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Astronauts Land Safely in Kazakhstan Aboard Recently-repaired Soyuz Capsule

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Expedition 57 crew members Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), left, Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, center, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA landed safely in Kazakhstan after six months in space. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Expedition 57 crew members Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), left, Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, center, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA landed safely in Kazakhstan after six months in space. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A Successful Landing

Last night (Dec. 19), a NASA astronaut, a German flight engineer and a Russian cosmonaut landed safely back on Earth after six months of hard work in space.

Yesterday, the three astronauts buckled into the cramped descent module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, undocked from the International Space Station, and began the three-and-a-half hour journey home to Earth. As the craft neared the planet’s surface, it deployed a massive orange-and-white parachute which slowed its descent through the clouds to the frozen ground below.

Shortly after landing, the Soyuz MS-09's orange-and-white parachute can be seen on the snowy ground. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Shortly after landing, the Soyuz MS-09’s orange-and-white parachute can be seen on the snowy ground. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Soyuz craft touched down in snowy Kazakhstan near the town of Dzhezkazgan at 12:02 EST (11:02 a.m. local time). Carrying Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst, Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and Sergey Prokopyev, the craft landed successfully with all three crew members healthy and safe inside.

As soon as the craft landed, Russian recovery crews, medical personnel, and both U.S. and European Space Agency support teams rushed to the capsule. They helped the crew members out of the descent module and ensured that they were unharmed. Despite their safe landing, the astronauts will still need significant time and assistance in re-adapting to Earth’s gravity.

Thankful to be Home

Thankfully this landing was successful, but it did carry additional risks. This past summer, astronauts noticed a dip in pressure aboard the space station. This led them to discover a hole in the Soyuz MS-09’s orbital module. And, while the hole was quickly patched, Prokopyev and fellow Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko cut out pieces of the module’s external hull during a spacewalk just a few days ago. The hole was patched once again, but the crew’s flight home did come with the risk that the orbital module would once again spring a leak.

The crew traveled home from space in the descent module, sealed off from the patched-up orbital module. But, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who keeps track of spaceflight events, this could prove dangerous if the module sprung a leak at the wrong time. A leak, though unlikely, could have pushed the craft in the wrong direction. Luckily, nothing of the sort occurred.

These astronauts have been looking forward to life back on Earth for some time. Last month, when asked in an interview with CBS News about what she was looking forward to most after returning home to Earth, Auñón-Chancellor said: “That’s easy. Family. That’s what you miss the most up here. I don’t think you ever really get used to it. You have reminders, we have pictures, we get special video conference calls, but it’s not like being in the arms of your loved ones.”

After family, Auñón-Chancellor said  “would be just the feelings of Earth. For example, the wind, the rain. We were watching a video the other day and I remember being very jealous of watching somebody stand by the ocean because I knew they could feel the wind and smell the sea. And we can’t do that up here.”

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Ecology

Globe Climate: Canada’s resource reckoning is coming

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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

This afternoon, the Alberta government announced that it is restoring a coal mining policy it revoked last spring. At the time, the move provoked a widespread public backlash detailed by The Globe. The original decision, which opened up more than 1.4 million hectares to exploration, was made without public consultation. Premier Jason Kenney previously defended the changes.

Lots more on coal and Canada’s resources industry in this week’s newsletter edition.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Ecology

‘Incredibly destructive’: Canada’s Prairies to see devastating impact of climate change

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As the climate continues to warm at an alarming rate, experts warn if dramatic steps to mitigate global warming are not taken, the effects in Canada’s Prairie region will be devastating to the country’s agriculture sector.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country is warming, on average, about double the global rate.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. recently found 2020 was earth’s second-hottest year on record, with the average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe at 0.98 of a degree C above the 20th-century average.

However, the agency found the northern hemisphere saw its hottest year on record, at 1.28 degrees C above the average.

“(In Canada) we are looking at about 6.4C degrees of warming this century, which isn’t much less than one degree per decade, which is just a terrifying rate of warming,” Darrin Qualman, the director of climate crisis policy and action at the National Farmer’s Union said.

Qualman said there is “massive change coming” to Canada’s Prairies, which will be “incredibly destructive.”

“It’s not going too far to say that if we made that happen, parts of the Prairies wouldn’t be farmable anymore,” he said.

According to the federal government, in 2018 Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system generated $143 billion, accounting for 7.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The sector employed 2.3 million people in 2018. The majority of the 64.2 million hectares of farmland in Canada is concentrated in the Prairies and in southern Ontario.

The effects of climate change are already being felt on the ground in the Prairies, Qualman said, adding that the NFU has already heard from farmers complaining of “challenging weather.”

“People are sharing pictures of flattened crops and buildings, et cetera, that have been damaged,” he said. “And we’re still at the beginning of this.”

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Ecology

Insect-based dog food aims to cut your pet’s carbon pawprint

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Meat has an enormous carbon footprint, with livestock liable for about 15 per cent of worldwide emissions, as we have beforehand mentioned on this e-newsletter. That is prompted specialists to suggest consuming much less meat for sustainability (and well being) causes.

However what about your pet? One research discovered that the methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated by canine and cat meals within the U.S. alone had been equal to about 64 million tonnes of CO2, or roughly the quantity produced by 13.6 million automobiles. And it might be getting worse, with a development towards feeding pets “human-grade” meat.

That is prompted some pet meals makers to look to lower-carbon protein sources — together with bugs.

Research present that producing insect-based meals requires far much less feed, land and water and generates far fewer greenhouse fuel emissions per kilogram than meats comparable to beef, pork or rooster.

That is one of many causes increasingly more pet meals containing insect protein are hitting the market. Purina, a model owned by multinational Nestlé, launched a line of canine and cat meals containing black soldier fly larvae in Switzerland in November.

In Canada, Montreal-based Wilder Harrier began promoting canine treats made with cricket protein in 2015 and pet food made with black soldier fly larvae in 2019. It plans to broaden to launch a line of insect-based cat treats later this yr and cat meals in 2022 due to “a ton of demand,” mentioned firm co-founder Philippe Poirier.

Wilder Harrier initially labored with animal nutritionists on insect-based merchandise to unravel a unique downside — specifically, the founders’ canines had allergy symptoms to frequent meats utilized in canine meals. Poirier mentioned now about half its prospects hunt down the product due to their pets’ allergy symptoms and about half for environmental causes.

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a U.S.-based veterinary nutritionist licensed by the American School of Veterinary Vitamin, has written concerning the environmental influence of pet meals. She mentioned we’re typically “not as involved as we probably ought to [be]” concerning the environmental footprint of pets.

Alternatively, she famous that the longer-term influence of newer diets, comparable to vegan meals and people containing bugs, hasn’t been nicely examined in comparison with conventional pet meals.

Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor of animal sciences on the College of Illinois who research novel proteins for pet meals (together with bugs, yeast and plant-based substances), mentioned such substances are rigorously examined to find out their security and diet earlier than being added to pet meals. 

“This can be a very extremely regulated trade,” she mentioned, however admitted it is also evolving.

Relating to bugs, she mentioned constructive information “reveals promise in direction of utilizing them increasingly more in pet meals.” Insect-based proteins have additionally earned the endorsement of the British Veterinary Affiliation, which says some insect-based meals could also be higher for pets than prime steak.

However Godoy famous that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all resolution, and pet homeowners ought to take into consideration the wants of their very own particular person pet and analysis whether or not a specific weight loss plan can be appropriate.

She mentioned that other than the kind of protein, issues like packaging and manufacturing strategies may also make a distinction. For instance, utilizing meat byproducts that may in any other case turn into waste would not drive elevated meat manufacturing the identical approach as utilizing human-grade meat.

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