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Astronauts Set To Return to Earth in Spacecraft They Just Cut a Hole In

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Tonight at 8:40 p.m. EST, Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst and Flight Engineers Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev will end their 197-day mission in space and return home inside the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft.

The astronauts will undock the spacecraft from the International Space Station, travel back toward Earth, and ultimately parachute down to Kazakhstan three-and-a-half hours later. Prokopyev will command the Soyuz flight which will be live-streamed on NASA TV. But, just a few days ago, this same spacecraft had a large hole cut into it by Prokopyev and Oleg Kononenko during a spacewalk.

The cosmonauts cut out pieces of the external hull of the craft’s orbital module to bring back to Earth for analysis. These pieces will be studied as part of an ongoing investigation to find the cause or culprit behind the hole that appeared in the spacecraft this past summer. The hole was discovered after astronauts noticed a pressure dip inside the space station. After initially investigating and patching it up, drill marks near the hole led some to speculate that it could have been created intentionally. After cutting out samples for analysis and taking photos of the site, the hole was once again patched up during the spacewalk.

Safety First

But will it be safe for these astronauts to travel back to Earth on a spacecraft that was recently cut apart with a knife? According to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks the objects that launch into space and back, “I think it’s gonna be just fine.”

The patched-up hole in the Soyuz craft is located in its orbital module. The trip that astronauts take to the space station lasts anywhere from 6 hours to two days. Comparing the ride to an airplane flight, McDowell explained that astronauts use this orbital module on the way up so they can float around and stretch their legs, which makes the trip more comfortable. But the journey back down to Earth is significantly shorter, lasting just a few hours. That’s why the orbital module is closed off and the astronauts travel only in the descent module on their way back down to Earth.

Because of this, even if the patch job doesn’t hold and the orbital module springs another leak, the astronauts on board will almost certainly land safely. The only danger, according to McDowell, is if the module springs a leak at the wrong time, the leak could act almost like a rocket engine and provide thrust that could push the craft in the wrong direction. If this happened early in the journey, the thrust could be counteracted with additional thrust from the craft. But if it happened later on in the trip, it could be dangerous.

“Worst case I can see is if it springs a leak during the deorbit burn because while you’re decelerating the spacecraft to bring it down out of orbit you really want your thrust to be in the correct direction,” McDowell said. But, so far, the first and now second patch jobs have both held up without issue.

“I’m not concerned, it’s really hard for anything in the orbital module to make things go badly in the descent module where the astronauts are,” McDowell said. “I’ll still be very glad when they get down,” he added.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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