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NASA Selects Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for Artemis Moon Mission



On the second try, Jeff Bezos and his rocket company won the contract to take NASA astronauts to the moon.

NASA announced Friday that it has awarded a contract to Mr. Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, to provide a lunar lander for a lunar mission scheduled to launch in 2029. NASA agreed to pay $3.4 billion for a 50-foot spacecraft. a spacecraft called the Blue Moon that can take four astronauts to the surface of the moon.

The Artemis V mission is another important part of NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon to explore its south pole. The astronauts are to land on the moon on a spacecraft built by SpaceX for the Artemis III and IV missions.

John Coulouris, Blue Origin’s vice president of lunar transportation, said the company is contributing “well north” of NASA’s contract value to the development effort and that it, not NASA, will cover any cost overruns. In the past, some members of Congress have complained about giving Blue Origin taxpayer money given Mr. Bezos’ fortune.

“We want more competition,” Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, said during an announcement Friday at NASA headquarters in Washington. “It means you have reliability. Do you have backups?

Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s Human Landing System Program Manager, said the second lander “also helps us with a more diversified industrial base and this will help us drive innovation in the future.”

Winning the contract could be the start of a promising year of recovery for Blue Origin after a series of delays and setbacks, including the failure of one of its New Shepard spacecraft, which flies into space but not into orbit, during a launch last September during which experiments were carried out. but no passengers. Blue Origin has identified the cause and hopes to resume New Shepard flights with both space tourists and science payloads later this year.

And some equipment made by Blue Origin could finally be used in an orbital mission in the coming months. The company has built engines for the upper stage of the Vulcan rocket being developed by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between aerospace giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Blue Origin can also provide some insight into the New Glenn, a much larger rocket designed to launch payloads into orbit.

In the lunar lander contract, Blue Origin, in collaboration with other aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, defeated a second team led by Dynetics, a defense company based in Huntsville, Alabama.

“The feeling is absolutely fantastic,” Mr. Koulouris said. “However, this is Step 1. We have a lot of work to do before we successfully land and get the astronauts back.”

The Blue Moon lander is designed to fit the diameter of the 23-foot-wide Blue Origin New Glenn rocket and will weigh over 45 metric tons when filled with fuel.

For Artemis V, the lander will first dock with the Gateway, a small outpost in orbit around the moon. Four astronauts will travel to the Gate on another spacecraft, NASA’s Orion capsule. They will then transfer to the Blue Moon lander and stay near the moon’s south pole for about a week.

After their visit to the Moon, the lander will take off and return to the Gate, while the Orion capsule will take all four astronauts back to Earth. The same lander could be used for multiple missions.

A second Blue Origin spacecraft will be required to transport liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen from Earth to lunar orbit to replenish Blue Moon’s fuel tanks. Transport of propellants in the near-weightless space environment, especially ultracold liquid hydrogen, is complex and has not yet been demonstrated on a large scale.

Mr Cooulouris said Blue Origin will conduct a demonstration flight of the uncrewed lander in 2028, a year before it is used for astronauts.

“We fully expect to meet NASA’s schedule,” Mr. Koulouris said.

Mr Koulouris said the lunar lander could also be configured to carry 30 metric tons of cargo instead of passengers “to form the basis for living quarters and other permanent infrastructure” on the lunar surface.

The Artemis V mission was Mr. Bezos’ company’s second claim to land on the moon. In 2021, Blue Origin and Dynetics were disappointed when NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion fixed contract to build a variant of its giant Starship that will land astronauts on the moon for the first time in more than half a century.

Both companies protested the decision, especially as NASA officials initially sought two contracts.

This would parallel the successful efforts of NASA, which outsourced the transport of cargo and crew to the International Space Station to private companies. But NASA officials said at the time that there was not enough money in their budget for a second lander. SpaceX’s $2.9 billion offer was the lowest offer to date. Blue Origin’s proposed design cost $6 billion, and Dynetics’ proposal was even more expensive.

The Federal Government Accountability Office dismissed the two companies’ protests. Blue Origin then sued in federal court and lost again.

Last September, after receiving a larger budget from Congress, NASA launched a competition for a second lunar lander. Dynetics and Blue Origin once again decided to compete, although there has been some shuffling of the companies involved in this effort. Northrop Grumman, which was part of Blue Origin’s original offering, switched to the Dynetics team.

Blue Origin added Boeing to its team; Astrobotic, a small Pittsburgh-based company developing automated lunar landers; and Honeybee Robotics, a space technology company that Blue Origin bought last year.

The design of the spacecraft has also changed, fuel transfer in space has been added.

But it will not reach the moon for a long time.

SpaceX’s original $2.9 billion contract was to provide a lander for the first moon landing on Artemis III, currently scheduled for late 2025 but likely to be pushed back to 2026 or later. In November, NASA exercised a $1.15 billion option on this SpaceX contract to also provide a lander for Artemis IV, a mission scheduled for 2028.

After Artemis V, NASA will be able to choose between SpaceX and Blue Origin projects for later missions.

After all, companies and people outside of NASA could also buy Blue Moon rides. “We have a number of interested organizations,” Mr. Koulouris said.


How much COVID is in my community? It’s getting harder to say



As large-scale interventions against COVID-19 are long gone, officials and experts continue to preach the importance of individual decision making in assessing and managing health risks.

However, tracking the status of the coronavirus has become increasingly difficult as data collection and reporting have either been reduced or stopped altogether in the post-emergency phase.

Part of that is by design. The collective experience with coronavirus has allowed some incomplete indicators, such as officially reported cases, to be replaced in favor of others, such as sewage monitoring, which can give a clearer picture of the circulation of the virus in the community.

But declining data is making it harder to assess the trajectory of the virus in specific areas, as well as making it harder for people to adjust their attitudes and behaviors — a potentially worrisome development for those who remain at the highest risk of serious illness.

And the public knowledge gap could widen in the coming months as metrics collection becomes increasingly decentralized after the COVID-19 public health emergency ends, and more residents lose access to resources like free testing.

“Now it will be a little harder to track down. Over the past few months, this has already become more of a challenge as states and localities have begun to reduce the frequency of their reports,” the doctor said. Mario Ramirez, ER physician and managing director of Opportunity Labs, a nonprofit research and consulting firm.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made several efforts to pack the terms of the pandemic into digestible pieces, including the release of the agency’s COVID-19 community level map in February 2022.

What counties sorted by system across the country into one of three categories—low, medium, or high—depending on incidence rates and certain rates of hospitalization. For each category, the CDC has issued specific guidance on measures such as wearing masks, testing, and avoiding crowds.

However, officials on Thursday abandoned the system. Due in part to case count restrictions that are becoming increasingly unreliable due to the prevalence of home testing, officials also acknowledged the growing difficulty of providing a snapshot on site. . Many states and counties have stopped collecting or sharing data about COVID-19.

On Thursday, the CDC’s COVID data tracker stopped reporting cumulative cases and removed data on positive test results. The old tracker listed weekly COVID-19 deaths; new version says percentage of COVID-related deaths among all reported deathsbased on preliminary death certificate data to indicate the trend in COVID mortality.

The tracker’s leading data point was the number of people who first admitted to hospital with a lab-confirmed coronavirus infection in the previous week.

Hospitalization data is offered down to the district level, with districts sorted into one of three levels: green, yellow, or orange. Much of the country is now on the green, with fewer than 10 coronavirus-positive hospital admissions per week for every 100,000 residents. The worst level, orange, is when the bet is 20 or more.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County reported 2.8 coronavirus-positive hospital admissions for every 100,000 residents.

V weekly trend of coronavirus hospitalizations available for each state on the CDC website. In the week ending May 6, California reported 1,284 coronavirus-positive hospitalizations, the lowest since last spring’s lull.

The all-time low for this indicator was 870 for the week ending April 16, 2022. The all-time peak of 16,663 occurred in the week ending January 9, 2021, at the height of California’s deadliest wave of COVID-19. At the time, Los Angeles hospital mortuaries were so overcrowded that the National Guard was called in to temporarily store the bodies.

While coronavirus-positive hospitalization rates are vital in illustrating the pressure COVID-19 is putting on hospitals, some experts point out that they only provide a limited view of transmission.

“It will be much broader strokes than the predictive analytics we have become accustomed to over the past few years,” Ramirez said on Tuesday. during the panel hosted by the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project. “And so I’m worried that by the time the data comes back, it’s usually two, three, four weeks old, especially because hospitalization is a lagging indicator, and of course, death. We will be weeks behind the increase in cases, if that is what is happening.”

This is not to say that hospital-focused metrics are out of place. According to the California Department of Public Health, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 patients “showed a 99 percent match” with population levels.

“We are studying how our data collection and reporting will change after the end of the federal emergency and will keep the public informed of any changes that may occur,” the department said in a statement to The Times.

California currently publishes weekly data on cases and deaths from COVID-19 on its website. online panel and also monitors the number of patients with coronavirus hospitalized throughout the state. This information is available at

Los Angeles County releases case and death data weekly every Thursday. Officials also report an average percentage of coronavirus-related emergency room visits, and the rate has remained stable at around 3% over the past month. In late March and early April, this figure was 4%.

Appreciating the county’s progress, Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer noted that “every day, thousands of people in Los Angeles County continue to suffer from COVID-19, whether they are forced to miss work due to illness, need in hospital or are in critical condition. effects of prolonged COVID.

“[The Department of] Public health remains committed to work that reduces the likelihood of transmission and ensures the county is prepared for the possibility of periodic changes in transmission,” she said Thursday. “We continue our work to make sure there are no barriers to those who want to access life-saving vaccines, therapeutics and tests.”

The state also supports model – CalCAT, California Infectious Disease Assessment Tool – for a rough estimate of the extent of coronavirus transmission. This tool uses the available data to arrive at an estimated effective reproductive rate, which shows how many people, on average, an infected person transmits the coronavirus.

However, this model is also not immune to changes in the availability of pandemic data.

“Overall, case rates, including R-effective, are less reliable in the face of changes in testing regimens, including increased use of home/antigen testing versus PCR-confirmed testing,” state health officials wrote in response to an earlier request from the Times. . .

However, they added that “because R-effective represents the rate of change, it can still be useful for identifying trends in COVID-19, especially when combined with hospitalization data.”

For example: The latest statewide R-efficiency score was 1.06, indicating that the spread of COVID-19 is likely to be stable. Accordingly, the number of hospitalized patients with coronavirus across the state has decreased since the beginning of the month – from 1,282 on May 1 to 1,182 on Wednesday.

Another key focus both during the pandemic and in the future is wastewater surveillance. Officials say this provides a more complete picture of how widespread the virus is in a given area than testing alone, and could help identify and track any potentially worrying mutations.

In California, the Department of Public Health expects “wastewater monitoring to become a regular part of public health surveillance for COVID-19” and “plays a potential role in monitoring other pathogens of public health importance, such as smallpox and influenza.”

“At the local health department level, wastewater surveillance can also add useful localized information to health systems, institutions, or campuses that need to track COVID-19 or other diseases of public health importance,” the department wrote in a statement last week. .

Updated data from the State Wastewater Surveillance Network Cal-SuWers. regularly online.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also regularly reports wastewater data in its reports. weekly news releases. District on Thursday informed its levels were only 11% of last winter’s peak, according to the most recent data available.

And last week, San Francisco International Airport announced that it had become the first airport in the country start off CDC’s program to monitor wastewater samples from international flights.

However, whatever the current extent of the coronavirus, officials say there are a few things residents can do to protect themselves.

“Even though COVID emergencies are ending, the virus is still with us,” the state health department said in a statement. “It’s important for Californians to continue using the tools we have to fight COVID, including vaccines, testing, and treatments.”

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Why does extreme weather kill fewer people?



Better early warning and disaster management systems mean that extreme weather causes fewer lives.

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NASA’s Ice Cloud Mission, an aid to observing our dynamic atmosphere



NASA has chosen a new mission to help humanity better understand Earth’s dynamic atmosphere, in particular the ice clouds that form at high altitudes in tropical and subtropical regions. The PolSIR instrument – short for Polarized Submillimeter Ice Cloud Radiometer – will study such ice clouds to determine how and why they change over time.

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