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Leading the News
China Launches Tianwen-1 Mission Towards Mars
Reuters (7/23, Woo) reports that China “successfully launched an unmanned probe to Mars on Thursday in its first independent mission to another planet.” China’s Long March 5 Y-4 rocket, “blasted off with the probe at 12:41 p.m. (0441 GMT) from Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.” The probe “is expected to reach Mars in February where it will attempt to deploy a rover to explore the planet for 90 days.”
Spaceflight Now (7/23, Clark) reports that Chinese state media did not broadcast the launch, but videos recorded by spectators showed “ten rocket engines fueled by kerosene and liquid hydrogen [power] the 187-foot-tall (57-meter) Long March 5 into a sunny midday sky.” Chinese “authorities lifted the news blackout on the launch once the 11,000-pound (5-metric ton) Tianwen 1 spacecraft was injected onto a trajectory toward Mars by the Long March 5’s second stage.” The China National Space Administration “confirmed the Long March 5 rocket placed Tianwen 1 on the proper course toward Mars about 36 minutes after launch.”
SPACE (7/23, Wall) reports that Tianwen-1 “consists of an orbiter and a lander/rover duo, a combination of craft that had never before launched together toward the Red Planet.” Mission team members wrote in a recent study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, “Tianwen-1 is going to orbit, land and release a rover all on the very first try, and coordinate observations with an orbiter. ... No planetary missions have ever been implemented in this way.” The team members also laid out the mission goals of Tianwen-1: “(1) to map the morphology and geological structure, (2) to investigate the surface soil characteristics and water-ice distribution, (3) to analyze the surface material composition, (4) to measure the ionosphere and the characteristics of the Martian climate and environment at the surface, and (5) to perceive the physical fields (electromagnetic, gravitational) and internal structure of Mars.”
The New York Times (7/22, Times) reports that the Tianwen-1 mission – along with the UAE’s Mars mission, which launched Monday, and the US’ Mars mission, which is scheduled to launch next week – plans to arrive at Mars in February 2021. The “rover will try to land in the Utopia Planitia region in the mid-northern Martian latitudes,” which is where NASA’s Viking 2 mission touched down in 1976. The rover’s mission will last 90 Martian days, while the complete Tianwen-1 mission will spend one Martian year observing Mars and its atmosphere.
Citing ICE Rules, Harvard And USC Say First-Year International Students Not Permitted On Campus This Fall
Forbes (7/22) senior contributor Stuart Anderson writes Harvard Dean Rakesh Khurana informed all students on Tuesday that “first-year international students will not be able to come to campus this fall.” Even though a Harvard and MIT lawsuit persuaded the Trump Administration “to withdraw guidance that would have forced out returning international students whose universities do not hold in-person classes,” Khurana explained the reversal “does not apply to our newly admitted international students who require F-1 sponsorship. At present, any incoming student who received a Form I-20 to begin their studies this fall will be unable to enter the U.S. in F-1 status as course instruction is fully remote.” He said Harvard is “working closely with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation” on the issue, but they do not “anticipate any change to the policy in time for the fall semester.”
Meanwhile, Inside Higher Ed (7/23) reports the University of Southern California “also has advised new international students that they should not travel” to the US and they should take their fall coursework online at home “out of an abundance of caution.” USC noted “that it strongly disagreed with the policy and was considering legal options.”
California State University Undergraduates Required To Take Ethnic Studies Or Social Justice Course Starting In 2023
The Los Angeles Times (7/22) reports that starting in the 2023-24 academic year, “all 430,000 undergraduates attending Cal State universities must take an ethnic studies or social justice course.” The requirement creates a three-unit, lower-division course requirement “to understand ethnic studies and social justice.” The requirement could be satisfied “by a traditional ethnic studies course or by a class focused on social justice or social movements.” The CSU trustees approved the requirement Wednesday “following a fierce two-day debate that left some longtime social activists in the awkward position of voting ‘no.’”
The Chronicle of Higher Education (7/23) reports CSU administrators “framed the shift, the first major change in the system’s general education requirements in more than 40 years, as part of its wide-ranging response to the national uprising against racism.” But even as trustees cast their votes, “they acknowledged that the policy’s future is uncertain.” The AP (7/22) reports CSU Chancellor Timothy White said prior to voting in favor of the change: “It’s grounded in ethnic studies, but it is broader, more inclusive, gives students choice.” The plan is expected to cost the university $3 million to $4 million.
EdSource (7/22) reports the requirement is “opposed by several lawmakers and the California Faculty Association, who instead favor AB 1460, legislation that would impose a stricter ethnic studies requirement.” That law stipulates students entering the CSU system in 2021-22 “would be required to take a class in one of the four ethnic studies disciplines and couldn’t satisfy the requirement with a course outside of those disciplines.” The bill was “approved last month by the state Senate. The Assembly must now approve minor amendments before it is sent to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom.” If signed into law, “it would supersede Cal State’s own requirement, according to the California Faculty Association, the union representing faculty across the system.”
Colleges Turn To Saliva Coronavirus Tests For Its Students
ABC News (7/22, Mosk) reports that with the demand “for coronavirus testing expected to rise even higher this fall as students return to campuses across the nation, some major universities are adding their names to the list of those turning to at-home test kits that look for the virus in a person’s saliva – a novel technique that’s raised hopes, and questions, when it comes to mass testing.” Though “not as widely used as nasal swabs and some scientists caution that the federal government granted emergency authorization for the method based on a relatively small sample, test makers are touting the spit test as a convenient, accurate and speedy alternative at a time when major labs are facing backlogs.” Some schools, like Purdue University, “said they’re willing to give it a try.”
University System Of Maryland to Require Masks On Campus Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The Baltimore Sun (7/22, Miller) reports that the University System of Maryland “is requiring students to wear face masks on campuses, codifying the new directive in its disciplinary guidelines as a means of preventing the coronavirus from spreading.” With plans to reopen this fall, “the twelve affiliate institutions will allow students and faculty to return to the facilities but will reduce density in housing accommodations, dining halls and classrooms.” The system will “adopt a ‘hybrid’ model that will offer many classes virtually and others in-person.”
Colorado Colleges Map Out Plans For Fall Semester Amid COVID Pandemic
Chalkbeat Colorado (7/22, Gonzales) reports that Colorado universities and colleges “are sketching out various scenarios of what might occur during an unpredictable pandemic.” For now, “schools throughout Colorado plan to hold limited in-person classes this fall and are closely following state and federal health guidelines for safety.” Diana Doyle, Arapahoe Community College president, “said the idea is to be ready not just for Plan A but also have Plans B, C and more at the ready.” Doyle added, “What we do is we put together a checklist of all of the different components that we need to be talking about. For instance, one of them would be cleanliness, you know, regular cleaning of our facilities: What happens if a student or an employee is tested positive, what’s our response?” The school “will require students on campus to wear masks and follow social-distancing protocols, Doyle said.” Additionally, classes “will be limited to 12 students at any one time, Doyle said.”
University Of North Carolina System Plans To Reopen With Full-Capacity Residence Halls
Inside Higher Ed (7/22) reports that “students and faculty members from campuses within the University of North Carolina system are demanding an explanation for why residence halls will be occupied at full capacity in the fall despite a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that doing so would put on-campus housing at the ‘highest risk’ of spreading coronavirus.” A spokesperson for UNC Chapel Hill “said in an email that its residence halls will have ‘normal capacity’ this fall, with some rooms reserved for students who are immunocompromised and are approved to have a single-resident room.” Some of the university’s residence halls include “suites shared by up to eight students, according to a move-in guide for students and parents.” The guide “recommends students living in residence halls “pack light” in the event that they have to move rooms or are sent home during the fall semester.”
Optimistic College Reopening Plans Changing As COVID Cases Surge
NPR (7/22, Nadworny) reports that “as the start of classes inches closer, more and more colleges are rolling back their earlier, more optimistic proclamations of an in-person or hybrid fall.” The initial plans “are now more likely to include hefty virtual options,” with some plans calling “for classes that would be mostly remote while others are calling for the semester to be entirely online.” On Monday, “several historically Black colleges in Georgia announced they’ll begin the semester online, including Spelman College, Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University.” The University of California at Berkeley “will do the same, according to comments from the chancellor, Carol A. Christ, made at a Chronicle of Higher Education event.”
Educators: How Colleges With Hybrid Instruction Can Best Support Online Students This Fall
Education Dive (7/22, Schwartz) reports on the thoughts of several ed tech and higher education experts on how “colleges can prepare for a hybrid fall.” Experts weigh in on “using the right technology,” going “beyond technology,” and whether or not hybrid methods are the right approach.
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Research and Development
Virginia Tech Researchers Develop Biosensing Method That Could Shorten Time Needed To Verify COVID-19 Tests
Bioengineer (7/21) reported Virginia Tech mechanical engineering associate professor Jiangtao Cheng and electrical and computer engineering assistant professor Wei Zhou “have developed an ultrasensitive biosensing method that could dramatically shorten the amount of time required to verify the presence of the COVID-19 virus in a sample.” Current testing requires “a few hours to complete, as verification of the presence of the virus requires the extraction and comparison of viral genetic material, a time-intensive process requiring a series of steps.” But in Cheng and Zhou’s method, “all of the contents of a sampling droplet can be detected, and there is no extraction or other tedious procedures. The contents of a microdroplet are condensed and characterized in minutes, drastically reducing the error margin and giving a clear picture of the materials present.”
Texas Teenager Working On Project To Accelerate Testing Process For COVID-19
The Dallas Morning News (7/22, Webster) reports Moksh Nirvaan, a 16-year-old student from Plano who is already taking full-time classes at the University of North Texas, is working as part of a research team that “developed an artificial intelligence learning model, CovidScan.ai, to detect and classify more severe COVID-19 cases from X-ray images of the lungs. The model is fully automated and has a 94.61% accuracy rate, according to their research.” Moksh said the system is able to make a COVID-19 diagnosis in a matter of minutes. A quicker diagnosis “allows patients to receive treatment sooner and also prevents X-rays from languishing in doctors’ offices.”
NSF Awards $75 Million For “Quantum Leap” Institutes
Reuters (7/22) reports the White House announced Tuesday that the National Science Foundation is awarding $75 million to three universities to boost quantum information research. Each of the “Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes” – the University of Colorado, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and UC Berkeley – will receive $25 million. According to Reuters, “The Colorado institute will focus on quantum sensor research, while the Illinois center will focus on quantum architectures and networks and the California center will focus on quantum computing.”
UT Southwestern Scientists Develop Cooling Insoles To Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers
The Dallas Morning News (7/22, Mantica) reports, “Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have created ‘cooling shoes’ to help prevent the open wounds or ‘foot ulcers’ common in patients with diabetes.” Scientists believe lowering the temperature of diabetic patient’s feet could help prevent foot ulcers that can lead to toe or limb amputations. Dr. Metin Yavuz, associate professor of healthcare sciences at UT Southwestern, and his research team “recently published a study in the Journal of Foot & Ankle Surgery that shows how their cooling insole technology can lower the temperature of diabetic patients’ feet by up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.” He hopes to make their active cooling insoles readily available to consumers in the next five years.
Defying Predictions, Tesla Reports Fourth Consecutive Quarter Of Profits
The New York Times (7/22, Boudette, Eavis, Phillips) reports “Tesla on Wednesday reported a profit of $104 million, a result that surprised analysts, who were expecting the electric carmaker to lose money as the coronavirus pandemic squeezed the company on two fronts.” CNBC (7/22, Kolodny) indicates “Tesla also reported its first full year of profitability on a GAAP basis, which means it can now be considered for inclusion on the S&P 500 index.”
SpaceX CEO Musk Says Company Will Attempt Test Flight Of Starship SN5 Prototype This Week
CNET News (7/22, Mack) reports that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk “said on Twitter Tuesday that SN5, the latest iteration of the Starship developmental craft, ‘will attempt to fly later this week.’” The first test “flight of SN5 is expected to be a 150-meter (492 foot) ‘hop.’”
Northrop Grumman, Epirus Work On Counter-UAV, Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon
FlightGlobal (7/23, Reim) reports that Northrop Grumman “has signed a distribution agreement with Epirus to sell the startup’s electromagnetic pulse weapon to counter hostile or intruding unmanned air vehicles (UAV).” The “electromagnetic pulse weapon, called Leonidas, is to be sold as part of a suite of counter-UAV weapons, says Northrop Grumman on” Wednesday. Epirus said that Leonidas “creates an [electromagnetic pulse] that can be steered for precision engagements, or adjusted to sanitise a volume of terrain or sky, creating a force field effect.” On July 8, DoD selected Northrop Grumman’s Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control system as the “interim command and control system for future counter-UAV weapons.” DoD “plans to spend at least $404 million on counter-UAV research and development and at least $83 million on counter-UAV system procurement in fiscal year 2021.”
Aviation Executives Say Airframers Likely To Hold Off On New Commercial Aircraft Programs
FlightGlobal (7/23, Hemmerdinger) reports that on Wednesday, during a FlightGlobal-hosted webinar as part of the FIA Connect Event, aviation industry executives predicted that, for several reasons, Airbus and The Boeing Company are unlikely to spend billions of dollars to replace the A320 and 737, respectively. Those “factors include the coronavirus downturn, looming environmental regulations, the high cost of new programmes and the risk-adverse nature of airframers and their shareholders.” Boeing has already confirmed that the development of its “New mid-Market Plane” is on hold. In addition to Boeing and Airbus, Embraer has, for several years, “hinted at developing a new roughly-90-seat turboprop.” Embraer CEO Arjan Meijer “says the business case for such an aircraft remains sound.” However, Embraer “must balance risks with rewards and be sure that technology has advanced sufficiently to make such an aircraft viable, he says.”
Aviation International News (7/22, Lynch) reports that during the event, Meijer and Emirates Airlines President Timothy Clark agreed that it would take several years for airframers to begin investing in capital-intensive programs. However, Clark “added that manufacturers should wait to see how developments in new technologies play out, particularly as airlines come under increasing pressure to practice sustainability.” Given the “increasing regulatory and political requirements, manufacturers need to be careful to ensure what they design now can become sustainable programs over several decades, said Steven Udvar-Házy, executive chairman of the board for Air Lease Corporation.”
Engineering and Public Policy
EPA Proposes Commercial Aircraft Emission Standards
Reuters (7/22, Shepardson) reports that on Wednesday, the EPA announced its plans to propose emission standards for commercial aircraft. In 2016, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) adopted global emission standards for manufacturers of small and large aircraft, including Airbus and The Boeing Company. In proposing this regulation, the EPA’s goal is to “align the United States with the ICAO standards, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.” Wheeler said it was crucial for the US to adopt the standards, because US-made airplanes could be banned if they did not meet ICAO standards. The EPA is “expected to finalize the rules next spring.” The FAA will subsequently “issue separate rules to enforce the standards.”
The AP (7/22, Koenig and Knickmeyer) reports that Boeing and Airlines for America, a trade group representing major US carriers, praised the EPA’s proposal. Boeing spokesperson Bryan Watt said that the new standard is “a major step forward for protecting the environment and supporting sustainable growth of commercial aviation and the United States economy.” Several environmental groups, however, were critical of the EPA’s proposal. For example, the Center for Biological Diversity’s climate legal director Clare Lockwood called the proposal “toothless,” and said that the standards “are too weak to address the severity of the climate crisis.”
The New York Times (7/22, Davenport) reports that the new EPA proposal is modeled after the ICAO plan, which mandates the fuel consumption of new aircraft to be 4% lower in 2028 than were aircraft delivered in 2015. Analysts and environmentalists “said neither the existing United Nations standard nor its formal adoption by the United States would do anything to lower aviation emissions because the airline industry met that standard years ago.”
Trump Has Not Brought Manufacturing Jobs Back To The U.S
The New York Times (7/22, Swanson, Tankersley) reports that President Trump “has spent much of his presidency trying to cajole manufacturers to return to the United States, through both tough talk and policies like tariffs,” and “his advisers have pointed to both the trade war and the pandemic as evidence that it is just too risky for multinational companies to rely on other countries, particularly China, to make their goods.” However, according to the Times, “Those arguments have yet to result in a wave of factories returning to the United States.” The Times reports that “after increasing in the first two years of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the number of manufacturing jobs flatlined last year and fell sharply with the pandemic.”
Small Businesses Preparing For Prolonged Downturn
The Wall Street Journal (7/22, A1, Simon, Omeokwe, Guilford, Subscription Publication) reports small businesses are preparing for a prolonged crisis, as they face headwinds from a resurgence in coronavirus cases, and some are slashing staff once again in an effort to stay afloat. Despite federal assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, many businesses are struggling to weather the storm and could end up shuttering for good.
Wednesday's Lead Stories
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