NASA launches test mission of asteroid-deflecting spacecraft

The so-called DART spacecraft soared into the night sky from the Vandenberg US Space Force Base. NASA via AP)
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Updated 24 November 2021

NASA launches test mission of asteroid-deflecting spacecraft

  • NASA mission to demonstrate the world’s first planetary defense system

LOS ANGELES: A spacecraft that must ultimately crash to succeed was launched late on Tuesday from California on a NASA mission to demonstrate the world’s first planetary defense system, designed to deflect an asteroid from a potential doomsday collision with Earth.

The DART spacecraft soared into the night sky at 10:21 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday (1:21 a.m. Eastern/0621 GMT Wednesday) from Vandenberg US Space Force Base, about 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles, carried aboard a SpaceX-owned Falcon 9 rocket.

The launch was shown live on NASA TV.

The DART payload, about the size of a small car, was released from the booster minutes after launch to begin a 10-month journey into deep space, some 11 million kilometers from Earth.

Once there DART will test its ability to alter an asteroid’s trajectory with sheer kinetic force, plowing into it at high speed to nudge the space boulder off course just enough to keep our planet out of harm’s way.

Cameras mounted on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft to be released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision and beam images of it back to Earth.

The asteroid DART is aimed at poses no actual threat and is tiny compared with the cataclysmic Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, leading to extinction of the dinosaurs. But scientists say smaller asteroids are far more common and pose a greater theoretical danger in the near term.

DART’s target is an asteroid “moonlet” the size of a football stadium that orbits a chunk of rock five times larger in a binary asteroid system named Didymos, the Greek word for twin.

The team behind DART, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, chose the Didymos system because its relative proximity to Earth and dual-asteroid configuration make it ideal for observing the results of the impact.

The plan is to fly the DART spacecraft directly into the moonlet, called Dimorphos, at 24,000 kilometers per hour, bumping it hard enough to shift its orbital track around the larger asteroid.

Cameras on the impactor and on a briefcase-sized mini-spacecraft released from DART about 10 days beforehand will record the collision and beam images back to Earth. Ground-based telescopes will measure how much the moonlet’s orbit around Didymos changes.

The DART team expects to shorten Dimorphos’ orbital track by 10 minutes but would consider at least 73 seconds a success. A small nudge to an asteroid millions of miles away would be sufficient to safely reroute it.

DART is the latest of several NASA missions of recent years to explore and interact with asteroids, primordial rocky remnants from the solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.

Last month, NASA launched a probe on a voyage to the Trojan asteroid clusters orbiting near Jupiter, while the grab-and-go spacecraft OSIRES-REx is on its way back to Earth with a sample collected last October from the asteroid Bennu.

The Dimorphos moonlet is one of the smallest astronomical objects to receive a permanent name and is one of 27,500 known near-Earth asteroids of all sizes tracked by NASA.

Although all none poses a foreseeable hazard to humankind, NASA estimates many more asteroids remain undetected in the near-Earth vicinity.

The DART spacecraft, cube-shaped with two rectangular solar arrays, is due to rendezvous with the Didymos-Dimorphos pair in late September 2022.

NASA put the entire cost of the DART project at $330 million, well below that of many of the space agency’s most ambitious science missions.


‘Dances with Wolves’ actor arrested over sex trafficking and abuse raps

Updated 02 February 2023

‘Dances with Wolves’ actor arrested over sex trafficking and abuse raps

  • Police report says Nathan Chasing Horse is accused of leading a cult and sexually abusing women followers
  • He was also accused of instructing his wives to 'shoot it out' with police, and 'take suicide pills' as a last resort

LAS VEGAS: Nathan Chasing Horse trained his wives to use firearms, instructing them to “shoot it out” with police officers if they ever tried to “break their family apart,” according to records obtained by The Associated Press. If that failed, the wives were to take “suicide pills.”
The abuse that authorities said spanned two decades led Tuesday to the arrest of Chasing Horse following a monthslong investigation by Las Vegas police. He was taken into custody as he left the home he shares with his five wives in North Las Vegas. SWAT officers were seen outside the two-story home in the evening as detectives searched the property.
Known for his role as the young Sioux tribe member Smiles a Lot in the Oscar-winning Kevin Costner film “Dances With Wolves,” Chasing Horse gained a reputation among tribes across the United States and in Canada as a so-called medicine man who performed healing ceremonies. But police said he abused his position, physically and sexually assaulting Indigenous girls and women, taking underage wives and leading a cult.
Chasing Horse, 46, will be charged with at least two counts of sex trafficking and one count each of sexual assault of a child younger than 16, child abuse or neglect and sexual assault, according to court records. Authorities have not said when he will be formally charged.
He was booked before midnight into Clark County’s jail, where he remained held without bail on the sexual assault charges as he awaits his first court appearance, expected Thursday in North Las Vegas. There was no lawyer listed in court records for Chasing Horse who could comment on his behalf, and Las Vegas police said he was “unable” to give a jailhouse interview Wednesday.
According to a 50-page search warrant obtained by the AP, Chasing Horse is believed to be the leader of a cult known as The Circle.
At least two women told police that Chasing Horse had shown his wives a stash of “small white pills” that he called “suicide pills” sometime in 2019 or 2020, years before his arrest.
The women were instructed to “take a pill to kill themselves in the event he dies or law enforcement tries to break their family apart,” according to the warrant.
One of Chasing Horse’s former wives also told police that she believed his current wives would “carry out the instructions” to take the pills and open fire on law enforcement if officers came to the home to arrest Chasing Horse.
Police noted in the warrant that Chasing Horse was believed to have long rifles and handguns inside his home, including a loaded rifle in the home’s entry way, and a handgun in his vehicle.
Las Vegas police said in the document they have identified at least six sexual assault victims, some who were as young as 14 when they say they were abused, and traced the sexual allegations against Chasing Horse to the early 2000s in multiple states, including Nevada, where he has lived for about a decade, and South Dakota and Montana.
“Nathan Chasing Horse used spiritual traditions and their belief system as a tool to sexually assault young girls on numerous occasions,” detectives wrote in the warrant, adding that his followers referred to him as “Medicine Man” or “Holy Person” because they believed he could communicate with higher beings.
One of Chasing Horse’s wives was offered to him as a “gift” when she was 15, according to police, while another became a wife after turning 16.
Chasing Horse also is accused of recording sexual assaults and arranging sex with the victims for other men who paid him.
He was arrested nearly a decade after he was banished from the Fort Peck Reservation in Poplar, Montana, amid allegations of human trafficking.
Fort Peck tribal leaders had voted 7-0 to ban Chasing Horse from stepping foot again on the reservation, citing the trafficking allegations in addition to accusations of drug dealing, spiritual abuse and intimidation of tribal members, Indian County Today reported.
State attorneys general and lawmakers around the US are looking into creating specialized units to handle cases involving Native American women.
In South Dakota, where police said Chasing Horse committed some of his crimes, the attorney general’s office has put a new focus on crimes against Native American people, including human trafficking and killings.
Chasing Horse was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the Sicangu Sioux, one of the seven tribes of the Lakota nation.

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Pakistani actress Sajal Aly to play lead role in series adaptation of classical Urdu novel

Updated 30 January 2023

Pakistani actress Sajal Aly to play lead role in series adaptation of classical Urdu novel

  • 'Umrao Jaan Ada' is an 1899 Urdu novel that follows a courtesan's life
  • Producer hopes eight-part series will 'develop different characters' from novel

KARACHI: Pakistani actress Sajal Aly has been roped in to play the lead role in an upcoming series based on the classical Urdu novel from 1899, 'Umrao Jaan Ada', the producer of the show confirmed on Monday, saying that the series would spotlight more original characters from the novel.   

Penned by renowned author Mirza Hadi Ruswa, Umrao Jaan Ada has been hailed as one of the most renowned Urdu-language novels of all time. The novel chronicles the life of a courtesan named Umrao Jaan and has garnered critical acclaim for its portrayal of culture in the 19th-century century subcontinent. 

The hit novel has been adapted numerous times over the decades. Pakistani director Hasan Tariq turned the novel into a film in 1972 while private news channel Geo Entertainment aired a TV adaptation of the same novel in 2003. 

The most renowned adaptation of the novel came in 1981 when Indian director Muzaffar Ali helmed a movie on the famous character, starring popular Bollywood actress Rekha. Indian writer, director and producer Jyoti Prakash Dutta also directed an Umrao Jaan movie in 2006 starring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. 

The upcoming Pakistani series will be packaged and produced by Abu Dhabi-based South Asian celebrity management agency, Action Consultancy. 

“The makers of this project feel that Sajal [Aly] will do justice to the complex character of Umrao [Jan]," Hamid Hussain, producer and chief executive officer of Action Consultancy, told Arab News. "Our project has two primary female characters, one of which is Umrao Jaan.”

Hussain acknowledged that Ali's 1981 Umrao Jaan adaptation was the most "remembered" one. However, he said film adaptations always have always been "rushed" versions of original works of art. 

"Unfortunately, film adaptations have to narrate the entire story in a short time and thus have always been rushed," Hussain said. “As an eight-part series, we have time to develop the different characters from the original novel.”

Aly, who has starred in a string of hit Pakistani drama serials and movie projects, confirmed she would play Umrao Jaan in the series adaptation.

“Can’t say anything about it right now but the news is right,” Aly confirmed to Arab News on Sunday.  

Hussain said the names of other cast members would be announced at the "right time."

“The series adaptation relies heavily on the original Urdu version of the novel, unlike the film adaptations that had taken creative liberties to fit the story into a film narrative," he said.  

"There is a lot in the novel that has never been shown in an audiovisual project.”

Pakistan's Dawn reported that the series was going to stream on a major online service but the producer declined to confirm which one, when asked by Arab News.


Nigerian artist uses AI to re-imagine life for the elderly

Updated 30 January 2023

Nigerian artist uses AI to re-imagine life for the elderly

LAGOS: A Nigerian artist is using artificial intelligence to re-imagine life for African elderly people by showcasing near real-life pictures and videos of them walking down the fashion ramp and on the beach.
Malik Afegbua, who is also a film maker, said because many elderly people were marginalized in society, especially in the fashion world, he began to imagine how they would look if they were models.
Afegbua started posting some of his work on social media and it went viral.
He came up with “Elders Series,” a catalogue of pictures and videos showing white-haired women and bearded men strutting the runway for a virtual fashion show in Afrocentric attire, including ornamental neck and arm bands.
“So I wanted to ... imagine the elderly people in a place that is not either in a sad space or in a suppressed state,” Afegbua told Reuters.
“However, when I was making it, I kind of knew there was something there. I was like this is dope. I’m loving what I’m seeing.”
Afegbua was not always an artist. He studied business in university but stepped into the world of filming after a friend bought him a camera in 2011.
He said the idea to explore a different world for old people came when his elderly mother fell ill. Using an artificial intelligence app, he started creating content showing a brighter side of old age.


Air India fined over passenger’s mid-air urination scandal

Updated 21 January 2023

Air India fined over passenger’s mid-air urination scandal

NEW DELHI: Air India has been fined $37,000 for its handling of an incident in which a drunk senior US bank executive was accused of urinating on a female passenger, Indian media reported.
The man allegedly relieved himself on the 72-year-old woman seated in business class on a November 26 flight from New York to New Delhi, an incident dubbed “peegate” by the media.
The Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation also fined Air India’s director of in-flight services 300,000 rupees in addition to the carrier’s penalty of three million rupees ($37,000), reports on Friday and Saturday said.
The flight’s pilot also had his license suspended for three months for “failing to discharge his duties” to ensure safety and discipline.
The banker, Indian national Shankar Mishra, was allowed to disembark as normal when the aircraft landed in India and no immediate action was taken.
The woman complained and, after the story was widely reported in the Indian media, police arrested Mishra weeks later after he went to ground and reportedly switched off his phone.
US bank Wells Fargo fired him from his job as vice president of its Indian operations after the “deeply disturbing” allegations.
Air India faced severe criticism for its handling of the woman’s complaint and the airline’s chief executive was forced to issue an apology.
“Air India acknowledges that it could have handled these matters better, both in the air and on the ground and is committed to taking action,” chief executive Campbell Wilson said.
Mishra has been refused bail. His lawyer, Ramesh Gupta, told a hearing last week that the woman, an Indian classical dancer, had in fact urinated on herself.
According to Indian media, Gupta also said that, because of where she was seated, it was impossible for Mishra to have urinated on her without also doing so on another woman who has “made no such complaint.”
The case is the latest embarrassing incident to be reported in India’s booming airline sector in recent months, including shirtless brawls and passengers having heated arguments with cabin crew.
Another inebriated man was accused of urinating on the blanket of a woman on a flight from Paris to India last month but no action was taken after he issued a written apology, reports said.


Fit of road rage captured on camera brings down Hong Kong gangster

Updated 15 January 2023

Fit of road rage captured on camera brings down Hong Kong gangster

  • Viral video showed motorist on Porsche getting out and shouting profanities at bus driver and claiming to be a Triad member

HONG KONG: A self-professed Hong Kong gangster has learned the benefits of keeping a low profile after a viral video of him exiting a Porsche to berate a minibus driver led to his arrest for cocaine possession.
The 35-year-old appeared in court on Saturday after the clip capturing their traffic dispute helped police track down the wanted fugitive.
It shows the man getting out of the sports car and shouting profanities at the driver while claiming to be a Triad member — an offense in Hong Kong.
He bashes the window of the vehicle while knocking the glasses off the driver’s face and waving a stick.
But his fit of road rage has cost him dearly after police busted him and three others on Thursday for drug possession, with officers seizing 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds) of suspected cocaine.
“This man disregarded the safety of other road users and further disregarded law and order by publicly claiming to be a triad member,” Chief Inspector Wong Chi-tang told reporters.
He added that police made the arrest after identifying the man from the video.
Meanwhile, the victim of the man’s outburst has been dubbed the “most educated minibus driver” in Hong Kong after it was discovered he holds a master’s degree in transport planning and had quit a lucrative job to serve commuters from behind the wheel.