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Axiom Space launches Turkey’s first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

Axiom Space launches Turkey’s first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

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Axiom Space launches Turkey's first astronaut along with three crew members on flight to space station

Turkey’s first astronaut and three other crew members representing Europe were launched from Florida on Thursday on a voyage to the International Space Station in the latest commercially arranged mission from Texas startup Axiom Space.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the Axiom quartet lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket about an hour before sunset from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, beginning a planned 36-hour flight to the orbiting laboratory. The launch was shown live on an Axiom-SpaceX joint webcast.

The autonomously operated Crew Dragon was expected to reach the International Space Station (ISS) early on Saturday morning and dock with the outpost orbiting some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth and currently occupied by seven regular crew members.

Live video showed the two-stage 25-story-tall launch vehicle streaking into partly cloudy skies over Florida’s Atlantic coast atop a fiery, yellowish tail of exhaust.

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Cameras inside the crew compartment beamed footage of the four men strapped into their pressurized cabin, seated calmly in helmeted white-and-black flight suits as the rocket soared toward space.

Nine minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s upper stage delivered the crew capsule to its preliminary orbit.

Responding to congratulations from mission control, flight commander Michael López-Alegría radioed back from the Crew Dragon, “As I was saying, it’s a team sport. Thank you, guys.” 

Minutes earlier, the rocket’s reusable lower stage, having detached from the rest of the spacecraft, flew itself back to Earth and safely touched down on a landing zone near the launch site, eliciting cheers audible from the control room.

The mission was the third such flight organized by Houston-based Axiom over the past two years as the company builds on its business of putting astronauts sponsored by foreign governments and private enterprise into Earth orbit.

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The company charges its customers at least $55 million for each astronaut seat.

TWO WEEKS OF ORBITAL RESEARCH

Plans for the Axiom-3 mission call for the crew to spend roughly 14 days in microgravity aboard the ISS conducting more than 30 scientific experiments, many of them focused on the effects of spaceflight on human health and disease.

More symbolically, the mission reflects the growing number of nations venturing to Earth orbit as a way of enhancing global prestige, military prowess and satellite-based communications.

Turkey, a longtime applicant for EU membership, was poised to enter the exclusive-but-expanding club of ISS-guest countries by sending Alper Gezeravcı, 44, a Turkish Air Force veteran, on his nation’s debut human spaceflight as an Ax-3 mission specialist.

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He was being joined by: Italian Air Force Colonel Walter Villadei, 49, Ax-3’s designated pilot; Swedish aviator Marcus Wandt, 43, another mission specialist; and López-Alegría, 65, a retired NASA astronaut and dual citizen of Spain and the United States.

López-Alegría, an Axiom executive, also commanded the company’s first mission to the ISS in April 2022.

Axiom billed the flight as “the first all-European commercial astronaut mission” to the space station.

If all goes smoothly, they will be welcomed aboard ISS early on Saturday by the seven members of the station’s current regular crew – two Americans from NASA, one astronaut each from Japan and Denmark and three Russian cosmonauts.

In May 2023, Axiom-2 launched a guest team of two Americans and two Saudis, including Rayyanah Barnawi, a biomedical scientist who became the first Arab woman ever sent to orbit, on an eight-day mission to the ISS.

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SpaceX, the privately funded rocket and satellite company of billionaire Elon Musk, provides Axiom’s launch vehicles and crew capsules under contract, as it has for NASA missions to the ISS.

SpaceX also runs mission control for its rocket launches from the company’s headquarters near Los Angeles.

NASA, besides furnishing the launch site at Cape Canaveral, assumes responsibility for the astronauts once they rendezvous with the space station.

Axiom, an eight-year-old venture headed by NASA’s former ISS program manager, is one of a handful of companies building a commercial space station of its own intended to eventually replace the 25-year-old ISS, which NASA expects to retire around 2030.

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WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

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WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

WhatsApp has unveiled a groundbreaking feature that revolutionizes text messaging by allowing users to customize their messages like never before.

Prior to this update, users were limited to basic text modifications such as bold and italic; however, the new feature introduces a plethora of formatting options, including numbers, bullets, block quotes, and text highlighting.

The process is simple and intuitive, requiring users to incorporate specific symbols to achieve their desired text format. For monospacing text, users can enclose their message with three backticks on both sides. Adding a quote is as easy as placing an angle bracket and a space before the text.

To strike through a message, users need to flank their text with tilde symbols, while bolding requires asterisks on both sides. One of the standout additions is the ability to create bulleted lists effortlessly. Users can precede each word or sentence with an asterisk or hyphen and a space to generate a neatly organized list.

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Moreover, numbering and spacing at the beginning of text with “1.” facilitates the creation of itemized lists, enhancing the overall clarity and structure of messages.

Inline code can now be seamlessly integrated into messages by enclosing the text with backtick symbols at the start and end. This provides users with a practical way to share code snippets or emphasize specific phrases within their conversations.

The accompanying image showcases the versatility of this new feature, illustrating the various formatting options available to users. WhatsApp users across iOS, Android, and web devices can now leverage this advanced text formatting feature to elevate their communication experience.

The update reflects WhatsApp’s commitment to continually enhance user experience and foster more expressive and organized conversations. Whether you’re conveying information, emphasizing key points, or sharing code snippets, the new formatting options provide a dynamic and engaging communication platform for users worldwide. 

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Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

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Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

 Facebook owner Meta will set up a team to tackle disinformation and the abuse of generative artificial intelligence in the run-up to European Parliament elections in June amid concerns about election interference and misleading AI-generated content.

The rapid growth of generative AI, which can create text, images and video in seconds in response to prompts, has triggered fears that the new technology could be used to disrupt major elections, across the world this year. 

European Parliament elections will take place June 6-9. Its 720 lawmakers, together with EU governments, pass new EU policies and laws.

“As the election approaches, we’ll activate an Elections Operations Center to identify potential threats and put mitigations in place in real time,” Marco Pancini, Meta’s head of EU affairs, said in a blogpost.

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He said experts from the company’s intelligence, data science, engineering, research, operations, content policy and legal teams will focus on combating misinformation, tackling influence operations and counter the risks related to the abuse of generative AI.

Meta, which currently works with 26 independent fact-checking organisations across the European Union covering 22 languages, will add three new partners in Bulgaria, France, and Slovakia, Pancini said.

Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and 17 other tech companies earlier this month agreed to work together to prevent deceptive artificial-intelligence content from interfering with elections across the globe this year.

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‘X’ faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

‘X’ faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

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'X' faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

The popular microblogging site ‘X,’ formerly known as Twitter, has been inaccessible across Pakistan for over a week. 

Despite a brief interval when the site was accessible, users are now reporting a persistent outage, even when using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the government agency responsible for overseeing telecommunications, hasn’t released any official statement regarding the suspension of the service.

This lack of transparency has only intensified the frustration among users who heavily rely on ‘X’ for information and news updates. Users who initially turned to VPNs as a workaround have also hit a roadblock, as the microblogging site remains inaccessible. 

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The situation has raised concerns about the government’s stance on digital freedom and freedom of speech. The outage has not gone unnoticed by the public, with many expressing their discontent on various platforms. 

Criticism has been directed towards the government and the IT minister for what is perceived as an attack on freedom of speech and a hindrance to the revenue generated by the country’s thriving IT professionals.

Earlier, the Sindh High Court issued a directive to restore access to ‘X’ across Pakistan, recognising the site’s significance for information dissemination. However, despite court’s order, there has been no implementation, leaving users and advocates of digital freedom in a state of dismay.

The suspension of ‘X’ has broader implications, impacting not only the general public but also businesses and professionals who rely on the platform for communication, networking, and staying informed about the latest developments. The longer the outage persists, the more severe the consequences may be for the nation’s digital landscape.

As the public awaits an official statement from the PTA and the government, concerns about the potential ramifications of such a prolonged suspension continue to grow.

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