TIME space

Soyuz Carrying 3-Man Crew Blasts Off for Orbiting Station

Space launch preparation
Kirill Kudryavtsev—POOL/EPA Aydyn Aimbetov gestures as he boards the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on Sept. 2, 2015

The new three-man crew will arrive at the orbiting outpost on Friday

(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) — A Soyuz spacecraft carrying a Russian, a Dane and a Kazakh blasted off on Wednesday for a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

The rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, a Russian launch facility in Kazakhstan, on schedule at 10:37 a.m. (0437 GMT), with “everything going flawlessly,” according to a commentator on NASA television. It was the 500th launch of both manned and unmanned spacecraft from the launch pad used in 1961 by Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, the commentator said.

Andreas Mogensen is the first Dane in space. Russia’s Sergei Volkov is following in the footsteps of his father, who 24 years ago launched into space with the first astronaut from Kazakhstan. The Kazakh on the current mission, Aidyn Aimbetov, got his seat when British singer Sarah Brightman pulled out.

The new three-man crew will arrive at the orbiting outpost on Friday after a two-day flight through space. For the past two years, the crews have taken a more direct, six-hour flight, but the Russian Federal Space Agency decided last week to revert to the traditional route, citing security concerns after the International Space Station had to adjust its orbit to dodge space junk.

The arrival of Volkov, Aimbetov and Mogensen will bring the number on board the station to nine for the first time since November 2013. The Kazakh and Dane are scheduled to return to Earth on Sept. 12 with Russian Gennady Padalka, the current station commander.

Command will then be passed to NASA’s Scott Kelly, who along with Mikhail Kornienko of Russia is spending a full year on the station to study the effects of long space travel in preparation for a possible future trip to Mars.

TIME climate change

Obama’s Trip to Alaska Shows Both Sides of His Climate Change Legacy

Barack Obama Anchorage Alaska
Andrew Harnik—AP President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the Snow City Cafe in Anchorage on Sept. 1, 2015.

President Obama brought his crusade against climate change to Alaska this week to highlight the effects of warming. But the state also depends heavily on fossil fuels

President Barack Obama brought his crusade against climate change to Alaska this week with a three-day trip designed to highlight the devastating effects of global warming and promote initiatives to address the issue.

“Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought,” Obama told a meeting of international delegates in Anchorage Monday. “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now.”

The visit to Alaska, a state that is both rich in fossil fuels and particularly vulnerable to climate change, places Obama at the heart of the struggle to adapt. Rising sea levels, devastating wildfires and coastal erosion all threaten communities across the state, thanks largely climate change. But, at the same time, Alaska benefits from the very fossil fuels that help cause man-made global warming. Oil resources support thousands of jobs in the state and allow the state to avoid levying income or sales tax. Every year the state government issues a royalty check to state residents (nearly $1,900 in 2014) funded by the oil industry.

While Obama has billed his trip as an opportunity to highlight the threat of climate change—and the steps his Administration is taking to fight it—his policies embody the tension between the vital fossil fuels play in the U.S. economy and the need to reduce carbon emissions. Obama has proposed aggressive U.S. action on climate change, including a 26% to 28% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. But he has also supported measures to open oil drilling in the Arctic, a move condemned by environmentalists angered over the danger of an disastrous oil spill and the threat of more carbon emissions

“Obama’s visit to Alaska is really significant, not just because he’s the first sitting president to visit this state, but because Alaska is really at the front lines of climate change in the U.S. right now,” said Marissa Knodel, a climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “But, while he’s claiming he wants to be a climate leader, he’s doing the exact opposite by opening offshore oil and gas to companies like Shell for drilling.”

Obama, whose arrival in Anchorage on Monday was met with protest from opponents of drilling, has said that allowing limited drilling will allow the U.S. to remain energy independent while it pursues alternatives to fossil fuels. “Now even as we accelerate [the clean energy] transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas,” Obama said in his weekly radio address days before traveling to Alaska. “As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports.”

Citing academic research, climate change advocates argue that burning all the fossil fuels buried in the Arctic would contribute to global warming to an unsafe degree. The region contains nearly a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And a 2014 study published in the journal Nature concluded that “development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming” to a level deemed acceptable by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Not that you’d know the President supported Arctic drilling from his Alaska visit. In appearance after appearance, the President highlighted the ways in which climate change has threatened the region. There may not have been a better place for such a pitch. The state has warmed by 3.4°F (1.9°C) over the past 50 years, twice as fast as the country at large over, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This past winter was especially warm in Alaska, with temperatures 4 to 10°F (2 to 5.6°C) warmer than normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Experts expect temperatures to rise as much as 7.0°F (3.9°C) by 2100.

Temperature increases have contributed to melting ice and glaciers in the region. In total, 75 billion tons of ice from glaciers melts in the state each year, according to a recent study in Geophysical Research Letters. The melting of glaciers contributes to global sea level rise, in addition to destroying a local treasure and tourist draw. In the Alaskan Arctic, melting ice has threatened the habitats of many native animals, including the polar bear. Just last week thousands of Arctic walruses flocked to an Alaskan shore, likely because they couldn’t find ice haul out. Ice loss, sea level rise and warmer waters have also contributed to the erosion of the state’s coast at an average rate of 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) each year. Entire communities may need to be relocated just to survive.

At the same time the gradual loss of Arctic sea ice has opened new shipping possibilities in the far North—which in turn has contributed to a battle of influence in the Arctic between the U.S. and Russia, one Washington is seen at risk of losing. During his trip, Obama announced a number of measures aimed at quelling those concerns, including an expanded U.S. naval presence in the region.

Beyond melting ice, Obama highlighted a laundry list of climate facing the region: melting permafrost, dramatic storm surges and changing migratory routes for animals hunted by native Alaskans.

The trip to Alaska is the latest in a series of effort by the President to draw attention to global climate change and position the U.S. as a leader on the issue. The White House recently finalized the Clean Power Plan, which mandates emission reductions from power plants, and announced initiatives to expand solar power and billions of dollars in private sector commitments to finance renewable energy production. Climate change was also in the background of Obama’s visit to New Orleans last week for the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

The White House hopes that recent climate actions will give the U.S. a leadership position at a United Nations conference on climate change in Paris later this year. Climate advocates and global leaders alike hope that summit will yield the world’s first binding and global agreement to address global warming that will require concrete cuts to curb carbon emissions.

“This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can,” said Obama in a speech on Monday. “We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science.”

TIME space

See New Horizons’ Entire Pluto Flyby in 23 Seconds

Get a good look at the dwarf planet

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft completed its near decade-long mission to Pluto with a flyby of the dwarf planet and its moons in July, capturing the best images we have to date.

NASA has collected these images into the above animation, showing the flyby from the spacecraft’s point of view, including a close encounter with Pluto, a pass behind the planet revealing its atmospheric glow lit by the sun, and a pass behind Charon, Pluto’s largest moon. The animation ends with a wide view of Pluto and Charon as New Horizons makes its departure.

After New Horizons left Pluto behind, NASA announced a potential new destination for the spacecraft: a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that is nearly a billion miles away from Pluto. “2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo., said in a press release. “Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.”

TIME photography

See Photos of the Wreck of the Titanic When It Was First Discovered

The long-lost shipwreck was found 30 years ago

When the Titanic sank in 1912, the famous ship wasn’t exactly sailing in obscurity. Yet it took decades before the wreckage was discovered. It wasn’t until Sept. 1, 1985—30 years ago Tuesday—that scientists, after years and years of searching, found what they were looking for.

As shown by these photos, taken that year and shortly after, the ship was in surprisingly good condition considering the time that had passed. Robert Ballard, the leader of the discovery expedition, told TIME that month that the ocean had shielded the grand liner and kept it a “museum piece.”

But the find was exciting for more than the Titanic’s history. As TIME explained, the discovery proved that the rest of the ocean’s mysteries were now fair game:

In a sense, it was a dream fulfilled for all seafaring scientists. To locate one of the most technologically advanced vessels of its day, the researchers employed the most advanced technology of today. A team of 13 Woods Hole investigators sailing on the U.S. Navy research vessel Knorr joined forces with a contingent of French scientists aboard the Suroit, operated by the Paris-based Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER). The two ships bristled with several million dollars’ worth of sophisticated equipment. It included a high-resolution sonar device that can trace precisely the contours of the ocean floor, and a compact submersible vessel towed like a sled on a cable, which relayed photographs and videotape confirming the Titanic find. For some of the investigators, the biggest thrill was that their experimental equipment worked. ”This allows us to open up deep-sea exploration on a much, much larger scale than before,” says Woods Hole Director John Steele. ”We couldn’t ask for more.”

Read more from 1985, here in the TIME Vault: After 73 Years, a Titanic Find

 

TIME weather

See Astronaut’s Photo of Hurricane Jimena From Space

Hurricane Jimena Space Station Kjell Lindgren
Kjell Lindgren—NASA A view of hurricane Jimena taken from the International Space Station and posted to Twitter by NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren on Aug. 30, 2015.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren captured this image of Hurricane Jimena from the International Space Station and posted it to Twitter on Sunday.

Jimena is a Category 4 hurricane that’s located more than 1,330 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii. Weather experts predict it will remain a Category 3 hurricane or greater through Tuesday. According to The Weather Channel, on Saturday and Sunday Jimena was one of three Category 4 hurricanes in the Pacific, along with hurricanes Kilo and Ignacio. Such a concentration of storms is rare.

TIME Solutions That Matter

See How Kids Are Getting 3D-printed Hands for Free

A global network of almost 6,000 volunteers is making it happen

With standard prosthetic hands costing anywhere from several thousand to a hundred thousand dollars, convincing insurance companies to buy new hands and arms for growing kids every couple of months is an impossible task.

After watching a YouTube video about 3D-printed prosthetics, RIT professor Jon Schull had an idea. With one YouTube comment, he harnessed an online community of volunteers and problem-solvers to work toward one goal—providing free, 3D-printable prosthetics to kids in need.

Two years later, Schull has taken his idea and turned it into a global network of almost 6,000 volunteers. To date, the e-NABLE network has printed over 1,500 devices in 50 countries, and the network continues to grow at a rapid pace.

e-NABLE’s wrist and elbow actuated prosthetics cost only $30-$50 apiece, and require up to three days worth of printer time and assembly. Schull’s volunteers are matched with a child in need, and provide the customized, completed hand or arm at no cost to the child’s family. e-NABLE’s network is currently working on making the devices available in other countries, as well as printing the hands with different skin tones and with different materials that will make the hands look more similar to the human hand.

While e-NABLE’s volunteers are spawning new variations of hands and arms faster than he can keep up with, Schull hopes to be able to expand his model to help solve new problems. He sees heads-up displays, text-to speech translators, and even gene printing in e-NABLE’s future.

“I believe we… have proven that there are probably hundreds of thousands of digital humanitarians ready willing and able to lend a metaphorical hand for the global good,” Schull said. “And so the…goal is to figure out what iceberg this is the emerging tip of.”

TIME space

See Photos of Last Night’s ‘Supermoon’

One of the three largest full moons of this year rose in the sky last night

TIME celebrities

Scientists and Writers Pay Tribute to Oliver Sacks on Twitter

Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks
Chris McGrath—Getty Images Neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks speaks at Columbia University on June 3, 2009 in New York City.

The neurologist and author has died at age 82

High-profile scientists and writers honored the life of Oliver Sacks on Sunday, tweeting quotes, memories and farewells to the neurologist and acclaimed author who has died at 82, months after announcing his diagnosis with terminal cancer.

Sacks was famous for writing popular, understandable books based on his work, including “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”

From surgeon-writer Atul Gawande to digital media scientist Michael Hawley, see eight high-profile figures paying tribute to the life of Sacks:

TIME celebrities

Neurologist and Writer Oliver Sacks Dies at 82

He had sold millions of books based on his cases

(NEW YORK) — Dr. Oliver Sacks, whose books like “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” probed distant ranges of human experience by compassionately portraying people with severe and sometimes bizarre neurological conditions, has died. He was 82.

Sacks died Sunday at his home in New York City, his assistant, Kate Edgar, said.

Sacks had announced in February 2015 that he was terminally ill with a rare eye cancer that had spread to his liver.

As a practicing neurologist, Sacks looked at some of his patients with a writer’s eye and found publishing gold.

In his best-selling 1985 book, he described a man who really did mistake his wife’s face for his hat while visiting Sacks’ office, because his brain had difficulty interpreting what he saw. Another story in the book featured autistic twins who had trouble with ordinary math but who could perform other amazing calculations.

Discover magazine ranked it among the 25 greatest science books of all time in 2006, declaring, “Legions of neuroscientists now probing the mysteries of the human brain cite this book as their greatest inspiration.”

Sacks’ 1973 book, “Awakenings,” about hospital patients who’d spent decades in a kind of frozen state until Sacks tried a new treatment, led to a 1990 movie in which Sacks was portrayed by Robin Williams. It was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Still another book, “An Anthropologist on Mars: Seven Paradoxical Tales,” published in 1995, described cases like a painter who lost color vision in a car accident but found new creative power in black-and-white.

It also told of a 50-year-old man who suddenly regained sight after nearly a lifetime of blindness. The experience was a disaster; the man’s brain could not make sense of the visual world. It perceived the human face as a shifting mass of meaningless colors and textures.

After a full and rich life as a blind person, he became “a very disabled and miserable partially sighted man,” Sacks recalled later. “When he went blind again, he was rather glad of it.”

Despite the drama and unusual stories, his books were not literary freak shows.

“Oliver Sacks humanizes illness … he writes of body and mind, and from every one of his case studies there radiates a feeling of respect for the patient and for the illness,” Roald Hoffmann, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, said in 2001. “What others consider unmitigated tragedy or dysfunction, Sacks sees, and makes us see, as a human being coping with dignity with a biological problem.”

When Sacks received the prestigious Lewis Thomas Prize for science writing in 2002, the citation declared, “Sacks presses us to follow him into uncharted regions of human experience — and compels us to realize, once there, that we are confronting only ourselves.”

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Sacks said he tries to make “visits to other people, to other interiors, seeing the world through their eyes.”

His 2007 book, “Musicophilia,” looked at the relationship between music and the brain, including its healing effect on people suffering from such diseases as Tourette’s syndrome, Parkinson’s, autism and Alzheimer’s.

“Even with advanced dementia, when powers of memory and language are lost, people will respond to music,” he told the AP in 2008.

Oliver Wolf Sacks was born in 1933 in London, son of husband-and-wife physicians. Both were skilled at recounting medical stories, and Sack’s own writing impulse “seems to have come directly from them,” he said in his 2015 memoir, “On the Move.”

In childhood he was drawn to chemistry (his 2001 memoir is called, “Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood”) and biology. Around age 11, fascinated by how ferns slowly unfurl, he set up a camera to take pictures every hour or so of a fern and then assembled a flip book to compress the process into a few seconds.

“I became a doctor a little belatedly and a little reluctantly,” he told one interviewer. “In a sense, I was a naturalist first and I only came to individuals relatively late.”

After earning a medical degree at Oxford, Sacks moved to the United States in 1960 and completed a medical internship in San Francisco and a neurology residency at the University of California, Los Angeles. He moved to New York in 1965 and began decades of neurology practice. At a Bronx hospital he met the profoundly disabled patients he described in “Awakenings.”

Among his other books were “The Island of the Colorblind” (1997) about a society where congenital colorblindness was common, “Seeing Voices” (1989) about the world of deaf culture, and “Hallucinations” (2012), in which Sacks discussed his own hallucinations as well as those of some patients.

In the AP interview, Sacks was asked what he’d learned from peering into lives much different from the norm.

“People will make a life in their own terms, whether they are deaf or colorblind or autistic or whatever,” he replied. “And their world will be quite as rich and interesting and full as our world.”

Sacks reflected on his own life in 2015 when he wrote in the New York Times that he was terminally ill. “I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions,” he wrote.

In the time he had remaining, he said, he would no longer pay attention to matters like politics and global warming because they “are no longer my business; they belong to the future. I rejoice when I meet gifted young people. … I feel the future is in good hands.”

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. … Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

___

Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

Read more: Q&A: An Interview with Oliver Sacks

 

TIME space

See Highlights From The ‘Supermoon’

The "supermoon" is the first of this year’s three largest apparent full moons

The so-called “supermoon,” one of the three largest apparent full moons of this year, rose in the sky last night.

Time readers can watch highlights from a live stream of the moonrise hosted by the Slooh observatory. The broadcast was guided by the observatory’s expert Paul Cox, and explains the the difference between the “supermoon” and a “mega moon,” and how much larger tonight’s moon appears compared to the “mini moon” in March, along with other details and insights.

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