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What you need to know about NASA’s New Horizons flyby

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NASA will make history on New Year’s Day, with an exploration of the farthest object from Earth ever undertaken.

More than a billion kilometres beyond Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft is on its way to meet up with a space object known as Ultima Thule, as it passes through the Kuiper belt region in the extreme outer solar system.

Here’s what you need to know about the mission as New Horizons nears its target:

What is New Horizons?

Part of NASA’s New Frontiers project, the New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006.

The craft was sent with the goal of exploring Pluto –still considered a planet at the time and the only unexplored one in the solar system.

After reaching and exploring the dwarf planet and its moon, Charon, in 2015 New Horizons took on a secondary task of exploring the Kuiper belt, which it will fulfill for the next decade.

Ultima Thule will be the first Kuiper belt object that New Horizons encounters, with several other objects planned for observation in the future.

Where is Ultima Thule?

(486958) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, is an object discovered in the Kuiper belt by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

Estimated to have a diameter of 30 kilometres , about the same size as Washington D.C., the object is more than 6.5 billion kilometres from earth.

There are discrepancies in what scientists believe Ultima Thule may look like, with estimates based on distance and brightness giving it an elongated shape, while light measurements are consistent with those seen from a spherical body.

Experts say Thule is a preserved relic of 4.5 million years ago, and could give valuable insight into the materials that were present at the beginning of our solar system.

When will the spacecraft make its flyby?

The approach is scheduled for 12:33 a.m. eastern standard time.

The event will be covered live on NASA TV and by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

NASA won’t know if New Horizons survived the flyby for hours after its intended passing, due to the distance it will have to travel.

If all goes as planned, the first images of Ultima Thule will likely be released to the world on Tuesday.

Who is piloting it?

Canada’s Frederic Pelletier is serving as chief navigator for the spacecraft, leading a team of eight based out of Johns Hopkins.

New Horizons will fly by Ultima Thule at a distance of about 3,500 kilometres, going at a speed of 50,000 kilometres an hour.

What makes the task even more difficult is that it takes six hours for signals from Earth to reach the craft, and another six hours to return.

“When we plan manoeuvres to do uplinks and updates, we need to take that into account,” Pelletier said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press.

With files from the Canadian Press

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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