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Dawn of Orion: NASA launch opens new era in space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s new Orion spacecraft circled the planet Friday on a high-stakes test flight meant to usher in a new era of human exploration leading ultimately to Mars.

The unmanned journey began with a sunrise liftoff witnessed by thousands of NASA guests. Parts of the spacecraft peeled away exactly as planned, falling back toward Earth as onboard cameras provided stunning views of our blue, cloud-covered planet.

Orion’s debut will be brief – just 4 1/2 hours from launch to splashdown, with two orbits of Earth. But for the first time in 42 years, NASA is sending a spacecraft built for humans farther than a couple hundred miles from Earth. The previous time was the Apollo 17 moon shot.

And it’s NASA’s first new vehicle for space travel since the shuttle.
“Very exciting,” NASA’s Orion program manager, Mark Geyer, said early in the flight. “We still have a bunch to go.”

NASA is now “one step closer” to putting humans aboard Orion, said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. He called it “Day One of the Mars era.”

Sluggish rocket valves and wind halted the launch Thursday, but everything went NASA’s way Friday as the Delta IV rocket carried Orion into orbit. The first-stage boosters detached and fell away into the Atlantic as the spacecraft soared from Florida to South Africa and beyond.

NASA launch commentator Mike Curie fed the enthusiasm in the gathered crowds, calling it “the dawn of Orion in a new era of American space exploration!”

NASA aimed for a peak altitude of 3,600 miles on Orion’s second lap around the planet, in order to give the capsule the necessary momentum for a scorchingly high-speed re-entry over the Pacific. Engineers want to see how the heat shield – the largest of its kind ever built – holds up when Orion comes back through the atmosphere traveling 20,000 mph and enduring 4,000 degrees.

The atmosphere at Kennedy Space Center was reminiscent of the shuttle-flying days, but considerably more upbeat than that last mission in 2011.

Astronaut Rex Walheim was aboard that final shuttle flight and among the dozens of spacefliers on hand for Orion’s historic send-off. He talked up Orion’s future in sending crews to Mars and the importance of becoming a multiplanetary species.

“You have that excitement back here at the Kennedy Space Center and it’s tinged with even more excitement with what’s coming down the road,” Walheim said.

In Houston, NASA’s Mission Control took over the entire operation once Orion was aloft. The flight program was loaded into Orion’s computers well in advance, allowing the spacecraft to fly essentially on autopilot. Flight controllers – all shuttle veterans – could intervene in the event of an emergency breakdown.
And in the Pacific off the Mexican Baja coast, Navy ships waited for Orion’s return.

The spacecraft is rigged with 1,200 sensors to gauge everything from heat to vibration to radiation. At 11 feet tall with a 16.5-foot base, Orion is bigger than the old-time Apollo capsules and, obviously, more advanced.
NASA deliberately kept astronauts off this first Orion.

Managers want to test the riskiest parts of the spacecraft – the heat shield, parachutes, various jettisoning components – before committing to a crew. In addition, on-board computers were going to endure the high-radiation Van Allen belts; engineers wondered whether they might falter.

Friday’s Orion – serial number 001 – lacked seats, cockpit displays and life-support equipment for obvious reasons. Instead, bundles of toys and memorabilia were on board: bits of moon dust; the crew patch worn by Sally Ride, America’s first spacewoman; a Capt. James Kirk collector’s doll owned by “Star Trek” actor William Shatner, and more.

Lockheed Martin Corp. already has begun work on a second Orion, and plans to eventually build a fleet of the capsules. The earliest that astronauts might fly on an Orion is 2021. An asteroid redirected to lunar orbit is intended for the first stop in the 2020s, followed by Mars in the 2030s.

The company handled the 0 million test flight for NASA from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, opting for the Delta IV rocket this time given its heft. It’s the most powerful unmanned rocket in the U.S. right now. The entire rocket and capsule, topped by a launch abort tower, stretched 242 feet and weighed 1.6 million pounds – an “incredible monster,” according to Bolden.

To push Orion farther out on future flights, NASA is developing a megarocket known as Space Launch System or SLS. The first Orion-SLS combo will fly around 2018, again without a crew to shake out the rocket.
NASA’s last trip beyond low-Earth orbit in a vessel built for people was the three-man Apollo 17 in December 1972. Orion will be capable of carrying four astronauts on long hauls and as many as six on three-week hikes.
Bolden, a former astronaut and now NASA’s No. 1, called Mars “the ultimate destination of this generation,” but said his three young granddaughters think otherwise, telling him, “Don’t get hung up on Mars because there are other places to go once we get there.”

Source: AOL


The Healthiest State in America is…

Americans are growing more obese and exercising less, according to a new report examining the health of our nation.

The 2014 America’s Health Rankings, released today, shows that the U.S. obesity rate increased from 27.6 percent to 29.4 percent of adults in the past year. In addition, the percentage of adults who said they hadn’t done any physical activity in the last 30 days increased, going from 22.9 percent to 23.5 percent in the past year.

However, there were improvements made in a number of other health-related measures, including:

  • 3 percent decrease in smoking (19.6 percent to 19 percent of adults over the past year).
  • 5 percent increase in teen immunization coverage (64 percent to 67.1 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 over the past year).
  • 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates (73.4 precent to 81 percent of incoming ninth graders over the past five years).
  • 22 percent decrease in preventable hospitalizations (80.6 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries to 62.9 hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries, over the last 10 years).
  • 23 percent decrease in air pollution (12.8 micrograms of fine particulars per cubic meter, to 9.9 micrograms of fine particles per cubic meter, over the last 10 years).
  • 41 percent decrease in infant mortality (10.2 deaths for every 1,000 live births to 6 deaths for every 1,000 live births since 1990).
  • The report, which is published every year by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, is based on data from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Education, and other agencies and organizations.

    In addition to providing a picture of overall U.S. health, the report also provided snapshots of health by state. The states that scored the lowest in the rankings were Mississippi, which scored 50th; Arkansas, which scored 49th; Louisiana, which scored 48th; and Kentucky, which scored 47th.

    But what are the healthiest states in the ranking? Find out if your state made the top 10 in the slideshow.

    Soure: Yahoo

    Sony Alpha A5000

    Sony Alpha A5000

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    Polaroid’s ‘Instagram Camera’ Now Available for Preorder

    Polaroid, a company that’s synonymous with old-school instant cameras, is bringing its products into the social media age with the Polaroid Socialmatic. Now available for preorder through Amazon, the Socialmatic combines a classic instant camera with the ability to upload your photos to your favorite social media platforms — including, yes, Instagram.

    The camera, which is a dead ringer for that Instagram app icon on your smartphone, features a 14-megapixel main camera and comes with a 2 MP rear camera for taking selfies, because of course it does.

    Thanks to its Android operating system and 4.5-inch display, the Socialmatic can also be used as a kind of smart camera, so you can browse the Web and access your email.

    Perhaps more importantly, though, you can download your favorite social media apps including Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, Instagram, so you can upload your photos to the web as soon as you’re within range of an available Wi-Fi signal.

    The Socialmatic also includes built-in Bluetooth and GPS, so you can connect the camera to your smartphone, as well as add location data to your images, which means you’ll easily be able to see where they were taken.

    And with 4 GB of onboard storage, and a microSD card slot that lets you add an additional 32 GB of space, you can save a massive number of photos and videos on the Socialmatic.

    The camera pumps out 2 × 3 photos that Polaroid says are water-resistant and smudge-proof, which is a huge improvement over those runny instant photos of yore. Stacks of photo paper for the Socialmatic are also fairly cheap at $15 for a stack of 50.

    For a camera that’s ostensibly made for pulling out during parties, however, the Socialmatic is a bit on the pricey side: $299 to be exact.

    If that’s too rich for your blood, you might also want to check out Polaroid’s Cube, a 3.5 mm cube that lets you shoot videos and photos with ease. The kicker is that the Cube, which is just $99, doesn’t have a viewfinder of any kind, so you’re no longer tempted to spend all your time looking at the world through your camera, when you could be experiencing it with your own two eyes.

    But if you’re the kind of person who loves documenting every moment of your life for social media, and craves the instant gratification of a Polaroid, the Socialmatic may be the camera for you.

    Source: Yahoo


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