providing strong support in the field, including contact tracing.

Experience shows that the disease can be contained, even without a vaccine or cure, but the combination of poverty, dysfunctional health systems, and fear at work, tells about a distant goal, she said.
The international community will need to be prepared for many more months of massive, coordinated and targeted assistance.

“A human world cannot let West African people suffer on such an extraordinary scale,” the expert concluded.
* Head of the Science and Technology Editorial Department at Prensa Latina News Agency. source: Prensa Latina Posted date: 12 September 2014, revised by Gone Native Translations

Thursday, September 4, 2014

International Global Precipitation Measurement Mission Data Goes Public

The most accurate and comprehensive collection of rain, snowfall and other types of precipitation data ever assembled now is available to the public. This new resource for climate studies, weather forecasting, and other applications is based on observations by the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint mission of NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with contributions from a constellation of international partner satellites.

The GPM Core Observatory, launched from Japan on Feb. 27, carries two advanced instruments to measure rainfall, snowfall, ice and other precipitation. The advanced and precise data from the GPM Core Observatory are used to unify and standardize precipitation observations from other constellation satellites to produce the GPM mission data. These data are freely available through NASA's Precipitation Processing System at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"We are very pleased to make all these data available to scientists and other users within six months of launch," said Ramesh Kakar, GPM program scientist in the Earth Science Division at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

One of the first storms observed by the NASA/JAXA GPM Core Observatory on March 17, 2014, in the eastern United States revealed a full range of precipitation, from rain to snow.
Image Credit: NASA/JAXA
In addition to NASA and JAXA, the GPM mission includes satellites from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, Indian Space Research Organisation, and France's Centre National d’Études Spatiales.

Instruments on the GPM Core Observatory and partner satellites measure energy naturally emitted by liquid and frozen precipitation. Scientists use computer programs to convert these data into estimates of rain and snowfall. The individual instruments on the partner satellites collect similar data, but the absolute numbers for precipitation observed over the same location may not be exactly the same. The GPM Core Observatory's data are used as a reference standard to smooth out the individual differences, like a principal violinist tuning the individual instruments in an orchestra. The result is data that are consistent with each other and can be meaningfully compared.
With the higher sensitivity to different types of precipitation made possible by the GPM Core Observatory's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR), scientists can for the first time accurately measure the full range of precipitation from heavy rain to light rain and snow. The instruments are designed not only to detect rain and snow in the clouds, but to measure the size and distribution of the rain particles and snowflakes. This information gives scientists a better estimate of water content and a new perspective on winter storms, especially near the poles where the majority of precipitation is snowfall.

"With this GPM mission data, we can now see snow in a way we could not before," said Gail Skofronick-Jackson, GPM project scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. "Cloud tops high in the atmosphere have ice in them. If the Earth’s surface is above freezing, it melts into rain as it falls. But in some parts of the world, it's cold enough that the ice and snow falls all the way to the ground."

One of the first storms observed by the GPM Core Observatory on March 17 in the eastern United States showed that full range of precipitation. Heavy rains fell over the North and South Carolina coasts. As the storm moved northward, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Washington were covered with snow. The GMI observed an 547 mile- (880 kilometer) wide track of precipitation on the surface, while the DPR imaged every 820 feet (250 meters) vertically to get the three-dimensional structure of the rain and snowfall layer by layer inside the clouds.

"What's really clear in these images is the melting layer, the place in the atmosphere where ice turns into rain," said Skofronick-Jackson. "The melting layer is one part of the precipitation process that scientists don’t know well because it is in such a narrow part of the cloud and changes quickly. Understanding the small scale details within the melting layer helps us better understand the precipitation process."

The combined snowfall and rainfall measurements from GPM will fill in the picture of where and how water moves throughout the global water cycle.

"Scientists and modelers can use the new GPM data for weather forecasts, estimating snowpack accumulation for freshwater resources, flood and landslide prediction, or tracking hurricanes," Skofronick-Jackson said. "This revolutionary information also gives us a better grasp of how storms and precipitating systems form and evolve around the planet, providing climate modelers insight into how precipitation might change in a changing climate."

GPM data are freely available to registered users from Goddard's Precipitation Processing System (PPS) website. The data sets are currently available in strips called swaths that correspond to the satellites' overpasses. Daily and monthly, global maps are also available from all the sensors. In the coming months, the PPS will merge this instrument data from all partner satellites and the Core Observatory into a seamless map that shows global rain and snow data at a 6-mile (10-kilometer) resolution every 30 minutes.

The GPM Core Observatory was the first of five scheduled NASA Earth science missions launching within a year. NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA also develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

Source: NASA

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Het die klok begin lui vir Afrikaans?

Door Prof. Wannie Carstens, voorsitter van die SA Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

Taal is altyd gekoppel aan mense. Dit geld ook Afrikaanse mense, wat passievol oor hul taal is en aandring op die gebruik daarvan. Afrikaanse mense glo in die algemeen in moedertaalonderrig en in die reg om hul taal te mag gebruik. Afrikaanse mense weet ook die Grondwet gee hulle daardie reg en eis dit graag op. Pogings om Afrikaans te na te kom, lok daarom altyd reaksie uit. Vir Afrikaanse mense is hul universiteite van groot waarde, ook simbolies. Daarom praat Afrikaanse mense so graag saam oor die hoogste moontlike vlak waarop opleiding in hul taal gegee kan word.

Elke universiteit waar Afrikaans vroeër aangebied is, soos Kovsies, Maties, Tuks, Pukke, NWU-Puk, UJ, UWK en Unisa, het ’n eie oplossing vir die hanteer van die posisie waarin hulle tans is.
Die drastiese agteruitgang van Afrikaans aan die UJ (wat in 1967 as die Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit tot stand gekom het) is nie ’n mooi storie nie. Ons moet daaruit leer wat verkeerd kan gaan as daar met die voete gestem word.

Die stadige insluip van Engels by universiteite is opvallend. Aanvanklik (1994-2000) was dit subtiel en daar was selfs ruimte vir tale waaraan daar ’n behoefte as onderrigmedium by universiteite was, maar ná die samesmeltingsproses van 2004 het die klimaat verander. En uit die jongste uitsprake uit regeringskringe lyk dit asof die agenda duidelik is: Word ware Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite en nie meer taalgefokusde universiteite nie. Dus is Engels die gemene deler en Afrikaans, of Zoeloe ensovoorts moet nie die pret kom bederf nie.

Die onderliggende boodskap is: Nasiebou en sosiale samehang kan net bereik word deur Engels. Hoe verkeerd kan ’n mens nie wees nie! Die omgekeerde is eerder waar: Die erken van die ander tale en die respek wat hulle kry, gaan nasiebou en sosiale kohesie bewerkstellig.

Dr. Blade Nzimande, minister van hoër onderwys en opleiding, se onlangse uitsprake is tekenend van ’n ideologies-gedrewe agenda (universiteite moet naamlik ook die rassedemografie in die land weerspieël). Nzimande sê telkens hy het niks teen Afrikaans nie (en kom ons glo hom), maar in die proses word die ontwikkeling van agtergeblewe Afrika-tale nog verder benadeel.

Wat dan van die natuurlike diversiteit waaroor so hoog opgegee word? En wat van die ander tale? Word sommer net aangeneem dat die Afrika-tale nie ook mediums van onderrig aan tersiêre instellings wil wees nie?

Die tendense om die skuif na Engels (en weg van diversiteit) te illustreer, het na vore gekom uit die statistieke oor taalgebruik aan universiteite. Aanvanklik was Tuks, Puk, Kovsies, RAU en Maties sogenaamde “Afrikaanse kampusse”, maar die prentjie het in 20 jaar drasties verander.

Tuks is nie meer oorwegend Afrikaans nie, maar bied Afrikaanssprekendes steeds ’n verwelkomende omgewing.
Die ou RAU het die UJ geword en daar is min Afrikaanssprekende studente oor.
Aan Maties word Afrikaans in meertalige verband aangebied naas Engels. Afrikaanssprekendes het ook hier ’n vriendelike omgewing.
By Kovsies oorheers ’n parallelmediumbeleid en dit lyk asof Afrikaans se rol al hoe meer afgeskaal word.
Op die NWU se Potchefstroomkampus geld Afrikaans tans nog as die primêre voorgraadse onderrigtaal, maar daar is groot druk uit regeringsgeledere om Engels groter vastrapplek te gee. Hier maak opvoedkundige tolking wel die praktiese bestuur van meertaligheid moontlik.
Die NMMU, die UWK, Wits, UKZN, Unisa, UK, en ander is oorwegend Engels. Vir Afrikaans en van die Afrika-tale is daar wel by van die universiteite (simboliese) ruimte.

Dit blyk ook die Afrikaanse gemeenskap “stem met hul voete” en gaan graag na Maties en die NWU-Puk. Dit blyk uit die statistieke dat al hoe minder Afrikaanssprekende studente na Tukkies en Kovsies gaan. Dit lyk asof die UJ vir Afrikaanssprekendes van die radar af verdwyn het. Die Afrikaanse mark is dus ’n nismark, ’n mark wat verwag dat hul Afrikaanse behoeftes ook ’n plek kry aan hierdie universiteite. En as dit nie gebeur nie, dan gaan hulle elders.

Daar is egter praktiese faktore wat inwerk op universiteite se Afrikaanse karakter. Nasionaal en internasionaal is daar ’n swaai na Engels as taal van tersiêre gebruik. In verskeie Europese lande (soos in Nederland, Denemarke, Noorweë) is daar skuiwe opmerkbaar in hierdie verband. Dit word in Suid-Afrika aangehelp deur ’n verskeidenheid faktore: politiek (baie sterk! – die ANC word sterk gedryf deur ideologie en die fokus op regstelling en verteenwoordiging), geld (die land se beursie is ook maar net so dik), demografie (wat aan die verskuif is, ook onder Afrikaanssprekendes), leierskap aan universiteite (die gevaar van leierskap wat gekoppel is aan een persoon). Wat doen ’n mens daarmee?

Leierskorpse oor taalsake aan universiteite is van kardinale belang. Is ons leiers in staat om hierdie leiding te gee?

Oplossings waarmee universiteite in die verlede na vore gekom het, word nie waardeer nie of selfs gering geskat. Universiteitsleiers betwyfel selfs intern tolking as bewese getoetste en nagevorste oplossing vir die bestuur van meertaligheid, soos aan die NWU-Puk. Universiteitsbesture se dilemma is ook ’n tekort aan geld om taalprobleme te pak op kampusse. Universiteite kry te min geld uit subsidies om meertaligheid op hul kampusse te kan bestuur. Dit is hoekom daar telkens korttermynoplossings gesoek word.

Die gevoel by sommige is dat daar juis nie geld beskikbaar gestel word nie om die verengelsingsproses te verhaas. Of dit waar is, weet ons nie, maar dis wel ’n persepsie.

Het die klok dus begin lui vir Afrikaans of nie? Ek glo nie so nie, maar dat ons op ons hoede moet wees, is duidelik. Daar moet ’n strategie wees om die probleem van die oomblik die hoof te bied. In dié verband moet ons aanvaar dat sekere universiteite klaar hul voorkeurtaal gekies het. Daaraan kan ons niks doen nie.

Rakende Afrikaans en die ander Afrika-tale is die volgende voorwaardes wel van belang:

Universiteite moet saamwerk om ’n oplossing vir meertaligheid op kampusse te kry. Daar is genoeg kundigheid;
Ons moet vooraf weet: Die enigste werklike oplossing is ’n politieke oplossing. Daar moet beplan word om dit saam te pak;
Ons moet vooraf weet dat die enigste oplossing vir Afrikaans (en die ander Afrika-tale) binne ’n meertalige konteks lê;
Afrikaans en ras mag nie gemeng word nie;
Die saak van Afrikaans moet nie in isolasie gesien word nie. Die ander tale móét betrek word by die proses om ’n oplossing te kry. Dis nie net ’n Afrikaans-probleem nie, maar eerder ’n taalprobleem in die lig van ideologiese stiksienigheid; en
Leierskorpse oor taalsake aan universiteite is van kardinale belang. Is ons leiers in staat om hierdie leiding te gee?

Die Akademie gaan die proses vorentoe bestuur sodat ’n strategie ontwikkel kan word om aan hierdie voorwaardes gehoor te gee. Die georganiseerde Afrikaanse gemeenskap het die Akademie die mandaat gegee om die proses namens hulle te bestuur.

Die saak sal die volle aandag kry. Ons taal is te kosbaar om funksies daarvan prys te gee.

Dit artikel verscheen eerder in Beeld.Posted by Redactie Neder-L

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ethical considerations for use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Summary of the panel discussion

WHO statement
12 August 2014

West Africa is experiencing the largest, most severe and most complex outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history. Ebola outbreaks can be contained using available interventions like early detection and isolation, contact tracing and monitoring, and adherence to rigorous procedures of infection control. However, a specific treatment or vaccine would be a potent asset to counter the virus.

Over the past decade, research efforts have been invested into developing drugs and vaccines for Ebola virus disease. Some of these have shown promising results in the laboratory, but they have not yet been evaluated for safety and efficacy in human beings. The large number of people affected by the 2014 west Africa outbreak, and the high case-fatality rate, have prompted calls to use investigational medical interventions to try to save the lives of patients and to curb the epidemic.

Therefore, on 11 August 2014, WHO convened a consultation to consider and assess the ethical implications for clinical decision-making of the potential use of unregistered interventions.

In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.

Ethical criteria must guide the provision of such interventions. These include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community.

In order to understand the safety and efficacy of these interventions, the group advised that, if and when they are used to treat patients, there is a moral obligation to collect and share all data generated, including from treatments provided for ‘compassionate use’ (access to an unapproved drug outside of a clinical trial).

The group explored how the use of these interventions can be evaluated scientifically to ensure timely and accurate information about the safety and efficacy of these investigational interventions. There was unanimous agreement that there is a moral duty to also evaluate these interventions (for treatment or prevention) in the best possible clinical trials under the circumstances in order to definitively prove their safety and efficacy or provide evidence to stop their utilization. Ongoing evaluation should guide future interventions.

In addition to this advice, the panel identified areas that need more detailed analysis and discussion, such as:

ethical ways to gather data while striving to provide optimal care under the prevailing circumstances;
ethical criteria to prioritize the use of unregistered experimental therapies and vaccines;
ethical criteria for achieving fair distribution in communities and among countries, in the face of a growing number of possible new interventions, none of which is likely to meet demand in the short term.
A report of the meeting proceedings will be available to the public by 17 August 2014.

Source: World Health Organisation, WHO Department of Communications.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Governments involved in sexual slavery during World War II

Sexual slavery is in the news, men who have kept sexual slaves imprisoned for up to ten years are getting caught. But did you know governments have been, and maybe still are, involved in sexual slavery ever since World War II? Navi Pillay does not get off the back of the Japanese government:
Photograph Wikimedia Commons: Allied Reoccupation of the Andaman Islands,1945

GENEVA (6 August 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Wednesday expressed profound regret that Japan has failed to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution of the issue of wartime sexual slavery, warning that the human rights of the victims, known as “comfort women”, continue to be violated decades after the end of the Second World War.
“During my visit to Japan in 2010, I appealed to the Government to provide effective redress to the victims of wartime sexual slavery,” the High Commissioner said. “Now, as my tenure in office comes to an end, it pains me to see that these courageous women, who have been fighting for their rights, are passing away one by one, without their rights restored and without receiving the reparation to which they are entitled.”

“This is not an issue relegated to history. It is a current issue, as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their rights to justice and reparation are not realised,” she stressed.

Instead of justice, the High Commissioner said, the women are facing increasing denials and degrading remarks by public figures in Japan. A report issued by a Government-appointed study team on 20 June 2014, stated that “it was not possible to confirm that women were forcefully recruited.” Following the release of this report, a group in Tokyo publicly declared that “comfort women were not sex slaves but wartime prostitutes.”

“Such statements must cause tremendous agony to the women, but we have not seen any public rebuttal by the Government,” Pillay said.

Over the years, Japan has received recommendations from a number of UN independent experts, human rights treaty bodies and from the Human Rights Council under its Universal Periodic Review for it to take concrete measures to tackle the issue. Most recently, the UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, called on Japan to take “immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures” to ensure that all allegations of sexual slavery are investigated and perpetrators prosecuted. It also called for access to justice and reparations for victims and their families, the disclosure of all evidence available, and education in the country surrounding the issue.

Pillay noted that Japan had signed the UN Declaration on the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict last year and that it had offered strong support to the UK summit on sexual violence in conflict earlier this year

“I encourage Japan to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution of the wartime sexual slavery issue with the same vigour,” she added, noting the Office’s readiness to offer any necessary assistance.

Source: United Nations High Commission for Human Rights

First Comet Close-Ups from Rosetta Spacecraft Reveal a 'Scientific Disneyland' (Photos)

First Comet Close-Ups from Rosetta Spacecraft Reveal a 'Scientific Disneyland' (Photos)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Next Generation Air Transportation System

As seen in this image, Terminal Sequencing and Spacing technology enables air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they save both time and fuel and reducing emissions, flying more efficient approaches into airports.
Image Credit: NASA

A new NASA-developed computer software tool designed to aid air traffic controllers was presented to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during a ceremony Monday at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

The Terminal Sequencing and Spacing (TSS) technology will enable air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they fly more efficient approaches into airports, saving both time and fuel and reducing emissions. TSS is the another step in NASA’s support of the development of a Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, which is a joint multi-agency and industry initiative to modernize and upgrade the nation's air traffic control system.

"With TSS, NASA's aeronautics innovators have delivered to the FAA another valuable tool that will soon benefit our environment, our economy and every individual traveler," said Jaiwon Shin, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics research.

The software enables the routine use of what are called Performance Based Navigation procedures, resulting in fewer course and altitude changes, while also reducing the frequency of necessary communications between controllers and pilots.
The TSS tool provides information to controllers about the speeds they should assign to aircraft as they follow fuel-efficient, continuous-descent arrival procedures while passing through a region of airspace surrounding an airport called the TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), covering a distance from an airport of about 50 miles.
NASA's Airspace Systems Program, which is part of the agency's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, began the research that led to the development of TSS in 2009, with prototype development beginning in 2011. NASA used these prototypes to test TSS in 16 high-fidelity simulations involving controllers and pilots.

The FAA is working to implement the tool in the next five years, targeting an initial operating capability around 2018. The initial site has not yet been determined and implementation will depend on funding availability.
Through a highly effective technology transfer process enabled by the NASA/FAA Research Transition Teams, NASA has delivered to the FAA three other key software tools that enable more efficient air traffic and fuel savings.
For more information on NASA’s NextGen initiative, visit:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Is Your Kitchen the Place to Be?

The kitchen used to be, more than it is today, a part of the home, the place where people lived. Especially in older homes, the kitchen was large, with a table in the middle. At that table not only the kitchen work, cleaning meat and vegetables was done, but also the homework of the school going children was made on it​​. Mom and dad would write up their accounts, calculating how to make ends meet, at that same table. It was part of the kitchen and part of family life.

A real hearth

The real hearth was a large square, steel box on four sturdy legs, topped with a thick, cast iron plate that had four or more holes. Those holes could be opened or closed with rings and a round plate in the center.

The heat of the fire in the hearth-fed with wood or coal- was controlled by those rings. The bigger the hole the hotter the fire. So when the Dutch thick pea soup had to be cooked, all the rings were taken off, the soup had to cook for a long time. The soup then went on with little heat, most of the rings in place. This could take days and made the house smell lovely.

Two hot spots

There was a fireplace or stove, in the living room, or salon, and in the kitchen. Only two places in the house were heated, even in the dead of winter. You never found any heating in the bedrooms; you were supposed to keep yourself warm. Or you slept together with a brother or sister in an almost double bed and kept each other warm.

The living room, salon was actually used only for visitors, when the pastor came to see the family, or the local priest.

Therefore, the kitchen was the central place of the house where almost all life took place. On Saturdays, a large kettle was set on the hearth, filled with water. A big tub was placed in front of the stove. Filled with water that mummy kept warm with the water on the stove, and the kitchen served as bathroom for the whole family, one by one of course!

Daddies most loved chair was right next to the hearth, a stretched Smoking Chair. The back was adjustable and had the same size as the seat. The two armrests were not meant to sit on when talking to daddy! (We all did of course).

Before the TV took over that was the place to be in a home, the kitchen. Both objects, the hearth and the smoking chair, as well as the central table, can be used in a modern kitchen, provided it has the right size. The central working area is back in full force, a modern kitchen cannot do without. But I do miss children making homework there. So please reserve a place for the four chairs or stools, so your kids can enjoy the kitchen too.

A smoking chair may never win again, as smoking is banned in many places, out of fashion in others and the kitchen is not a good place to smoke anyway. But a nice, comfortable chair, where the cook can take a break without leaving the kitchen, is it such a bad idea? I for one do hope to see it again.

The oven and the cooking area are now part of the complete design, together with fridge, freezer, microwave oven and other kitchen appliances. But to put those appliances in a central position again, also is not a bad idea, I think. It would give the kitchen its life back and make it the center of the household once again. I would also love to see a fire again. That was after all why we lived in the kitchen, there was always a fire burning in the kitchen of our parents home.

Dutch Soldiers on a New Mission?

The Rutte II Cabinet, the present Dutch government will send Dutch soldiers on a new mission. About 380 Dutch soldiers and trainers will become part of Minusma, the UN mission in Mali. The military mission will most likely last until the end of 2015.This was decided by the Cabinet today.

This afternoon, Minister of Defense Jeanine Hennis presented the decision and explained the content in a press conference. The ministers Timmermans (Foreign Affairs), Ploumen (Development) and Opstelten (Security and Justice) will give explanations.

The Dutch contribution will largely consist of collecting military intelligence, processing and analyzing it for the UN mission Minusma. Also four Apache attack helicopters will be brought in. In addition to the collecting information, they will also be used for protection purposes. The mission at this moment does not have enough helicopters. Officers and civilian experts will help to police, train and reform the security sector.

"It's in the interests of The Netherlands to help avoid an unmanageable situation close to home", said the Prime Minister.

The decision will be communicated to the House in a so-called ' Article 100' letter Article 100 of the Dutch Constitution stipulates that the Cabinet is required to inform the parliament on military missions. However, the government does not need the consent of the House, because the assumption is that a government would not decide on a military mission without a broad political support for it.

But a Dutch military mission in Mali includes large risks. According to some specialists, it is a mission in the highest spectrum of military risk, with commandos behind enemy lines and attack helicopters.

The first question we must ask however is, is a Dutch contribution of 350 to 390 military personnel really useful to a military operation of this scope and range?

First of all the initial number of men and women sent, 70 specialists in gathering and analizing intelligence. These are computer wizz kids, no insult intended, who will stare at grainy photographs on high tech screens to try and identify weapons- or bomb-carrying individuals within gatherings of people and other dangers to the patrolling military and police staff from other countries. Essential, but no military action there.>

Then 90 Special Forces troops to basically protect the abovementioned group. Real soldiers at a very hight level of training. But they will not be engaged in real military action to protect civilians against attacking gangs from the Touareg tribes who live in the desert to the north of Mali, as they are trained to. They are babysitters for the 70 specialists.

The 128 support troops that will be sent are the only ones doing their normal work. Medical staff, logistics support, camp maintenance, cooking, administration and so on.


And then we have the real special component, 30 police officers, well not quite 30 because The Netherlands has one very special feature within its Armed Forces, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. These soldiers are really multi purpose. They train as police officers, customs officers and soldiers. They resort under the Ministry of Defense and 20 of them will be sent to Mali as well, along with 10 regular police officers. If you want to see part of the work of the Marechaussee, fly into the Netherlands by air and the person putting the stamp in your passport will most likely be a Marechaussee.

The Koninklijke Marechaussee, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, abbreviated to KMar, (English, Royal Marshals, but commonly seen as Royal Military Constabulary) is one of the four Services of the armed forces of the Netherlands. It is a gendarmerie force performing military police and civil police-duties. The main tasks for the Marechaussee in The Netherlands are border protection, military police duties and guard duties. They are therefore very well equipped and trained to pass on this versatile knowledge to Mali police officers. And that is exactly what they will be doing.

Will it be enough?

France has 3,200 soldiers in the country but plans to reduce the force to 1,000 by February, several months later than originally planned.

It handed over responsibility for security to Minusma in July. However, the UN force has less than half of its mandated strength of more than 12,000 military personnel and has appealed for reinforcements. Part of these reinforcements will be Dutch troops, but only a contingent of 390 in total.

OK, The Netherlands is a small country, so the contingent will be smaller that that of France. But France has sent soldiers who fight.

When the mandated strength is 12 000 it may be seen as a drop in the ocean, particularly by the French, who started the operation in Mali. Add to that the fact that more than half of the Dutch contribution consists of non military personnel and the Dutch might have a problem with its UN partners.

Minusma is fighting with the Tuareg

In 1963, the tribes of the Adagh Mountains in northern Mali first rebelled against the Malian government. The uprising was beaten in 1964.

A second uprising followed between 1990 and 1998, and a third in 2006. In all three uprisings a few men from the region Kidal in Mali played a major role.

In early 2012, Tuareg started a rebellion in an oil-rich region in northern Mali with the support of Arab and Songhai warriors. Many Tuareg had previously served in the army of Libya and were heavily armed by Muammar al-Qadhafi during the uprising in Libya in 2011, but driven out by the National Transitional Council. Due to their superior Libyan equipment the Tuareg in February and March managed to beat the army, which was poorly armed, and occupied more and more towns in northern Mali.

This prompted the innitial call for help of the Malian president to the French government.

The Touareg form a fighting forse to be reckened with, this is not a computer-game war. These are real fighting men with experience and the will to reach a goal. They want their country to be the independent Azawat, not Mali.

What do they have to lose? Nothing al all, that makes them double as dangerous, not a match for Dutch computer wizz kids and a few commandos with a limited mandate!

Prime Minster Rutte and his Minister of Defense should have a second look at the plans, while they still can.
This article was published on 11-01-2013 via Yahoo Voices.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Researchers found that Titan's ice shell, which overlies a very salty ocean, varies in thickness around the moon, suggesting the crust is in the process of becoming rigid.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI/Univ. of Arizona/G. Mitri/University of Nantes

Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have firm evidence the ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea.
The new results come from a study of gravity and topography data collected during Cassini's repeated flybys of Titan during the past 10 years. Using the Cassini data, researchers presented a model structure for Titan, resulting in an improved understanding of the structure of the moon's outer ice shell. The findings are published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.

"Titan continues to prove itself as an endlessly fascinating world, and with our long-lived Cassini spacecraft, we’re unlocking new mysteries as fast as we solve old ones," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who was not involved in the study.

Additional findings support previous indications the moon's icy shell is rigid and in the process of freezing solid. Researchers found that a relatively high density was required for Titan's ocean in order to explain the gravity data. This indicates the ocean is probably an extremely salty brine of water mixed with dissolved salts likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium. The density indicated for this brine would give the ocean a salt content roughly equal to the saltiest bodies of water on Earth.

"This is an extremely salty ocean by Earth standards," said the paper's lead author, Giuseppe Mitri of the University of Nantes in France. "Knowing this may change the way we view this ocean as a possible abode for present-day life, but conditions might have been very different there in the past."

Cassini data also indicate the thickness of Titan's ice crust varies slightly from place to place. The researchers said this can best be explained if the moon's outer shell is stiff, as would be the case if the ocean were slowly crystalizing, and turning to ice. Otherwise, the moon's shape would tend to even itself out over time, like warm candle wax. This freezing process would have important implications for the habitability of Titan's ocean, as it would limit the ability of materials to exchange between the surface and the ocean.

A further consequence of a rigid ice shell, according to the study, is any outgassing of methane into Titan's atmosphere must happen at scattered "hot spots" -- like the hot spot on Earth that gave rise to the Hawaiian Island chain. Titan's methane does not appear to result from convection or plate tectonics recycling its ice shell.

How methane gets into the moon's atmosphere has long been of great interest to researchers, as molecules of this gas are broken apart by sunlight on short geological timescales. Titan's present atmosphere contains about five percent methane. This means some process, thought to be geological in nature, must be replenishing the gas. The study indicates that whatever process is responsible, the restoration of Titan's methane is localized and intermittent.

"Our work suggests looking for signs of methane outgassing will be difficult with Cassini, and may require a future mission that can find localized methane sources," said Jonathan Lunine, a scientist on the Cassini mission at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and one of the paper's co-authors. "As on Mars, this is a challenging task."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about Cassini, visit

July 2, 2014 NASA Launches New Carbon-Sensing Mission to Monitor Earth’s Breathing

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket launches with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2)satellite onboard from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. OCO-2 will measure the global distribution of carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT) Wednesday.
The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) raced skyward from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. Approximately 56 minutes after the launch, the observatory separated from the rocket's second stage into an initial 429-mile (690-kilometer) orbit. The spacecraft then performed a series of activation procedures, established communications with ground controllers and unfurled its twin sets of solar arrays. Initial telemetry shows the spacecraft is in excellent condition.

OCO-2 soon will begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth’s sources of and storage places for atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world and a critical component of the planet’s carbon cycle.

"Climate change is the challenge of our generation," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "With OCO-2 and our existing fleet of satellites, NASA is uniquely qualified to take on the challenge of documenting and understanding these changes, predicting the ramifications, and sharing information about these changes for the benefit of society."

OCO-2 will take NASA's studies of carbon dioxide and the global carbon cycle to new heights. The mission will produce the most detailed picture to date of natural sources of carbon dioxide, as well as their "sinks" -- places on Earth’s surface where carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. The observatory will study how these sources and sinks are distributed around the globe and how they change over time.

"This challenging mission is both timely and important," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "OCO-2 will produce exquisitely precise measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations near Earth's surface, laying the foundation for informed policy decisions on how to adapt to and reduce future climate change."

Carbon dioxide sinks are at the heart of a longstanding scientific puzzle that has made it difficult for scientists to accurately predict how carbon dioxide levels will change in the future and how those changing concentrations will affect Earth's climate.

"Scientists currently don't know exactly where and how Earth's oceans and plants have absorbed more than half the carbon dioxide that human activities have emitted into our atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial era," said David Crisp, OCO-2 science team leader at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Because of this we cannot predict precisely how these processes will operate in the future as climate changes. For society to better manage carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, we need to be able to measure the natural source and sink processes."

Precise measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide are needed because background levels vary by less than two percent on regional to continental scales. Typical changes can be as small as one-third of one percent. OCO-2 measurements are designed to measure these small changes clearly.

During the next 10 days, the spacecraft will go through a checkout process and then begin three weeks of maneuvers that will place it in its final 438-mile (705-kilometer), near-polar operational orbit at the head of the international Afternoon Constellation, or "A-Train," of Earth-observing satellites. The A-Train, the first multi-satellite, formation flying "super observatory" to record the health of Earth's atmosphere and surface environment, collects an unprecedented quantity of nearly simultaneous climate and weather measurements.

OCO-2 science operations will begin about 45 days after launch. Scientists expect to begin archiving calibrated mission data in about six months and plan to release their first initial estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in early 2015.

The observatory will uniformly sample the atmosphere above Earth's land and waters, collecting more than 100,000 precise individual measurements of carbon dioxide over Earth's entire sunlit hemisphere every day. Scientists will use these data in computer models to generate maps of carbon dioxide emission and uptake at Earth’s surface on scales comparable in size to the state of Colorado. These regional-scale maps will provide new tools for locating and identifying carbon dioxide sources and sinks.

OCO-2 also will measure a phenomenon called solar-induced fluorescence, an indicator of plant growth and health. As plants photosynthesize and take up carbon dioxide, they fluoresce and give off a tiny amount of light that is invisible to the naked eye. Because more photosynthesis translates into more fluorescence, fluorescence data from OCO-2 will help shed new light on the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants

OCO-2 is a NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder Program mission managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, built the spacecraft bus and provides mission operations under JPL’s leadership. The science instrument was built by JPL, based on the instrument design co-developed for the original OCO mission by Hamilton Sundstrand in Pomona, California. NASA's Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch management. Communications during all phases of the mission are provided by NASA's Near Earth Network, with contingency support from the Space Network. Both are divisions of the Space Communications and Navigation program at NASA Headquarters. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information about OCO-2, visit:

OCO-2 is the second of five NASA Earth science missions scheduled to launch into space this year, the most new Earth-observing mission launches in one year in more than a decade. NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

Follow OCO-2 on Twitter at:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24, 2014 NASA Sets New Dates, Media Coverage for Saucer-Shaped Test Vehicle Flight

A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii. The vehicle, part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will test an inflatable decelerator and a parachute at high altitudes and speeds over the Pacific Missile Range this June. A balloon will lift the vehicle to high altitudes, where a rocket will take it even higher to the top of the stratosphere at several times the speed of sound. This image was taken during a "hang-angle" measurement, in which engineers set the vehicle's rocket motor to the appropriate angle for the high-altitude test. The nozzle and the lower half of the Star-48 solid rocket motor are the dark objects seen in the middle of the image below the saucer.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project plans to fly its rocket-powered, saucer-shaped landing technology test vehicle into near-space from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on Kauai, Hawaii later this week.

NASA has identified five potential launch dates for the high-altitude balloon carrying the LDSD experiment: June 28, 29, 30, July 1 and 3. The launch window for Saturday, June 28 extends from 8:15--9:30 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (2:15-3:30 p.m. EDT).

The test will be carried live via UStream and simulcast on NASA Television.

The vehicle originally was scheduled for its first test flight earlier in June, but unacceptable weather conditions prevented the launch.

On launch attempt days, journalists are invited to PMRF to watch the liftoff and flight. Journalists who did not previously acquire base clearance but would like to attend the event must arrange access in advance by contacting the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility PAO, Stefan Alford, at 808-482-0036 or by 11 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Thursday, June 26. Valid media credentials are required.

Reporters who have previously received access clearance from the U.S. Navy for the LDSD launch also are invited to return, but must contact Alford by 11 a.m. on Friday, June 27, to have their access to the facility reactivated.

Reporters must arrive at the PMRF main gate, each balloon launch attempt day, no later than 7 a.m. for escort onto the base. Journalists should follow the LDSD mission website for daily launch window dates and times. Reporters will be escorted off the base following the balloon launch.

Decisions to attempt launch of the LDSD test will be made the day before each launch opportunity date. NASA will issue launch advisories via the mission website, media advisories and on Twitter at:


NASA will stream live video of the test via UStream at:

The video may be intermittent based on test activities. Reporters should consult the LDSD website for real-time updates of the test. NASA plans on providing edited supporting video of the test the day after flight.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedules and downlink information, visit:

After the balloon reaches an altitude of 120,000 feet, the rocket-powered test vehicle will be dropped. Seconds later, its motor will fire, carrying it to 180,000 feet and as fast as about Mach 3.8. LDSD carries several onboard cameras.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23, 2014 NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Marks First Martian Year with Mission Successes

Image Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year -- 687 Earth days -- on June 24, having accomplished the mission's main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

One of Curiosity's first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms. The answer, a historic "yes," came from two mudstone slabs that the rover sampled with its drill. Analysis of these samples revealed the site was once a lakebed with mild water, the essential elemental ingredients for life, and a type of chemical energy source used by some microbes on Earth. If Mars had living organisms, this would have been a good home for them.

Other important findings during the first Martian year include:

-- Assessing natural radiation levels both during the flight to Mars and on the Martian surface provides guidance for designing the protection needed for human missions to Mars.

-- Measurements of heavy-versus-light variants of elements in the Martian atmosphere indicate that much of Mars' early atmosphere disappeared by processes favoring loss of lighter atoms, such as from the top of the atmosphere. Other measurements found that the atmosphere holds very little, if any, methane, a gas that can be produced biologically.

-- The first determinations of the age of a rock on Mars and how long a rock has been exposed to harmful radiation provide prospects for learning when water flowed and for assessing degradation rates of organic compounds in rocks and soils.

Curiosity paused in driving this spring to drill and collect a sample from a sandstone site called Windjana. The rover currently is carrying some of the rock-powder sample collected at the site for follow-up analysis.

"Windjana has more magnetite than previous samples we've analyzed," said David Blake, principal investigator for Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "A key question is whether this magnetite is a component of the original basalt or resulted from later processes, such as would happen in water-soaked basaltic sediments. The answer is important to our understanding of habitability and the nature of the early-Mars environment."

Preliminary indications are that the rock contains a more diverse mix of clay minerals than was found in the mission's only previously drilled rocks, the mudstone targets at Yellowknife Bay. Windjana also contains an unexpectedly high amount of the mineral orthoclase, This is a potassium-rich feldspar that is one of the most abundant minerals in Earth's crust that had never before been definitively detected on Mars.

This finding implies that some rocks on the Gale Crater rim, from which the Windjana sandstones are thought to have been derived, may have experienced complex geological processing, such as multiple episodes of melting.

"It's too early for conclusions, but we expect the results to help us connect what we learned at Yellowknife Bay to what we'll learn at Mount Sharp," said John Grotzinger, Curiosity Project Scientist at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. "Windjana is still within an area where a river flowed. We see signs of a complex history of interaction between water and rock."

Curiosity departed Windjana in mid-May and is advancing westward. It has covered about nine-tenths of a mile (1.5 kilometers) in 23 driving days and brought the mission's odometer tally up to 4.9 miles (7.9 kilometers).

Since wheel damage prompted a slow-down in driving late in 2013, the mission team has adjusted routes and driving methods to reduce the rate of damage.

For example, the mission team revised the planned route to future destinations on the lower slope of an area called Mount Sharp, where scientists expect geological layering will yield answers about ancient environments. Before Curiosity landed, scientists anticipated that the rover would need to reach Mount Sharp to meet the goal of determining whether the ancient environment was favorable for life. They found an answer much closer to the landing site. The findings so far have raised the bar for the work ahead. At Mount Sharp, the mission team will seek evidence not only of habitability, but also of how environments evolved and what conditions favored preservation of clues to whether life existed there.

The entry gate to the mountain is a gap in a band of dunes edging the mountain's northern flank that is approximately 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) ahead of the rover's current location. The new path will take Curiosity across sandy patches as well as rockier ground. Terrain mapping with use of imaging from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter enables the charting of safer, though longer, routes.

The team expects its will need to continually adapt to the threats posed by the terrain to the rover's wheels but does not expect this will be a determining factor in the length of Curiosity's operational life.

"We are getting in some long drives using what we have learned," said Jim Erickson, Curiosity Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "When you're exploring another planet, you expect surprises. The sharp, embedded rocks were a bad surprise. Yellowknife Bay was a good surprise."

JPL manages NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, and built the project's Curiosity rover.

Friday, June 13, 2014


And in the end we did admit
To the crimes we did not commit
After a beating, with the ring
That made you feel like a king

Nobody knows the full extent
Of wounds you caused and discontent
Or the number of time you went
To prostitutes, your best friends

At times I still feel the shame
Even to have to bear the same name
My love for reading you tried to kill
But a mind, you could not fill

You taught me how to find
The silence within my mind
Simply because we cannot speak
About the havoc you wreak

A flower that had never left
The heart so long bereft
Grew a little larger by the time
I met my mother, now so fine

The way you suppressed your wife
Left scars to last her life
You left us in time, or too late
Not missed by me, to date

We are free, you cannot touch us
We are free, you cannot hurt us
We are free, you cannot kill us
We are free…………………and you?

I know not why you wanted to hurt
Were you hurt yourself sometime?
I don’t know why you felt a king
Beating a child with a ring

I want to leave the hurt behind
In a lighted corner of my mind
Present but no more oppressive
Humble but no more submissive

I am a different person now
Leading my life, that is how
Living of the reading you tried to kill
Of the mind that my history did fill
With a skill

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Scientist-World's Largest Egyptian Obelisk Not Human Origin | Neon Nettle

Scientist-World's Largest Egyptian Obelisk Not Human Origin | Neon Nettle

NASA Instruments Begin Science on European Spacecraft Set to Land on Comet

The Moon, Rosetta flyby
June 10, 2014

Three NASA science instruments aboard the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which is set to become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus, are beginning observations and sending science data back to Earth.

Launched in March 2004, Rosetta was reactivated January 2014 after a record 957 days in hibernation. Composed of an orbiter and lander, Rosetta’s objective is to arrive at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail and prepare for landing a probe on the comet's nucleus in November.

Rosetta’s lander will obtain the first images taken from a comet’s surface and will provide the first analysis of a comet's composition by drilling into the surface. Rosetta also will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun's radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.

"We are happy to be seeing some real zeroes and ones coming down from our instruments, and cannot wait to figure out what they are telling us," said Claudia Alexander, Rosetta's U.S. project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Never before has a spacecraft pulled up and parked next to a comet. That is what Rosetta will do, and we are delighted to play a part in such a historic mission of exploration."

Rosetta currently is approaching the main asteroid belt located between Jupiter and Mars,. The spacecraft is still about 300,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) from the comet, but in August the instruments will begin to map its surface.

The three U.S. instruments aboard the spacecraft are the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), an ultraviolet spectrometer called Alice, and the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES). They are part of a suite of 11 science instruments aboard the Rosetta orbiter.

MIRO is designed to provide data on how gas and dust leave the surface of the nucleus to form the coma and tail that gives comets their intrinsic beauty. Studying the surface temperature and evolution of the coma and tail provides information on how the comet evolves as it approaches and leaves the vicinity of the sun.

Alice will analyze gases in the comet's coma, which is the bright envelope of gas around the nucleus of the comet developed as a comet approaches the sun. Alice also will measure the rate at which the comet produces water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These measurements will provide valuable information about the surface composition of the nucleus.

The instrument also will measure the amount of argon present, an important clue about the temperature of the solar system at the time the comet's nucleus originally formed more than 4.6 billion years ago.

IES is part of a suite of five instruments to analyze the plasma environment of the comet, particularly the coma. The instrument will measure the charged particles in the sun's outer atmosphere, or solar wind, as they interact with the gas flowing out from the comet while Rosetta is drawing nearer to the comet's nucleus.

NASA also provided part of the electronics package for the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument. ROSINA will be the first instrument in space with sufficient resolution to be able to distinguish between molecular nitrogen and carbon monoxide, two molecules with approximately the same mass. Clear identification of nitrogen will help scientists understand conditions at the time the solar system was formed.

U.S. scientists are partnering on several non-U.S. instruments and are involved in seven of the mission's 21 instrument collaborations. NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) is supporting ESA's Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation.

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. JPL manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder), developed the Rosetta orbiter's IES and Alice instruments, and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern (Alice).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Neder-L: Toch weer problemen bij het eindexamen Nederlands

Neder-L: Toch weer problemen bij het eindexamen Nederlands: Door Marc van Oostendorp Ergens, hoog in een ivoren toren, zit het College voor Examens, de instelling die in Nederland verantwoordeli...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Heat shield installed on Orion spacecraft

Engineers completed installing the heat shield on NASA’s Orion spacecraft ahead of its first trip to space in December. The flight test will send an uncrewed Orion 3,600 miles into space before returning it to Earth for the splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. The heat shield will help protect the Orion crew vehicle from temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit during its reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

Image Credit: NASA/Daniel Casper

NASA and Lockheed Martin engineers have installed the largest heat shield ever constructed on the crew module of the agency's Orion spacecraft. The work marks a major milestone on the path toward the spacecraft's first launch in December.

"It is extremely exciting to see the heat shield in place, ready to do its job," said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "The heat shield is such a critical piece, not just for this mission, but for our plans to send humans into deep space."

The heat shield is made of a coating called Avcoat, which burns away as it heats up in a process called ablation to prevent the transfer of extreme temperatures to the crew module. The Avcoat is covered with a silver reflective tape that protects the material from the extreme cold temperatures of space.

Orion’s flight test, or Exploration Flight Test-1, will provide engineers with data about the heat shield's ability to protect Orion and its future crews from the 4,000-degree heat of reentry and an ocean splashdown following the spacecraft’s 20,000-mph reentry from space.

Data gathered during the flight will inform decisions about design improvements on the heat shield and other Orion systems, and authenticate existing computer models and new approaches to space systems design and development. This process is critical to reducing overall risks and costs of future Orion missions -- missions that will include exploring an asteroid and Mars.

Orion's flight test also will provide important data for the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and ocean recovery of Orion. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have built an advanced adapter to connect Orion to the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will launch the spacecraft during the December test. The adapter also will be used during future SLS missions. NASA’s Ground Systems Development and Operations Program, based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will recover the Orion crew module with the U.S. Navy after its splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

The heat shield was manufactured at Lockheed Martin's Waterton Facility near Denver. Construction was completed at Textron Defense Systems near Boston before the heat shield was shipped to the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy, where Orion is being assembled.

In the coming months, the Orion crew and service modules will be joined and put through functional tests before the spacecraft is transported to Kennedy’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility for fueling. The spacecraft then will be transferred to the Launch Abort System (LAS) Facility to be connected to the LAS before making the journey to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 for pad integration and launch operations.
Source: NASA
For more information on Orion, visit:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will have three historical meetings to honor their predecessors and discuss a variety of world issues on May 25 and 26, 2014 in Israel. This historical dialogue might have a tremendous impact on the two churches that have been separated since Pope Leo IX added three words -“and the son” - to the Nicene Creed in 1054, resulting in a schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Catholic Churches.

The two spiritual leaders are officially on a joined pilgrimage to the Holy Land to commemorate the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras that took place on January 5th, 1964. Then, it was the first step toward reconciliation when they shook hands in Jerusalem and ended the mutual excommunications issued by the Pope and Patriarch back in 1054.

Bartholomew said recently that the road to unity remains long, but Pope Francis’s acceptance of the invitation to meet in Jerusalem demonstrates that both leaders want to end the near 1,000-year divide.

The Agenda

“The Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope have many issues to discuss and this visit will not be just a commemoration of the previous meeting of their predecessors,” says Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France.

According to Metropolitan Emanuel their discussions will focus on Syria and the situation in the Middle East, the protection of Christians, the environment and the foundations of Christian Marriage.

Metropolitan Emmanuel says that “the Pope is very much concerned on the foundations of the Christian family,” something that also concerns greatly the Orthodox Church.

“Both churches are concerned about Syria, North Africa and the protection of Christians in the Middle East,” added the Metropolitan of France.

Pope Francis said in December: “In some countries they kill Christians because they wear a cross or have a Bible, and before killing them they don’t ask if they’re Anglicans, Lutherans, Catholic or Orthodox.”

The Meetings

There are three planned meetings between the two religious leaders, following the pattern established in 1964 during the meetings of their predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.

The first meeting will occur at the Apostolic Delegation in the Old City of Jerusalem, where they will sign a Joint Declaration. The most significant meeting will take place at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving Sunday evening, when they, along with a representative of the Armenian Church, will pray together at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The event has been described as“extraordinarily historic,” by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, since the three communities normally observe strict separation when they worship in the church.

The third meeting will take place on the Mount of Olives at the residence of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, where they will seal their pilgrimage and fraternal exchange.
Source:Orthodoxy Cognate PAGE

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The new Mars crater spans half the length of a football field in this photo from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s sharpest-sighted camera, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Researchers have discovered on the Red Planet the largest fresh meteor-impact crater ever firmly documented with before-and-after images. The images were captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The crater spans half the length of a football field and first appeared in March 2012. The impact that created it likely was preceded by an explosion in the Martian sky caused by intense friction between an incoming asteroid and the planet's atmosphere. This series of events can be likened to the meteor blast that shattered windows in Chelyabinsk, Russia, last year. The air burst and ground impact darkened an area of the Martian surface about 5 miles (8 kilometers) across.

The darkened spot appears in images taken by the orbiter's weather-monitoring camera, the Mars Color Imager (MARCI). Images of the site from MARCI and from the two telescopic cameras on MRO are at:

Since the orbiter began its systematic observation of Mars in 2006, scientist Bruce Cantor has examined MARCI's daily global coverage, looking for evidence of dust storms and other observable weather events in the images. Cantor is this camera's deputy principal investigator at Malin Space Science Systems, the San Diego company that built and operates MARCI and the orbiter's telescopic Context Camera (CTX). Through his careful review of the images, he helps operators of NASA's solar-powered Mars rover, Opportunity, plan for weather events that may diminish the rover's energy. He also posts weekly Mars weather reports.

About two months ago, Cantor noticed an inconspicuous dark dot near the equator in one of the images.

"It wasn't what I was looking for," Cantor said. "I was doing my usual weather monitoring and something caught my eye. It looked usual, with rays emanating from a central spot."

He began examining earlier images, skipping back a month or more at a time. The images revealed that the dark spot was present a year ago, but not five years ago. He homed in further, checking images from about 40 different dates, and pinned down the date the impact event occurred; the spot was not there up through March 27, 2012, and then appeared before the daily imaging on March 28, 2012.

Once the dark spot was verified as new, it was targeted last month by CTX and the orbiter's sharpest-sighted camera, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). Of the approximately 400 fresh crater-causing impacts on Mars that have been documented with before-and-after images, this is the only one discovered using a MARCI image, rather than an image from a higher-resolution camera.

CTX has imaged nearly the entire surface of Mars at least once during the orbiter's seven-plus years of observations. It had photographed the site of this newly-discovered crater in January 2012, prior to the impact. Two craters appear in the April 2014 CTX image that were not present in the earlier one, confirming the dark spot revealed by MARCI is related to a new impact crater.

HiRISE reveals more than a dozen smaller craters near the two larger ones seen in the CTX image, possibly created by chunks of the exploding asteroid or secondary impacts of material ejected from the main craters during impact. It also reveals many landslides that darkened slopes in the 5-mile surrounding area. A second HiRISE image in May 2014 added three-dimensional information.

"The biggest crater is unusual, quite shallow compared to other fresh craters we have observed," said HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The largest crater is slightly elongated and spans 159 by 143 feet (48.5 by 43.5 meters).

McEwen estimates the impact object measured about 10 to 18 feet (3 to 5 meters) long, which is less than a third the estimated length of the asteroid that hit Earth's atmosphere near Chelyabinsk. Because Mars has much less atmosphere than Earth, space rocks of comparable size are more likely to penetrate to the surface of Mars and cause larger craters.

"Studies of fresh impact craters on Mars yield valuable information about impact rates and about subsurface material exposed by the excavations," said Leslie Tamppari, deputy project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "The combination of HiRISE and CTX has found and examined many of them, and now MARCI's daily coverage has given great precision about when a significant impact occurred."

NASA is developing concepts for its asteroid initiative to redirect a near-Earth asteroid -- possibly about the size of the rock that hit Mars on March 27 or 28, 2012 -- but much closer to Earth's distance from the sun. The project would involve a solar-powered spacecraft capturing a small asteroid or removing a piece of a larger asteroid, and redirecting it into a stable orbit around Earth's moon.

Astronauts will travel to the asteroid aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft, launched on the agency's Space Launch System rocket, to rendezvous with the captured asteroid. Once there, they would collect samples to return to Earth for study. This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities needed to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates MARCI and CTX. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft and collaborates with JPL to operate it.
Before and after impact.
Source: NASA

For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its findings, visit:

May 22, 2014 NASA Releases Earth Day "Global Selfie" Mosaic of Our Home Planet

NASA’s “Global Selfie” Earth mosaic contains more than 36,000 individual photographs from the more than 50,000 images posted around the world on Earth Day, April 22, 2014.

Image Credit: NASA

For Earth Day this year, NASA invited people around the world to step outside to take a "selfie" and share it with the world on social media. NASA released Thursday a new view of our home planet created entirely from those photos.

The "Global Selfie" mosaic was built using more than 36,000 individual photographs drawn from the more than 50,000 images tagged #GlobalSelfie and posted on or around Earth Day, April 22, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr. The project was designed to encourage environmental awareness and recognize the agency's ongoing work to protect our home planet.

Selfies were posted by people on every continent and 113 countries and regions, from Antarctica to Yemen, Greenland to Guatemala, and Pakistan to Peru. The resulting global mosaic is a zoomable 3.2-gigapixel image that users can scan and explore to look at individual photos. The Global Selfie was assembled after several weeks of collecting and curating the submitted images.

"With the Global Selfie, NASA used crowd-sourced digital imagery to illustrate a different aspect of Earth than has been measured from satellites for decades: a mosaic of faces from around the globe," said Peg Luce, deputy director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "We were overwhelmed to see people participate from so many countries. We're very grateful that people took the time to celebrate our home planet together, and we look forward to everyone doing their part to be good stewards of our precious Earth.”

The GigaPan image of Earth is based on views of each hemisphere captured on Earth Day 2014 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite instrument on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. Suomi NPP, a joint mission between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, collects data on both long-term climate change and short-term weather conditions.

The Global Selfie mosaic and related images and videos are available at:

The Global Selfie is part of a special year for NASA Earth science. For the first time in more than a decade, five NASA Earth Science missions are scheduled to launch in one year. The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory, a joint mission with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, was launched in February. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 is set to launch in July with the Soil Moisture Active Passive mission to follow in November. And two Earth science instruments -- RapidScat and the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System -- will be launched to the International Space Station.

NASA missions have helped identify thousands of new planets across the universe in recent years, but the space agency studies no planet more closely than our own. With 17 Earth-observing satellites in orbit and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns, NASA produces data that help scientists get a clearer picture of Earth's interconnected natural systems. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit: