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Highlights From the Year in Space and Astronomy Developments

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Jan. 7: It seemed like an ominous start to the year when a SpaceX rocket made it off the launchpad, but its mysterious government payload appeared to have gone missing. Nearly 12 months and a lot of finger-pointing later, Zuma’s fate is not known.

Jan. 23: First announced in 2007, the Google-sponsored prize aimed at encouraging landings on the moon by privately-built robotic spacecraft with a $20 million jackpot for the winner. With a March 31 deadline looming, the prize announced none of its finalists would launch in time.

Jan. 31: A triple lunar coincidence before your morning coffee was brewed. The pictures were nice, too.

Feb. 6: Three columns of flame carried the ambitions of SpaceX into the blue. The Heavy also sent a cherry-red Tesla sports car into a long orbit around the sun in an astounding marketing stunt. The Falcon Heavy may fly again in 2019 with a real commercial customer.

April 1: China lost control of its first space station a couple of years ago, and the question of when and where it would land was a source of uncertainty for months. In the end, it touched down in an area of the Pacific Ocean with no one but the fish to witness the splash.

April 25: Using data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission launched in 2013, the three-dimensional map of the Milky Way is the most detailed survey ever produced of our home galaxy.

May 14: The ice-encrusted moon of Jupiter with a global ocean flowing underneath its surface has long been an enticing target in the search for extraterrestrial life. Scientists made their discovery by looking back at data collected by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft during a 1997 flyby. Take Europa for a spin and see where the plume was detected below:

May 30: Dust storms are seasonal on Mars, but this one was giant and long-lasting. One result was that NASA’s Opportunity rover ran out of battery power and has been quiet ever since. The agency is still hoping to re-establish contact.

June 7: Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover let scientists confidently identify organic molecules on the red planet used and produced by living organisms (although it is possible for such substances to be produced in chemical reactions that are not biological).

June 18: President Trump said he would direct the Pentagon to establish a sixth branch of the armed forces dedicated to protecting American interests in outer space. While the proposal initially gained some political support, its future is uncertain as Democrats take a majority in the House of Representatives next year.

July 12: Astronomers announced that a neutrino first detected in Antarctica had been linked to a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy, some 4 billion light-years from Earth. The finding was expected to help future detections of high-energy particles form space.

An artist’s rendering of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express discovering a subterranean reservoir near the planet’s southern ice cap.CreditESA/INAF, via Associated Press

July 25: A European orbiter detected a 12-mile-wide underground liquid pool, similar to lakes found beneath Greenland and Antarctica’s ice. “There are all the ingredients for thinking that life can be there, or can be maintained there if life once existed on Mars,” said the Italian scientist who led the research.

July 27: A red blur lit up night skies on our blue marble for part of the summer as Earth played a game of monkey in the middle with Mars and the sun. Later in the month, the Martian orbit brought it within about 35.8 million miles of Earth, its closest approach since 2003.

Aug. 3: The new American rides to the International Space Station have been built by two private companies: SpaceX and Boeing. After they finish testing the capsules next year, these nine women and men could be the first astronauts to fly aboard the Crew Dragon and Starliner.

Aug 12: On a mission to “touch the sun,” this spacecraft will study our star’s outer atmosphere as well as the solar wind. As it orbited the sun in October, it recorded the fastest ever heliocentric speed by something humans launched.

Aug. 16: After studying Pluto in 2015, New Horizons continued farther into the solar system’s Kuiper belt, bound for a new destination. Ahead of schedule, it recorded its first image of 2014 MU69, the remote world it will fly by on Jan. 1.

Aug. 29: Astronauts slept through a dip in air pressure on their orbital home, and patched the puncture when they awoke. When Russian space authorities later concluded the hole had been deliberately drilled, the country’s news media stoked rumors of deliberate sabotage by American astronauts. The reports roiled space relations between the United States and Russia.

Sept. 21: Launched in 2014, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the near-earth asteroid Ryugu during the summer and began surveying the rock. It landed a number of robotic probes on Ryugu’s surface, including two small hopping rovers that sent fascinating pictures back to Earth.

Oct. 19: The mission’s twin orbiters are on a complex seven-year journey to orbit the solar system’s innermost planet. They will study how its oddball makeup came to be.

Oct. 30: After nine-and-a-half years in orbit, 530,506 stars observed and 2,662 exoplanets discovered, the little spacecraft will be left to drift forever around the sun. Its mission has been handed to the TESS spacecraft, which launched in April.

Oct. 31: An international collaboration of scientists based in Germany and Chile released the strongest evidence yet that the dark entity at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is a supermassive black hole.

Nov. 1: Launched in 2007, the spacecraft studied Vesta and Ceres, the largest objects in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Though out of power, Dawn will continue to orbit Ceres for at least 20 years, possibly decades longer.

Nov. 11: From a launchpad in New Zealand, the start-up carried small satellites to space. It was a harbinger of a change to the space launch business, which might become dominated by an assortment of small rocket providers such as Rocket Lab.

Dec. 3: The spacecraft launched in 2016 with the mission of studying a near-earth asteroid that has a slim chance of colliding with Earth in the 22nd century. It will survey the object and try to collect samples to send back home in 2023.

Dec. 7: The next lunar visitor from Earth — in early 2019 — will be this Chinese spacecraft and its rover. If it succeeds, it will be the first soft landing on the moon’s far side. Spin the moon below and see the approximate landing site:

Dec. 13: Whether you consider 51.4 miles up to be space or not — the Federal Aviation Administration does but most scientists do not — the views recorded by Richard Branson’s tourist space plane were something to see.

Dec. 16: For those lucky enough to see it, the so-called Christmas comet glowed green in night skies, at a distance of only 7.1 million miles from our planet. You might still be able to see it.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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