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The Soviets’ Lunar Program in 1969

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Earthrise from Apollo 11 with the Lunar Module in the foreground. NASA.

Last week, I did the first in a series of interviews about Apollo 11 with CBC’s Quirks & Quarks. As a Canadian, this was a big deal for me! I grew up listening to this show every Saturday at 12:06pm with my Dad, usually in the car on the way home from gymnastics. Not only that, it’s an award-winning nationally syndicated show. So to be on the show as an expert was absolutely incredible! You can listen to the whole episode here; I come in at about the 26-minute mark.

Of course, the segment was cut down for length. Bob McDonald and I talked for about 25 minutes about the state of the Apollo program in January of 1969, and among the pieces that didn’t make it into the final podcast was a really interesting chat about where the Soviets. What were the Soviets up to when the Apollo 11 crew was selected? We always talk about the race to the Moon being a race with the Soviets, so where were they? It’s a really interesting point that I thought was well worth diving into as a supplementary little blog post.

During the Apollo era, the Soviet Union launched 20 successful lunar mission as part of the Luna and Zond programs. Luna, which launched 24 missions between 1959 to 1976, was a series of robotic flyby, orbital, and soft-landed missions designed to gather data about the Moon for scientific purposes as well as eventual manned missions. The Zond program was more advanced, launching five missions between 1964 and 1979 that added life support systems to exploratory missions. These programs enabled the Soviets to score a number of firsts: first lunar impact (Luna 2), first images of the farside (Luna 3), first soft landing (Luna 9), first orbiter (Luna 10), and first circumlunar missions returned to Earth (Luna 16).

So where were the Soviets around the time NASA announced the crew for Apollo 11? 

On November 10 of 1968, a little more than a month before NASA first sent humans to the Moon on Apollo 8, the Zond 6 mission flew around the Moon and returned safely to Earth with a biological payload on board. 

Zond 6 was the second spacecraft that the Soviets sent around the Moon, but it wasn’t without flaws. Early into the mission, ground controllers realized that the high-gain antenna hadn’t deployed, which meant that the main attitude control sensor on that antenna boom was inoperative. Relying on a backup sensor, the spacecraft made it to the Moon, passed around the far side, and began its journey home. But on that return flight engineers discovered that the temperature in the hydrogen peroxide tank feeding the attitude control thrusters was dangerously low so used sunlight to heat it, which in turn weakened the pressure seal on the hatch. 

Failures aside, the spacecraft followed its guided reentry program towards its landing zone in Kazakhstan. Because of the pressurization issues, the altimeter failed and the parachutes were jettisoned. The spacecraft crashed. The biological payload was lost, but the film was salvaged from the wreck, so at least we have pictures. 

Earthrise from Zond 6. Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography .

Earthrise from Zond 6. Moscow State University of Geodesy and Cartography.

The next Soviet mission to the Moon came in July of 1969, so we’ll save that story for later! 

Sources: NSSDC Luna; NSSDC Zond; Deep Space Chronicles by Asif A. Siddiqi.

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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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