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Oldest and Most Experienced US Female Astronaut Peggy Whitson Sets another Record in Orbit

About 27,000 pieces of orbital debris currently are being tracked by ground stations on Earth, according to Britain's Royal Astronomical Society

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U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, member of the main crew of the expedition to the International Space Station, speaks with her relatives prior the launch of Soyuz MS-3 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 17, 2016. VOA
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Nov 20, 2016: The International Space Station has gained three new residents, including the oldest and most experienced female astronaut ever to orbit the world.

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying the fresh crew docked Saturday at the space station, 400 kilometers above Earth. The new arrivals at the orbital research laboratory — American astronaut Peggy Whitson, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy — joined the three men already on board, one American and two Russians.

The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-03 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA
The Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-03 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA

Whitson, who will be the mission commander once her team settles in orbit, already holds the record for time spent in space by a woman — over 400 days during her various missions. Over the course of the next six months, she will celebrate her 57th birthday in the weightless conditions of Earth orbit, as she extends her time-in-space record every day.

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Before their launch Thursday from Kazakhstan, Pesquet paid tribute to Whitson’s leadership and seniority, but said he was carrying with him a small piece of a meteorite from Mars that will become “the most experienced space traveler there is in the world.”

The French astronaut, making his first spaceflight, said his intention was to show that human and robotic explorers of outer space “are all working together.” He intends to bring the stone back to Earth next year and place it aboard a Mars rover for a return flight to its home planet.

Third space flight

Whitson, a biochemist by training, is making her third flight to the space station. Prior to this mission, no woman older than 55 had flown in space.

Novitskiy is making his second spaceflight.

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The new crew’s arrival at the space station Saturday coincided with the 47th anniversary of mankind’s second landing on the moon — on November 19, 1969, by American astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean.

The past few days have been busy with space-related activities.

Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (left, in blue) and Chen Dong, who landed safely aboard China's Shenzhou 11 spacecraft's re-entry capsule in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, arrive in Beijing, China, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA
Chinese astronauts Jing Haipeng (left, in blue) and Chen Dong, who landed safely aboard China’s Shenzhou 11 spacecraft’s re-entry capsule in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, arrive in Beijing, China, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA

As Whitson and her crew were heading into orbit, two Chinese astronauts touched down safely in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia after a successful monthlong mission in orbit, demonstrating the progress China has made in its quest to establish a permanent space station.

Major General Jing Haipeng and Colonel Chen Dong spent 33 days in orbit, a new record for Chinese manned space missions. They lived aboard the Tiangong space lab, which is a prototype for a permanent orbital laboratory that China hopes to establish by 2020.

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While in orbit, the Chinese astronauts tested new hardware for use in space, including a remotely operated robotic arm to transfer cargo, and also released a microsatellite to fly around the Tiangong lab, inspecting and photographing it.

The small device also is said to be equipped to divert any space debris on a collision course with the main spacecraft.

In this photo taken with long time exposure the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-03 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA
In this photo taken with long time exposure the Soyuz-FG rocket booster with Soyuz MS-03 space ship carrying a new crew to the International Space Station blasts off at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Nov. 18, 2016. VOA

First satellite launch

Since the first satellite was launched from Earth into orbit — the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, in 1957 — space debris has been accumulating steadily. Some scientists estimate up to 100 million pieces of space junk are currently floating around Earth, posing an increasing threat to the safety of both manned and unmanned satellites high above.

About 27,000 pieces of orbital debris currently are being tracked by ground stations on Earth, according to Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society, which met Friday in London to discuss the growing problem. Many bits of debris are too small to track accurately, but they nevertheless pose a risk to any other objects they encounter.

[bctt tweet=” A weather satellite called “America’s most advanced eye in the sky” was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.” username=””]

“Tackling the problem of space debris is one of humankind’s greatest environmental challenges, but also perhaps the one that is the least known,” said Hugh Lewis, head of astronautics research at the University of Southampton in England.

“Every day we use and rely on services provided by satellites without ever realizing how vulnerable they are,” Lewis added.

Satellite launches

Meanwhile, the European space program launched four more Galileo satellites this week, moving a step closer to completing its own satellite-based navigation system, which will compete against the U.S. Global Positioning System, or GPS.

The four satellites — the most the European Union has sent aloft at one time — were carried into orbit Thursday by an Ariane rocket launched from a spaceport in French Guiana.

The upper stage and payload fairing containing the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-Series R (GOES-R) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is shown at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Nov. 18, VOA
The upper stage and payload fairing containing the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-Series R (GOES-R) on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is shown at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Nov. 18, VOA

And as astronaut Whitson’s crew was maneuvering toward docking Saturday with the International Space Station, the U.S. space agency NASA was preparing to launch another rocket carrying a new weather satellite into orbit.

Also Saturday, a weather satellite called “America’s most advanced eye in the sky” was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The $1 billion satellite, part of an $11 billion effort to revolutionize forecasting, will be able to relay more frequent and higher-definition images of severe weather patterns, the U.S. space agency said.

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) spacecraft launched Saturday is “really a quantum leap above any satellite NOAA has ever flown,” Stephen Volz, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s director of satellites, told The Associated Press. (VOA)

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Indian Cuisine becomes the most sought after in Moscow

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Indian cuisine in FIFA World cup
Indian dishes available in Moscow during FIFA World Cup 2018, representational image, wikimedia commons

June 17, 2018:

Restaurateurs Prodyut and Sumana Mukherjee have not only brought Indian cuisine to the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018 here but also plan to dish out free dinner to countrymen if Argentina wins the trophy on July 15.

Based in Moscow for the last 27 years, Prodyut and Sumana run two Indian eateries, “Talk Of The Town” and “Fusion Plaza”.

You may like to read more on Indian cuisine: Indian ‘masala’, among other condiments spicing up global food palate.

Both restaurants serve popular Indian dishes like butter chicken, kebabs and a varied vegetarian spread.

During the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2018, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

The Mukherjees, hailing from Kolkata, are die-hard fans of Argentina. Despite Albiceleste drawing 1-1 with Iceland in their group opener with Lionel Messi failing to sparkle, they believe Jorge Sampaoli’s team can go the distance.

“I am an Argentina fan. I have booked tickets for a quarterfinal match, a semifinal and of course the final. If Argentina goes on to lift

During the World Cup, there will be 25 per cent discount for those who will possess a Fan ID (required to watch World Cup games).

There will also be gifts and contests on offers during matches in both the restaurants to celebrate the event.

FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia
FIFA World Cup 2018, Wikimedia Commons.

“We have been waiting for this World Cup. Indians come in large numbers during the World Cup and we wanted these eateries to be a melting point,” he added.

According to Cutting Edge Events, FIFA’s official sales agency in India for the 2018 World Cup, India is amongst the top 10 countries in terms of number of match tickets bought.

Read more about Indian cuisine abroad: Hindoostane Coffee House: London’s First Indian Restaurant.

Prodyut came to Moscow to study engineering and later started working for a pharmaceutical company here before trying his hand in business. Besides running the two restaurants with the help of his wife, he was into the distribution of pharmaceutical products.

“After Russia won the first match of the World Cup, the footfall has gone up considerably. The Indians are also flooding in after the 6-9 p.m. game. That is the time both my restaurants remain full,” Prodyut said.

There are also plans to rope in registered fan clubs of Latin American countries, who will throng the restaurants during matches and then follow it up with after-game parties till the wee hours.

“I did get in touch with some of the fan clubs I had prior idea about. They agreed to come over and celebrate the games at our joints. Those will be gala nights when both eateries will remain open all night for them to enjoy,” Prodyut said.

Watching the World Cup is a dream come true for the couple, Sumana said.

“We want to make the Indians who have come here to witness the spectacle and feel at home too. We always extend a helping hand and since we are from West Bengal, we make special dishes for those who come from Bengal,” she added. (IANS)