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NASA authorities step down under Donald Trump administration

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Donald Trump. Wikimedia

Washington, Jan 23, 2017: With Donald Trump promising to “unlock the mysteries of space” in his time as US President during his inaugural address, NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot has taken over as its acting administrator.

Lightfoot takes over from Charles Bolden and Dava Newman who stepped down as Administrator and Deputy Administrator, respectively, at the end of Barack Obama’s term, Space.com reported on Monday.

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“To be entrusted with this incredible agency, no matter how long, is an honour, and I commit to serving this team to the best of my ability so we can accomplish our ambitious missions and make this nation proud,” Lightfoot said in an internal memo to employees.

The Trump administration is yet to announce a name for the NASA Administrator.

Lightfoot said that the administration has appointed Erik Noble to serve as White House senior advisor and Greg Autry to be White House liaison.

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“The two are the first members of the so-called ‘beachhead team’ of administration staffers assigned to NASA, at least on a short-term basis,” the report added.

“There will be other new and familiar faces arriving at Headquarters, and we will communicate with you as often as possible to keep you apprised of those developments,” Lightfoot wrote in the statement.

Earlier, during a rally just two weeks before the election, Trump reiterated he would look to focus on exploring deep space.

“I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity – big deal. Instead, we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump Administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars,” he told a rally in Florida in October.

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In what could herald a new era for NASA, Trump is also set to cut the US space agency’s budget for climate change and let it focus on sending humans on deep space exploration missions like Mars, including another “giant leap” to the Moon.

“NASA has been reduced to a logistics agency concentrating on space station resupply and politically correct environmental monitoring. We would start by having a stretch goal of exploring the entire solar system by the end of the century,” Bob Walker, who has advised Trump on space policy, told the Telegraph in November.

NASA is already working to get humans to the surface of the Red Planet by the first half of the 2030s, as instructed by Obama. But things may change under Trump.

The US space agency is already developing a capsule called Orion and a huge rocket known as the Space Launch System (SLS) to get astronauts to distant destinations such as Mars. (IANS)

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NASA extends Dawn mission at dwarf planet Ceres

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Washington, Oct 20: NASA has approved a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015, the US space agency said on Thursday.

The spacecraft, which has already completed 10 years of spaceflight, will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its fuel runs out.

Dawn completed its prime mission in June 2016, and its first extension was also approved that year.

The Dawn flight team is studying ways to manoeuvre Dawn into a new elliptical orbit, which may take the spacecraft to less than 200 kilometres from the surface of Ceres at closest approach. Previously, Dawn’s lowest altitude was 385 kilometers.

A priority of the second Ceres mission extension is collecting data with Dawn’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which measures the number and energy of gamma rays and neutrons, NASA said.

This information is important for understanding the composition of Ceres’ uppermost layer and how much ice it contains.

The spacecraft also will take visible-light images of Ceres’ surface geology with its camera, as well as measurements of Ceres’ mineralogy with its visible and infrared mapping spectrometer.

The extended mission at Ceres additionally allows Dawn to be in orbit while the dwarf planet goes through perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, which will occur in April 2018.

Because of its commitment to protect Ceres from Earthly contamination, Dawn will not land or crash into Ceres.

Instead, it will carry out as much science as it can in its final planned orbit, where it will stay even after it can no longer communicate with Earth.

Mission planners estimate the spacecraft can continue operating until the second half of 2018.

Dawn is the only mission ever to orbit two extraterrestrial targets. It orbited giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012, then continued on to Ceres, where it has been in orbit since March 2015.(IANS)

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Trump Endorses Short-Term Bipartisan Fix For Obama Care

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Washington, October 18: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed support for a bipartisan initiative to restore the Obama Care subsidies he suspended last week.

“We have been involved and this is a short-term deal because we think ultimately block grants going to the states is going to be the answer,” Trump told reporters at the White House, Efe news reported.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) announced on Tuesday an accord “in principle” to re-instate for two years the cost-sharing reduction payments, known as CSRs, that Trump halted last week.

The proposal would at the same time give states “more flexibility in the variety of choices they can give to consumers”, Alexander said.

Alexander, the chair of the Senate Health Committee, received encouragement from the President last weekend for his attempt to find common ground with the Democrats.

“Lamar has been working very, very hard with … his colleagues on the other side, and, Patty Murray is one of them in particular, and they’re coming up, and they’re fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years, and it will get us over this intermediate hump,” Trump said on Tuesday.

Trump signed an executive order last Thursday loosening some of the requirements set down for health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the signature domestic policy initiative of his predecessor Barack Obama.

He signed another directive terminating the CSR payments late Thursday night.

The President, who vowed to repeal and replace the ACA – popularly known as ObamaCare – has grown frustrated by the failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a bill undoing the 2010 legislation.

“This takes care of the next two years,” Alexander said of his and Murray’s proposal. “After that, we can have a full-fledged debate on where we go long-term on health care.”

Murray, meanwhile, said that the plan would protect people from sharp increases in premiums resulting from Trump’s decision to end the CSR payments.

“Overall we are very pleased with this agreement,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, praising the deal for including “anti-sabotage provisions” to prevent the administration from undermining the ACA.

The Republican lawmakers were reluctant to comment on the Alexander-Murray accord.

“We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said after meeting with his Republican colleagues.

Despite his encouraging words for Alexander, Trump kept up his criticism of the ACA.

“Obama Care is virtually dead. At best you could say it’s in its final legs. The premiums are going through the roof. The deductibles are so high that people don’t get to use it. Obama Care is a disgrace to our nation and we are solving the problem of Obama Care,” he said. (IANS)

 

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Donald Trump Expands Travel Ban, Restricts Visitors from 8 Countries

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President Donald Trump speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Morristown,Municipal airportN.J. (source: VOA)

Washington, September 25:— The revised US travel ban will restrict travellers from eight countries to visit the United States, says an order signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday. The new travel ban, which takes effect on, October 18, will restrict residents of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

According to the U.S. officials, these countries have refused to share information about terrorism and other issues with the United States.The new travel ban drops Sudan from the list but adds Chad, Venezuela and North Korea to the original six Muslim-majority countries.

The announcement late Sunday came as Trump’s previous temporary travel ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries was expiring, 90 days after it went into effect. The earlier order had barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. unless they had a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

US President Donald Trump’s travel ban inflicts “Significant harm” on Muslim Americans

Reaction to the president’s order from human-rights organizations and other groups that work with immigrants was largely negative.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said the latest version of the “Muslim ban” that Trump tried to introduce on taking office earlier this year as part of the administration’s “ugly white supremacist agenda.”

Trump said in the new proclamation: “As president, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people. The restrictions announced are tough and tailored, and they send a message to foreign governments that they must work with us to enhance security.”

Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.