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China may launch its first mission to the Martian surface next year

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china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission illustration rendering cas xinhuaAn illustration of China’s planned robotic Mars mission, called HX-1.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

  • China recently landed the first spacecraft on the far side of the moon and plans to launch a lunar sample-return mission at the end of the year.
  • The China National Space Administration is also working on a robotic Mars mission that is scheduled to launch in mid-2020 and arrive in early 2021.
  • If successful, that mission could enable future Mars missions to bring pristine samples of the red planet’s soil and rocks back to Earth by 2030.

China just landed a robotic mission on the far side of the moon for the first time in history, but the nation is plotting a longer list of ambitious firsts in space over the next decade.

At the end of 2019, the China National Space Administration intends to launch a follow-up Chang’e 5 mission to scoop up the nation’s first samples of lunar soil and return them to Earth. It’s also planning follow-up moon missions to retrieve more samples, scout for water, and examine possible locations for a lunar base for humans, according to Chinese state media.

But the country is already looking past the moon, toward Mars.

“China’s first Mars exploration mission will be implemented around 2020,” Wu Yanhua, the agency’s deputy director, said during a briefing on Monday.

That interplanetary mission is called the Mars Global Remote Sensing Orbiter and Small Rover, or HX-1.

Read more: An extraordinary year of rocket launches, meteor showers, and space exploration is here. This is a 2019 calendar of space events you can’t miss.

A January 2018 roadmap assembled by NASA and other members of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group describes the HX-1 mission as an “orbit, landing, and roving mission,” which would probe Mars’ “topographical and geological features, physical fields and internal structure, atmosphere, ionosphere, climate and environment.” 

china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission spacecraft illustration rendering cas xinhuaAn artist’s concept of China’s HX-1 Mars mission spacecraft departing Earth.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

The mission plans call for sending a lander, rover, and satellite to Mars, with the lander and rover traveling to the red planet aboard the orbiter. Once the satellite arrives at Mars and enters orbit, a landing capsule would depart from the orbiter. Then it would scream through the planet’s atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute, and rocket the lander-rover spacecraft to the Martian surface.

The rover would then roll off the top of the lander, a process similar to Chang’e 4 and Chinese lunar-landing missions before it. The solar-powered, six-wheeled vehicle would be equipped with ground-penetrating radar to study Mars’ internal structure and look for pockets of water ice, according to state media.

china mars global remote sensing and small rover hx 1 martian mission lander laser illustration rendering cas xinhuaA rendering of China’s HX-1 rover exploring Mars.Chinese State Administration of Science/Xinhua

China’s space agency describes its 2020 Mars mission as a key part of future efforts to scoop up and launch Martian rocks and soil back to Earth — in part to determine if and when life was present on the red planet. Chinese scientists hope to get their hands on what may be the first-ever pristine samples of Martian soil by 2030, according to Popular Mechanics.

Some researchers believe that the sites of ancient oasis-like pools on Mars are the best places to dig in search of fossilized remains of microbial Martian life, if it exists.

Getting to and landing on Mars is ridiculously hard

mars-facts-missionsAbout one third of all missions to Mars — launched by the US, Russia, Europe, and China — have failed. This tally does not include InSight, which is ongoing.Samantha Lee/Business Insider

HX-1 is scheduled to launch in July or August of next year. At that time, the distance between Earth and Mars — and the energy required to reach the red planet — will be near its minimum.

This launch window is roughly the same as that of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is a car-size, nuclear-powered robot that will set up the US for a Martian soil-sample return. NASA is the most recent entity to successfully reach Mars with its InSight lander; that spacecraft is designed to listen for Mars quakes and deploy a “mole” probe to investigate the planet’s internal structure.

HX-1 wouldn’t mark China’s first attempt to reach Mars.

It previously partnered with Russia to launch a Mars-orbiting satellite called Yinghuo-1. The spacecraft shared space on a Russian mission (called Fobos-Grunt) headed toward the red planet. Although Russia’s rocket successfully launched the payload into low-Earth orbit, its engines failed to propel the joint Russian-Chinese mission toward Mars.

Read more: 13 incredible facts you should know about the red planet

If China can successfully pull off the landing of HX-1, it would be only the third nation ever to touch down on the Martian surface.

But experts say Mars is one of the most difficult planets to land on, since it has an atmosphere that’s thick enough to burn up a spacecraft, yet is too thin to completely slow down a mission during reentry (as can happen on Earth). In fact, roughly half of the missions that attempt to reach Mars don’t make it.

One of the latest failed landings was a European probe called Schiaparelli. Its rocket thrusters turned on prematurely, causing it to fall toward the surface from a mile high, then crash and explode.

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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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