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Indian-American Raja Chari among 18 astronauts selected for NASA’s manned Moon mission

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN,

Our Special Correspondent

 NEW DELHI: An Indian-American is among the 18 astronauts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for its manned mission to the Moon and beyond.

 NASA on Wednesday named the 18 astronauts who will train for its Artemis moon-landing programme. Half of them women are women.

 Raja Jon Vurputoor Chari, 43, a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, MIT, and US Naval Test Pilot School, is the only Indian-American in the list.

 He was selected by NASA to join the 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class. He reported for duty in August 2017 and having completed the initial astronaut candidate training is now eligible for a mission assignment.

 “My fellow Americans, I give you the heroes of the future who will carry us back to the Moon and beyond: the Artemis Generation,” Vice President Mike Pence said at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Wednesday.

 “It really is amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the Moon are among the names that we just read…We started today reflecting on a great hero of the past. The Artemis Generation are the heroes of American space exploration in the future,” Pence said after he introduced the members of the Artemis Team during the eighth National Space Council meeting.

 The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and experience. Most of the astronauts in the group are in their 30s or 40s. The oldest is 55, the youngest 32.

 The agency’s modern lunar exploration programme will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade, NASA said.

 NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed.

 “We are incredibly grateful for the president and vice president’s support of the Artemis program, as well as the bipartisan support for all of NASA’s science, aeronautics research, technology development, and human exploration goals,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

 As a result, we’re excited to share this next step in exploration — naming the Artemis Team of astronauts who will lead the way, which includes the first woman and next man to walk on the lunar surface, he added.

The selected astronauts will help NASA prepare for the coming Artemis missions, which begin next year working with the agency’s commercial partners as they develop human landing systems; assisting in the development of training; defining hardware requirements; and consulting on technical development. They also will engage the public and industry on NASA’s exploration plans.

 “There is so much exciting work ahead of us as we return to the moon, and it will take the entire astronaut corps to make that happen,” Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester said.

 “Walking on the lunar surface would be a dream come true for any one of us, and any part we can play in making that happen is an honour,” he said.

The other members on the list include Christina Koch and Jessica Meir — the two astronauts who performed the world’s first all-female spacewalk last year.

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GL sounds far-reaching educational reforms  

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Education Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris yesterday (21) acknowledged that for want of tangible measures on the part of successive governments, there was a critical mismatch between the education provided and the availability of job opportunities.

The academic, in quarantine as a result being identified as potential Covid-19 contact, emphasised the need for far reaching changes to address the issue as part of their efforts to restructure the entire system.

Prof. Peiris said so in his short remarks at an event to mark the 100th anniversary of the University of Colombo.

The one-time External Affairs Minister said: “It is a great pleasure for me to felicitate the University of Colombo, my alma mater on this happy occasion. It is a significant milestone because we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the faculty of arts, faculty of science and the library of the University of Colombo. As we look back on that span of a full century, the characteristics of the University which comes to mind is its resilience. During that period the University has had to face and indeed overcome many challenges. The society of our country has undergone a fundamental transformation during that period.

The University had the strength to cope with rapidly changing circumstances. I would identify that as a principal accomplishment of the University of Colombo.

The University proved its capacity for development, change and refinement and adaptation in order to keep pace with dramatically changing circumstances. The University proud as its history is I am sure will have an even more magnificent future. It has an important role to play in the far reaching changes we are contemplating in the educational system of our country. It is our intention in the course of this year 2021 to restructure the entire system in order to address the fundamental problem of a rather critical mismatch between the education we provide in our Universities and other educational institutions on the one hand and the availability of employment, livelihoods on the other. There is regrettably gap in this regard and it should be our collective endeavor to address this problem. We are also revisiting the curricular. The substance of our curricular  the methods of teaching in such a way  as to serve better the public in a  better way   In all these efforts I have no doubt the expertise of the University of Colombo by any standards  will be of enormous assistance to us in achieving goals we have set ourselves (SF)

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China slaps sanctions on 28 Trump administration officials, including Pompeo

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China has imposed sanctions on 28 former Trump administration officials, including outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, agency reports said yesterday.

In a statement released just minutes after President Biden took office, China’s foreign ministry said it had decided to sanction those “who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such U.S. moves on China-related issues.”

The list of names features former Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar; former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien; Kelly Craft, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and Matthew Pottinger, who recently resigned as deputy national security adviser. Former national security adviser John Bolton and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon were also included.

The sanctions prohibit those individuals and their immediate family members from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They are also restricted from doing business with China, as are any companies or institutions associated with them.

“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations,” the ministry said.

The move comes just one day after Pompeo issued a forceful statement accusing China of committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs and other minority groups in its Xinjiang region, for which the U.S. sanctioned several Chinese officials in July. That was one of numerous instances of sanctions, visa bans and trade restrictions imposed on Chinese politicians and Communist Party officials in the Trump administration’s final year.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated considerably under the previous administration, which took an unusually confrontational approach. Pompeo and other officials referred to China as constituting America’s greatest threat, as NPR’s John Ruwitch has reported.

In fact, Bolton appeared to celebrate the sanction against him, calling it “great news” in a tweet posted Wednesday afternoon.

“I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom,” he wrote.

It is unclear what changes Biden plans, but Ruwitch noted, “Even if the Biden team moves swiftly to put the U.S.-China relationship back on a less antagonistic track, Beijing will be wary after the dramatic changes of the past four years.”

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Expert Committee appointed to report on gold, copper and iron ore deposits

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By Ifham Nizam

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweeera yesterday appointed an expert committee to conduct a scientific study on the Seruwawila gold, copper and iron ore deposits.

With iron ore prices skyrocketing worldwide and both neighbouring giant India and China having huge demands, Sri Lanka was keen on tapping natural resources, an official said.  

The committee will be coordinated by an Additional Secretary to the Ministry and will be chaired by Prof. Athula Senaratne of the University of Peradeniya and its other members are H W. Navaratne, Dr. Stalin Fernando, Dr. Bernard Perera, Dr. C.H.K.R. Siriwardena and Dr. O.K. Dissanayake.

Amaraweera, addressing the media, at his Ministry yesterday said the mineral deposit had been explored in the 1970s with the help of technology available at that time, and it had been found that there was iron, copper as well as a certain amount of gold in the Seruwawila deposit.

As today’s excavation technology was very advanced, it was possible to dig up to 250-300 metres, the Minister said.

The Minister also said that all possible steps would be taken to increase the value of the mineral resources through value addition locally to ensure higher prices.

 

 

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