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Mars Perseverance Rover Reveals Secret Parachute Message And Other Features 

NASA shared a video this week which showed off what it looks like when a spacecraft lands on Mars for the first time. The video showed the Perseverance Mars rover deploying a large and colorful orange-and-white parachute which many were quick to notice had a hidden message in it. 

Allen Chen is the entry, descent, and landing lead for the rover who spoke with the media this past Monday regarding the hidden message and how quick the public was able to pick up that the pattern on the parachute was more than just a randomly colorful design.  

“You might notice the pattern that’s on the parachute here. Distinct patterns are useful in helping us determine the clocking orientation of the parachute. Also, the contrasting sections can be useful in tracking different portions of the parachute as it inflates.  In addition to enabling incredible science, we hope our efforts and our engineering can inspire others. Sometimes we leave messages in our work for others to find for that purpose. So we invite you all to give it a shot and show your work.”

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Adam Steltzner is the rover’s chief engineer who tweeted out his shock that the internet was able to take on Chen’s challenge and decode the message in less than 6 hours of it’s initial posting on Twitter. The parachute’s hidden message included the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory motto “Dare Mighty Things,” as well as GPS coordinates for JPL in Pasadena, California. 

According to Stelzner the messages were embedded in the parachute using binary code within the white and orange triangles of fabric. The inner part of the parachute includes the “Dare mighty things” motto, with each word hidden in an expanding ring of the triangles. The band around the parachute is where the GPS coordinates can be found as well. 

The motto initially was taken from the famous Theodore Roosevelt quote: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure … than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

The rover was also built by the team at JPL, which is where the mission is being managed. Ian Clark is the rover’s systems engineer and was the one who came up with the binary code message on the parachute. 

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“The brainchild of Ian Clark- who has done anything the project asked him to do, whether it was lead, develop, and execute a supersonic parachute test program, prove the cleanliness of the sampling system, or support EDL operations. All around sharp and selfless dude,” Chen tweeted.

The Perseverance rover has plenty of other hidden secrets as well, which NASA claims will slowly be revealed the longer the rover is on Mars. For example, the rover contains silicon chips containing the names of nearly 11 million people who participated in the “send your name to Mars” campaign. The chips also include 155 essays submitted by students who entered a contest to name the rover. 

The Perseverance rover also has a metal plate dedicated to health care workers combating the Covid-19 pandemic. 

According to media reports, “on the rover’s deck is a symbol-laden calibration target for Mastcam-Z, or the rover’s pair of zoomable cameras. The calibration target includes color swatches to adjust the cameras’ settings, but also symbols of a man and a woman, a fern, a dinosaur, a rocket traveling from Earth to Mars, a model of the inner solar system, DNA and cyanobacteria, which is one of the earliest forms of life on Earth. 

The target also includes the motto “Two Worlds, One Beginning” on it, which refers to the concept that Earth and Mars were created from the same dust, unifying us and every other planet within our solar system.

NASA Celebrates Landing Of Perseverance Rover On Mars 

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars this Thursday after a seven-minute long plunge through the atmosphere which left scientists at the edge of their seat. Racing through space at more than 12,000 miles-per-hour, the rover is now safely on the surface of the red planet, and will remain there to look for possible evidence of past microbial life within the remains of an old lake. 

“Touchdown confirmed! Perseverance is safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life!” 

Swati Mohan, a guidance, navigation and control officer monitoring telemetry at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was one of the many flight engineers who burst into cheers and applause as the rover landed. He claims the moments leading up to its landing were filled with anxiety, referring to the landing process as “seven minutes of terror.”

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The rover itself weighs 2,260 pounds and has now landed on an ancient lakebed located within the Jezero Crater on Mars. The rover had to navigate through dangerous cliffs, large boulders, and slippery sand dunes to find its location. Jennifer Trosper is the deputy project manager to the Perseverance rover, who claims that the $2.4 billion rover exceeded all expectations with Thursday’s landing. 

“I almost feel like I’m in a dream. Our job is to think of all the bad things that can happen and try to avoid those, and when all good things happen, you feel like you’re dreaming.” 

President Joe Biden tweeted his congratulations to NASA as well: “Congratulations to NASA and everyone whose hard work made Perseverance’s historic landing possible. Today proved once again that with the power of science and American ingenuity, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility.”

The rover landed in Mars’s atmosphere at 3:48 p.m. EST. The planet was around 2,700 degrees upon landing, and as it slowed down to around 1,000 m.p.h. it deployed a parachute 70 feet wide to help it land safely and slowly. Less than a minute from touchdown when the rover was about 2 miles off the ground, it released its parachute to complete its descent at 200 m.p.h., by the time it reached the ground it was traveling at a speed of around 2 m.p.h.

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When the rover landed it was “tweeted” out “Hello, world. My first look at my forever home,” along with a photo of the surface of the red planet. When the image first appeared in front of NASA scientists the entire room erupted in loud cheers and sounds of celebration.

Perseverance was initially launched seven months ago from Cape Canaveral. The journey itself was about 293 million miles, and when it got closest to the 127 million mile gulf between Earth and Mars it had approximately 11 minutes to land. This is NASA’s fifth Mars rover and the first designed specifically for looking for signs of past life. 

The Jezero Crater was specifically targeted for this mission because it once held a 28-mile-wide body of water that was approximately the size of Lake Tahoe. THe lake was fed by a river that cut through the rim of the crater. 

“During the first month, we also plan to deploy and test a small 4.5-pound, $80 million helicopter named Ingenuity that will attempt the first powered flight in the thin air of Mars, a ‘Wright brothers’ moment’ on another world,” according to Trosper.

NASA and the European Space Agency are planning on sending another rover to the crater later this decade to assist with collecting samples and load them into a small rocket to be brought back to Earth for observation.

Moderna Covid Vaccine

US Just Officially Purchased 200 Million More Covid-19 Vaccines 

When President Joe Biden took office a few weeks ago he promised Americans that his administration would be purchasing another 200 million Covid-19 vaccine doses; 100 million from Pfizer and 100 million from Moderna. The purchase officially went through this week, marking a 50% increase in the nation’s total vaccine supply. 

The US has now ordered a total of 600 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from the two companies; which is enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans or nearly the whole adult population. The new supply is projected to be delivered by the end of July, so the current rate in which vaccines are being distributed will likely not change, however, the increase in supply will prevent the US from experiencing a shortage. 

Biden spoke at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland this week in which he claimed that the vaccination program he inherited from the previous Trump administration was “in much worse shape” than his team had predicted, basically forcing them to start from square one. 

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“My predecessor, to be very blunt about it, did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating Americans. He didn’t order enough vaccines, and he didn’t mobilize enough people to administer the shots.” 

Within his first three weeks in office, Biden and his administration managed to increase the weekly vaccine supply for states by 30%. Around 34.7 million American citizens have now received at least one of the two Covid-19 vaccine doses. “Millions more Americans will get vaccinated in February than the previous administration was on track to do,” Biden explained. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently spoke with the media and claimed that he expects the US to hit “open season” for vaccinations by April; meaning a majority of Americans will be able to receive their shots by that point regardless of age, occupation or preexisting medical conditions. 

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Both Pfizer and Moderna have vaccines that are more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19. Both companies currently have the highest efficacy rates of any coronavirus shot being distributed around the world currently. Both of the shots rely on messenger RNA that sends coded messages to the body’s immune system to trigger a response that will rid the body of the virus should an individual become exposed. 

Dr. Johan Bester is the director of bioethics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, School of Medicine, who recently spoke with Business Insider about the amazing medical advancement that is a mRNA vaccine. 

“The new mRNA technology is the Rolls Royce of vaccines. These are the top of the line for all vaccines that we’ve seen come out within the last year.”

Public health experts are also optimistic that the rate in which Americans are being vaccinated will increase if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as well. The company asked US regulators to give its vaccine an emergency use authorization just last week, and the FDA is projected to discuss this request on February 26th. If approved, the vaccine could begin distribution a few days later.

Covid-19 Variants Causing Scientists To Rethink Vaccine Strategy

Top vaccine scientists throughout the world have made it known that current Covid-19 vaccine rollout programs need to be reexamined after variants of the virus are proving to be more resistant.

Woman Getting Vaccinated

Experts Warn Vaccinated Individuals Not To Let Their Guard Down

With Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca all releasing effective Covid-19 vaccines, many are wondering what will come next as more and more people begin to receive their doses. As of right now, there is still no clear timeline as to when this pandemic will actually end and life can return to complete normalcy, so experts are warning vaccinated individuals not to let their guard down. 

The biggest debate has been over whether or not you still have to wear a mask once you’re vaccinated, and so far every expert has said that yes, you do. No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing the Covid-19 vaccine the same way an annual flu shot doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu that year. 

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The best of the currently available vaccines offer up to 95% protection once you’re fully immunized, leaving a 5% chance that you can still get the virus, and after it’s claimed the lives of over 430,000+ Americans, why take the chance. To put it into perspective, birth control methods such as pills, patches, shots, etc. are between 91% and 96% effective in preventing pregnancy; which equates to about 9 out of every 100 women on contraception still getting pregnant, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.  

Everyone’s immune system is also different, meaning some will have a much stronger response to the vaccine than others. Dr. Peter Hotez is a professor and dean at the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who recently spoke with the media about the importance of everyone receiving their second dose of the vaccine within a key time frame in order to guarantee a strong response. 

“In looking at the Phase 1, Phase 2 data, what I saw with a single dose is some people had high levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies, others were nonresponders. So the major reason for the second dose is to get everybody to respond. If you just get a single dose, you don’t really know where you stand, remember, it can take two to three weeks after you get the second shot before your immunity fully kicks in.”

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With the appearance of multiple different strains of the Covid-19 virus appearing as well, there’s no guarantee that the vaccines will work as effectively should one get infected with a new strain after vaccination. Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that if the new strains become dominant, “the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicates that even if you’ve been infected with the original virus that there is a very high rate of reinfection. Previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection. There is also a possibility that the current vaccines won’t fully protect against the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That’s being studied feverishly right now, so stay tuned.”

Experts are also unaware if a vaccination means that an individual can still be an asymptomatic carrier and therefore continue to spread the virus unknowingly. Additionally, researchers are continuously studying vaccinated individuals to determine how long immunity lasts and whether or not adults will need to receive booster shots down the line to maintain that immunity. 

The same logic should be applied to hanging out with other individuals who have also been vaccinated. Experts claim that even if you and your friends are all vaccinated you should take proper precautions before hanging out such as waiting at least 10 days after you receive your second dose and continuing to social distance. 

It’s going to be a while before the world fully recovers from theis pandemic, and things like sports games, concerts, bars, and restaurants are open for close-contact maskless fun. For now, continue to follow all the proper guidelines, wear a mask, and wait to hear from your healthcare provider in regards to when you can receive your vaccine.

Glass Covid Vaccine Bottles

President Biden Announces Purchase Of 200 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses 

President Joe Biden announced a slew of executive orders and measures this week that are aimed at ramping up Covid-19 vaccine allocation and distribution. Part of the measures include the purchasing of 200 million more vaccine doses and increased distribution to states by millions of doses beginning next week. 

With those additional doses Biden said that the US has now acquired enough vaccines to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall; that’s nearly the entire population in America. When he announced the acquisition of the additional doses he referred to combating the Covid-19 pandemic as a “wartime undertaking,” especially considering the mess that he was left with from the previous administration. 

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“We now have a national strategy to beat Covid-19. It’s comprehensive, it’s based on science, not politics. It’s based on truth, not denial, and it’s detailed.”

The deal entails the US purchasing 100 million more doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 100 million more from Moderna as well; the only two drugmakers with approved vaccines in the US. The two-dose vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration will hopefully be joined by other vaccines from the handful of other developers around the world nearing completion of their vaccine trials. 

However, as it currently stands the US can potentially get by with just the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine options. The new purchase will increase the current Covid-19 vaccine supply from 400 million to 600 million, according to an official working within the Biden administration. The President also committed to increasing weekly vaccine supplies for certain states, tribes, and territories; upping the amount of minimum doses distributed weekly to 10 million. 

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Biden’s Covid coordinator, Jeff Zients, informed governors this Tuesday that the Covid vaccine allocations for states will begin increasing by around 16% starting next week. The President claims that the US will soon be able to vaccinate up to 1.5 million people every day, and the nation could surpass that initial target after three weeks if all goes to plan. 

So far there have been around 22.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered to Americans. Biden’s initial goal was to get 100 million Americans fully vaccinated within his first 100 days in office, and with this new promise of increased distribution, he should have no issue meeting that goal. 

3.3 million Americans have received their second, and therefore final, dose of the Covid-19 vaccine treatment as of Tuesday evening. The President claimed that ensuring facilities have enough of the vaccine, syringes, and other necessary equipment/staff to administer the vaccines will be top priority along with this increased production. 

Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office that would speed up the development and distribution of these supplies. He claimed that the worst part of his current administration’s plan is the fact that they’re essentially starting from scratch after 421,000+ Americans have already died. “The sad part is the last administration didn’t leave anything, didn’t even leave a plan.” However, Biden and his administration are confident that within the coming months more and more Americans will be vaccinated and life can begin to feel a little normal again. 

Paris Climate Agreement

Joe Biden Rejoins Paris Climate Agreement On First Day In Office

Hours after he was sworn in as 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden signed two executive orders relating to climate change. Environmental activists throughout the nation rejoiced that the next administration entering the White House is ready to take major steps in reversing the damage that has been done to the planet within the past four years especially. 

Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, a clean transportation advocate for GreenLatinos, a nonprofit organization focusing on environmental issues that are disproportionately impacting Latino communities, recently spoke with the media about the significance of the US rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, and the cancellation of the permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. 

“The Biden administration is sending a message, and it’s really exciting that these conversations are happening so early. My hope is that these actions are just the beginning of a sustained climate-oriented agenda.”

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On the White House website, climate change is second on a list of the Biden Administration’s priorities; obviously getting the Covid-19 pandemic, that has now killed over 400,000 Americans, under control is top priority. If we remember back to Trump’s first week in office back in 2017, his administration completely removed the climate change page from the White House website. 

“We face an attack on our democracy and on truth. A raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis. Any one is enough to challenge us in ways. The fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with one of the gravest responsibilities we’ve had. Now we’re going to be tested,” Biden said in his inaugural address.

Biden has indicated that he plans to restore a multitude of the environmental rules and regulations that former president Donald Trump and his administration rolled back on. Michael Mann is the author of “The New Climate War” as well as a professor and climatologist at Penn State University who recently spoke with the media about these crucial efforts already being made by the Biden administration. 

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“This administration has to hit the ground running, because we’re four years down the road not having made the progress that we ought to have made. That means we’re going to have to work even harder.”

“Rejoining the Paris Agreement will help restore the country’s credibility, but Biden will also have to set an example by pushing for even more aggressive emissions targets to avert the most damaging impacts of climate change. The current commitments under the Paris Agreement are not enough to keep us below 1.5 degrees Celsius of planetary warming. It will be incumbent on the United States to display leadership to keep warming below catastrophic levels. What I would like to see over the next 100 days is language that speaks to our commitment to substantially ratchet up our obligations under the Paris accord.”

Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline permit also shows a major shift away from needing fossil fuels. During his campaign Biden proposed a $2 trillion climate plan that included a goal of achieving a 100% clean electricity standard by 2035. 

Environmental activists will be watching closely as the administration continues to navigate the climate crisis that is impacting the world more and more every day. Many will be looking for policies that will benefit all communities in the US, especially communities that are predominately made up of people of color which have been disproportionately impacted by climate change due to a complete lack of funding and resources from the government. 

Galaxy

For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Were Able To Watch As A Distant Galaxy ‘Dies’ 

For the first time in history, astronomers were able to witness the previously unknown phenomenon of a galaxy’s life coming to an end. Galaxies die when the stars that live within them stop forming. 

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array of telescopes in Chile scientists were able to watch as a distant galaxy ejected half of the gas it uses to form stars. The galaxy is specifically known as ID 2299, and the light emitted from the stars within this galaxy took about nine billion years to reach Earth.

Based on this timing, astronomers determined that they’re currently witnessing cosmic events that occurred when the universe was only 4.5 billion years old; the universe is thought to be 14 billion years old for context. 

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The galaxy is thought to be losing around 10,000 suns-worth of gas per year. This is significant because that gas is what’s needed for the galaxy to produce new stars. So far astronomers believe ID2299 has lost about 46% of its cold gas, however, the galaxy is still able to quickly form stars at rates greater than what we experience in our own Milky Way galaxy. 

Since ID2299 is still able to successfully produce stars, it’s likely that it won’t die for another few tens of millions of years. Annagrazia Puglisi, lead study researcher and postdoctoral research associate from Durham University in the UK and the Saclay Nuclear Research Center in France, spoke to the press after publishing the study in the journal of Nature Astronomy

“This is the first time we have observed a typical massive star-forming galaxy in the distant Universe about to ‘die’ because of a massive cold gas ejection.” 

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According to Puglisi, it’s also possible that ID2299’s demise is the result of a collision with another galaxy. Astronomers observed a large stream of gas and stars that typically only forms when two galaxies come together in a collision, and normally these streams are too far and faint to be seen, however, the scientists ability to see this tail means that the galaxy was likely formed by some sort of collision. 

 If a collision is what is causing this galaxy’s demise, astronomers will need to reconsider existing theories regarding the life cycle of stars and their formation at the end of a galaxy’s “life.” Previous theories claimed that the winds created by star formations would combine with active black holes at the center of a galaxy, which would thus send out materials needed to form stars.

“Our study suggests that gas ejections can be produced by mergers and that winds and tidal tails can appear very similar. This might lead us to revise our understanding of how galaxies ‘die,’” said Emanuele Daddi, study coauthor and astronomer at the Saclay Nuclear Research Centre in France. 

Astronomers were actually working on a survey regarding cold gas in distant galaxies when they noticed the tidal tail of ID2299 and realized just what they were witnessing. Future observations of the galaxy will likely reveal more about the process of gas being ejected from galaxies and how it impacts star formation, but in the meantime, astronomers are celebrating the fact that they witnessed a cosmic event that they’ve only theorized about in the past.

COVID Lockdown in the UK

UK Announces New Lockdown And Mass Vaccinations To End Spread Of Covid-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a national recovery plan this week after the United Kingdom entered another lockdown amid a massive increase in the spread of Covid-19

Coronavirus Vaccination

4.2 Million Americans Have Been Vaccinated For Covid-19

Although more than 4 million Americans have now been vaccinated with their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, health experts are saying the country needs to start moving a lot quicker. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke to the media this past Sunday regarding the current rate that America is getting its citizens vaccinated. 

“No excuses, we’re not where we want to be, but hopefully we’ll pick up some momentum and get back to where we want to be in terms of getting people vaccinated.” 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 13 million doses have already been distributed throughout the nation, however, the federal government had repeatedly promised that 20 million individuals would have received their initial dose by the end of 2020. While they may be behind with their original predictions, the rate of distribution is still increasing.

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According to Fauci 1.5 million doses were administered within 72 hours this past week, which means the rate is continuously increasing as well. Moncef Slaoui is the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed, who recently told the media that 17.5 million doses have now been shipped and the government is confident that this will help that rate increase even further. 

Currently vaccines are only being administered to healthcare workers and long-term care patients who are much more susceptible to getting infected with Covid-19. While America continues to wait for vaccinations to be distributed, our current administration is still battling the results of the 2020 election, meaning no further health and safety guidelines are being enforced throughout the nation, and hundreds of thousands of Americans are still being infected. 

The US has reported over 100,000 new Covid-19-related hospitalizations every day for 33 consecutive days, and a majority of the states are still relatively open in terms of businesses and public settings. With holiday travel restrictions being practically non-existent this past month, even more Americans are expected to become infected in the coming weeks. 

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“There’s no running away from the numbers. It’s something that we have absolutely got to grasp and get our arms around and turn that inflection down by very intensive adherence to the public health measures, uniformly throughout the country, with no exceptions.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for coronavirus response, recently claimed, however, that there is still hope for the US and other countries currently enduring massive surges in new cases and deaths, but only if these countries adopt federally enforced measures such as mass-testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantining. President-elect Joe Biden has made multiple claims in the past that it’s likely he would be placing America under another lockdown once he’s inaugurated to alleviate all the pressure currently being placed on the nation’s hospitals. 

US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams urged Americans, especially those who gathered over the holidays, to “self-quarantine, get tested, wear a mask, wash their hands and watch their distance. The projections are pretty scary, but they’re projections, and what we do now matters. I want people to understand that if we get over this current surge, then things will start to get better, but it depends on the actions that we all take right now.”

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to continue to be distributed throughout the nation to all vulnerable parties first. Fauci has claimed that it is likely most Americans will be vaccinated by the summer, however, that will also be dependent on what happens with this pandemic in the meantime in terms of new infections.