WASHINGTON: U.S. space agency NASA has selected nine teams to study the moon samples collected during the Apollo missions in the 1970s.
“Stored untouched for approximately 50 years, I’m excited the samples will be opened for the first time to be studied by a new generation of scientists,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, tweeted on Monday.
The lunar rocks and soil to be studied are samples collected from Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17, some of which have never been exposed to the Earth’s atmosphere.
In an online statement, NASA mentioned in particular the sample taken from beneath the lunar regolith during Apollo mission 17, which could help scientists “study the rock layers exactly as they existed on the Moon.”
“By studying these precious lunar samples for the first time, a new generation of scientists will help advance our understanding of our lunar neighbor and prepare for the next era of exploration of the Moon and beyond,” Zurbuchen said.
The nine teams include four NASA teams and four universities’ research teams, as well as a team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, sharing an award of 8 million U.S. dollars together.
$8.1b arms sales to ‘deter Iranian aggression’
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the US administration was bypassing Congress to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan to “deter Iranian aggression.”
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement, hours after a senator announced the sale and sharply criticized it.
Canada unveils air passenger bill of rights
OTTAWA: Airline passengers in Canada will soon be eligible for significant compensation for delayed flights or lost baggage under regulations announced Friday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
The measures follow a rising number of complaints about being stuck on the tarmac for hours, musical instruments being broken in transit and lost baggage.
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive,” Garneau said.
“These new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Starting July 15, airlines will be required to disembark passengers after three hours on the tarmac if there is no prospect of taking off soon.
They would also need to compensate passengers bumped from overbooked flights up to Can$2,400 (US$1,800) and up to Can$2,100 for lost luggage.
As of December 15, additional measures will require airlines to pay passengers up to Can$1,000 for flight delays and cancellations, provide food, drink and accommodations, and rebook them on new flights — using competing airlines if necessary.
They would also have to seat children near a parent at no extra charge and develop new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The latter was in response to travelling musicians complaining on social media about broken guitars and other instruments during flights.
The rules apply to flights to, from and within Canada.
According to Canada’s government statistics agency, there are an average of 5.5 million take-offs and landings at Canada’s 91 airports each year.
Due to its vast geography, air transportation is crucial for connecting parts of the country. A flight from easternmost to westernmost Canada takes about eight hours.
Iran ‘Threat’: US orders new troops to ME!
WASHINGTON: The United States announced Friday it was deploying 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East in response to what the Pentagon called a “campaign” of recent attacks approved by Iran’s top leadership.
The escalation of the US military presence follows a decision in early May to send an aircraft carrier strike force and B-52 bombers in a show of force against what Washington’s leaders believed was an imminent Iranian plan to attack US assets.
And it comes as the Trump administration is planning to bypass congressional restrictions to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, a close US ally and Iran’s arch-enemy in the region.
“This is a prudent response to credible threats from Iran,” said acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
President Donald Trump, who approved the deployment, called it “protective.”
“We want to have protection in the Middle East,” Trump told reporters as he prepared to set off on a trip to Japan.
“We’re going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective,” Trump added. “It’ll be about 1,500 people.”
The new deployment includes reconnaissance aircraft, fighter jets, and engineers. Six hundred of the personnel belong to a Patriot missile defense battalion that had its deployment in the region extended.
Pentagon officials said the move was necessary after multiple threatening actions and several small-in-scope attacks in May by Iranian forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, and “proxy” forces.
Those include a rocket launched into the Green Zone in Baghdad, explosive devices that damaged four tankers in Fujairah near the entrance to the Gulf, and a Houthi drone attack against a Saudi oil installation.
The initial threat came at the beginning of May, according to Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The US caught the IRGC attempting to covertly deploy “modified dhows capable of launching cruise missiles,” he said, referring to small traditional boats.
“We view this as a campaign,” Gilday told reporters.
The moves “are all part of a dangerous and escalatory strategy by Iran to threaten global trade and to destabilize the region.”
“We believe with a high degree of confidence that this stems back to the leadership of Iran at the highest levels, and that all of the attacks… have been attributed to Iran through their proxies or their forces,” Gilday said, citing still-secret US intelligence.
US officials said the aim was both to extend greater protection to the 70,000 US forces deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and to deliver a message to Iran to refrain from attacks.
“We think that through a combination of a very measured deployment of assets as well as public messaging, we are again trying to underscore that we are not seeking hostilities with Iran,” he said.
Gilday said the US moves have had some impact. When Washington first learned of Tehran’s alleged intent to launch attacks, it delivered a stern warning to Tehran “within hours” through an unnamed third party.
Since then, the threat of the missile-bearing dhows appears to have subsided.
However, the Trump administration continues to draw criticism that it has not clearly shown the need for an escalation.
Members of Congress were also angered that Trump was overriding their block on delivery of lethal weapons to the Saudis.
“More tactics with absolutely no strategy,” tweeted Democratic Senator Chris Murphy.
“All that is happening now is escalatory move after escalatory move. Trump has ZERO plan for how this ends, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.”
But Pentagon officials stressed that the US does not seek war with Iran.
“We do not see these additional capabilities as encouraging hostilities. We see them as defensive in nature,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Katie Wheelbarger.
“Our policy remains an economic and diplomatic effort to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to encourage a comprehensive deal that addresses the range of their destabilizing behavior in the region.”