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US Army allows Sikh soldier to keep beard for now

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New York: In a rare religious accommodation to an active-duty combat soldier, the US Army has allowed a Sikh captain to grow his beard and wear a turban, a move that may have far-reaching implications for troops seeking to display their faith, a media report said.

Captain Simratpal Singh was forced to see his locks drop to the floor on his first day at the US Military Academy at West Point almost 10 years ago, as the army did not allow soldiers to have long hair or beard, the New York Times reported.

However, all this changed last week for Captain Singh, who believed his “self-image” was “cut away” after the army granted him a religious accommodation that will allow him to grow his beard and wrap his hair in a turban.

“It is wonderful. I had been living a double life, wearing a turban only at home,” said the Bronze Star awardee, who led a platoon of combat engineers who cleared roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

“My two worlds have finally come back together,” the NYT quoted him as saying.

The daily said it was the first time in decades that the military has granted a religious accommodation for a beard to an active-duty combat soldier — a move that observers say could open the door for Muslims and other troops seeking to display their faith.

But it is only temporary, lasting for a month while the army decides whether to give permanent status to Captain Singh’s exception.

However, the Sikh soldier told the NYT that he was prepared to sue if the accommodation is not made permanent.

“This is a precedent-setting case,” said Eric Baxter, senior counsel at the Becket Fund, a non-profit public interest law firm that specialises in religious liberty.

“A beard is a beard is a beard. If you let one religious individual grow it, you will need to do it for all religions.”

Army spokesperson Lt Col Jennifer R Johnson said the US Army does not comment on individual personnel decisions, but added that future requests for such accommodations would be evaluated “on a case-by-case basis, considering the impact on unit and individual readiness, unit cohesion, morale, discipline, and health and safety of the force”.

The US military has become increasingly inclusive, allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly, and women to serve in combat roles. But it has held a stiff line on uniforms and grooming standards.

Bearded Sikhs fought in the US Army in World War II and Vietnam. Today, Sikhs in full religious garb serve in militaries around the world.

For centuries, Sikh teachings have required adherents to leave their hair and beard unshorn, and to wear a turban.

“It was a way to identify the Sikhs, who became a sort of military order that stood up against oppression,” said Kamaljeet Singh Kalsi, a doctor who is a major in the Army Reserve.

Major Kalsi got permission to grow a beard in 2009. He was the first of only three Sikhs to receive permission before Captain Singh.(IANS),

(Picture courtesy: NYT)

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NASA: Parachutes Pass Drop Test, Will be Installed In Orion Spacecraft

The parachute system were "deployed as planned after being dropped from an altitude of 6.6 miles [10.6 kilometers) on July 12, at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona", NASA said in a statement.

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NASA
Orion's full parachute system includes 11 parachutes three forward-bay cover parachutes, two drogue parachutes, three pilot parachutes, and three main parachutes. Pixabay

The parachutes for NASA’s next crew vehicle, the Orion capsule, intended to carry humans to deep space, has successfully passed a drop test, the US space agency said.

Orion’s full parachute system includes 11 parachutes three forward-bay cover parachutes, two drogue parachutes, three pilot parachutes, and three main parachutes.

These are designed to reduce the capsule’s speed during its descent back to Earth, supporting a safe landing in the ocean.

The parachute system were “deployed as planned after being dropped from an altitude of 6.6 miles [10.6 kilometers) on July 12, at the US Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona”, NASA said in a statement.

Data from, the seventh of eight total tests, “will help NASA engineers certify Orion’s parachutes for missions with astronauts” to moon and Mars.

The test evaluated parachute deployment under conditions that exceeded the requirements for a system carrying crew.

NASA
The test evaluated parachute deployment under conditions that exceeded the requirements for a system carrying crew. Pixabay

Engineers dropped the dart-shaped test article from an altitude that allowed it to generate enough speed to simulate almost twice as much force on the main chutes as would be expected under normal conditions.

Each of Orion’s three main parachutes expands to 116 feet in diameter and contains enough fabric to cover 80 yards of a football field, but is carried aboard Orion in containers the size of a large suitcase.

For storage, the parachutes are compacted with hydraulic presses at forces of up to 80,000 pounds, baked for two days and vacuumed sealed.

Once packed, they have a density of about 40 pounds per cubic foot, which is roughly the same as wood from an oak tree.

Also Read- Nasa Developing Technology to Protect from Space Radiation to reach Mars Safely

The last test in the series, scheduled for September, will use a capsule-shaped test article representative of the spacecraft NASA will use on Orion’s upcoming missions (IANS)