- Dan Edwards
To Mars and back
Texas is experiencing the worst snowstorm on record that has resulted in the deaths of 21 people and has left millions without power or water. The snowstorms proved that the State’s mostly autonomous power supply was not equipped for such conditions. Texas chose to be autonomous, in terms of the supply of power, and therefore struggled to get aid from outside sources. The majority of the supply is from unrenewable energy and only around 20% coming from renewable, mainly wind farms. Even still, some republican voices blame renewables for causing blackouts when in fact most of the energy comes from natural gas reserves. Republicans always can point the finger in any direction but themselves. The fact is that neither the renewable sources, nor the unrenewable sources were equipped for this type of situation and have left many questioning the future of the Texan power supply. But at least they still have their politicians to rely on. Well, not quite. In the midst of millions of Texans facing sub-zero conditions, not just outside but in their homes as well, Senator Ted Cruz decided to take a break from all of his recent seditious behaviour because acting like a child takes its toll eventually. He was pictured on a flight to Cancun because his daughters couldn’t attend school due to the conditions. The Senator responded to the backlash by the weak claim that he was planning on returning the evening after his arrival, which leaked group messages proved wrong. There are many who say “well, what can he do”. To that I would say “his job”. He is supposed to deal with these types of situations by using the power given to him by his office. If the President took a break during a natural disaster, then he would be severely and rightly condemned. Fortunately, the winter storm looks to be easing now with warmer weather expected and serious questions about the lack of preparation and the failure of the State’s representatives to act will hopefully take a rational step forward. But it is America, so you never know what could happen.
NASA landed the Perseverance Mars Rover on Thursday with the mission to search for ancient signs of life. The $2.7bn, car-sized, six-wheeled rover completed its 203-day journey with the final phase reported to be extremely nerve-racking for the engineers involved. It landed near the planet’s equator, as scientists believe that this space has promise for preserving signs of life, as a river and delta seemingly existed there. It is a remarkable achievement considering that more than half of the nine missions have resulted in failure. The mission’s objective is a huge step in answering the question ‘are we alone?’. Ken Williford explains the significance to CNN, “here we are at the beginning of a mission that really for the first time – in a very long time – is tasked very directly with seeking signs of ancient life. We want to know, are we alone here on Earth in a cold, dark universe or is life common, does it arise whenever the conditions are right?” The mission itself is set for around two years and will gather data and samples that will be collected and returned to Earth in a future mission. The rover has already sent pictures back to Earth that show Mars’ spectacular wasteland. It will hopefully begin its potentially revolutionary mission around late February and could potentially launch its miniature helicopter around April. The helicopter, called Ingenuity, is a 1.8kg drone-like machine and is the first flying machine sent to another planet. It will hopefully allow more information to be discovered in maneuvres that rovers are incapable of doing. Mars is certainly the next challenge for the space chapter in our history, as other missions from the UAE and China also began last year. By 2023, the European Space Agency is expected to have landed its rover, named Rosalind Franklin. We also have whatever Elon Musk is planning, to possibly look forward to. Perhaps, the end of the decade will look dramatically different to what we have ever seen or known.
Navalny loses appeal
Alexei Navalny has lost his appeal against his jailing for the violation of his suspended sentence. Mr Navalny was arrested and jailed by Russian authorities and was later convicted of slandering a veteran of World War II, for which he was fined the equivalent of $11,500. Mr Navalny, the political opponent of President Vladimir Putin, has been staunchly critical of the President and claims that his poisoning with an almost fatal nerve toxin was ordered by the Kremlin, which they have denied. Navalny used work from J.K. Rowling in his speech in court, comparing Mr Putin to Lord Voldemort. However, the judge rejected his appeal but still took off six weeks of his nearly three- and half-year sentence. The reaction from the international community has been what was expected, condemnation. The European Court of Human Rights, which Russia is a member of, has stated that Mr Navalny should be released due to concerns over his life. This claim by the ECtHR has been called “unlawful” by Russian authorities stating that it is “none of your business” over the future of Navalny. European officials are set to meet to discuss the possibility of sanctions. But Member States are divided with Germany still hoping for the Nord Stream 2 gas project that would supply the Member State with gas directly from Russia. Many Eastern Member States oppose this action. It looks like Russian relations will never be easy so long as President Putin remains in power. Good luck Alexei, you may need it.