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US, Russia need to de-conflict their air operations: White House

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Washington: The White House reiterated the need for the US and Russia to “de-conflict” their air operations inside Syria as Russia started its first round of air strikes against the Islamic State (IS), Xinhua reported.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: www.newyorker.com
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Photo Credit: www.newyorker.com

“Both presidents agreed that it was a priority for both countries, that tactical, practical conversations between our militaries take place to ensure that our military activities inside of Syria are properly de-conflicted,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

“The US military officials have been in touch with their Russian counterparts already to set up those discussions,” Earnest added.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday directed his staff to “open lines of communication with Russia” to de-conflict air operations in Syria, according to Pentagon press secretary.

“We expect the details of those conversations, including the exact timing of those conversations, will be worked out in the coming day,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook at a press briefing.

According to Cook, the purpose of the “de-confliction discussions” will be to ensure the ongoing US-led coalition air strikes against the IS are not “interrupted” by any future Russian military activity and to avoid misjudgment and miscalculation.

Russian air forces carried out air strikes Wednesday in the central Syrian provinces of Homs and Hama, targeting what Moscow said were IS positions.

In the first air strikes, 20 flights were carried out, hitting “eight Islamic State targets” including a command post held by the extreme group, Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said a Russian official informed the US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq prior to Russia’s first ever air strikes in Syria against the IS and warned the United States to stay clear of Syrian airspace.

(IANS)

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The Aborted Mission To Relaunch In December: NASA

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched.

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Russian Rocket
Astronaut Anne McClain, left, is seen during training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston, Texas. VOA

The American astronaut who will hitch the first ride on a Russian rocket since last month’s aborted launch and dramatic emergency landing is confident that her scheduled trip in December on a rocket that she calls a “workhorse” will go smoothly.

Astronaut Anne McClain, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a Canadian astronaut, will man the Dec. 3 mission. It will be the Russian-made Soyuz-FG’s first crewed flight since Oct. 11, when U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and a Russian cosmonaut landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe after the rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff.

NASA, rocket
Specialists watch broadcasts from the Soyuz spacecraft showing astronaut David Saint-Jacques of Canada, Oleg Kononenko of Russia and astronaut Anne McClain of the U.S. attending the final qualification training for their upcoming space mission in Star City near Moscow, Russia. VOA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the United States retired its Space Shuttle program in 2011, though the agency has announced plans for test flights carrying two astronauts on commercial rockets made by Boeing and SpaceX next April.

“I do see the incident that happened on Oct. 11 with our launch abort not as a failure but as a success,” McClain told Reuters in a telephone interview from Russia. “It actually bolsters my confidence in the rocket and in the processes that we have.

“We’re confident in the vehicle and getting back to it,” McClain said of the Soyuz rocket, which she called “the workhorse of the space program.”

After lifting off from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur last month, a damaged sensor caused one of the rocket’s three booster stages to separate improperly, falling inward on the rocket and jolting it off its ascent two miles above ground, Russian investigators announced earlier this month.

Russian Rocket
The Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft carrying the crew of astronaut Nick Hague of the U.S. and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Russia blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. VOA

During Assembly

Video from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred, their arms and legs flailing. Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin can be heard saying, “That was a quick flight.”

The accident was the first serious launch problem experienced by a crewed Soyuz space mission since 1983, when a crew narrowly escaped before a launchpad explosion.

Also Read: NASA Grants $7 Mn For New Life Detection

In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS that caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has said that it could have been made deliberately by someone during manufacturing or while the craft was in space.

McClain and two other crewmates will launch from the same launchpad in Baikonur, joining the space station’s current three-person crew. (VOA)