NASA Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Successfully Takes First Brief Test Flight 

The U.S. space agency, NASA, Monday received images and data confirming its small helicopter, Ingenuity, successfully performed the first controlled powered flight of an aircraft on a planet other than Earth. Scientists in the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology burst into applause and cheers when data confirmed Ingenuity had successfully spun its rotors, lifted off to a height of three meters and landed safely back on the surface of Mars.   “Wow!”The @NASAJPL team is all cheers as they receive video data from the @NASAPersevere rover of the Ingenuity #MarsHelicopter flight:— NASA (@NASA) April 19, 2021A picture taken by the small craft of its own shadow on the ground below it arrived seconds later, as did video of the flight taken by NASA’s Perseverance rover probe several meters away.   
Ingenuity, weighing a mere 1.8 kilograms, was stowed away on the Perseverance when it landed on Mars in February. It was unfolded and dropped from the rover about two weeks ago to prepare its launch.  The first test of the helicopter had been scheduled for more than a week ago, but a software problem was discovered that required an update.  In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars, April 19, 2021. The helicopter is considered by NASA to be a technology demonstration, designed to test a new capability — in this case, flight in the thin Martian atmosphere — for the first time. It has specially designed rotors that spin much faster than they would have to on Earth to achieve flight. It also has innovative batteries and solar cells for recharging. 
Aside from cameras, Ingenuity carries no scientific instruments.  

Luke Bryan Wins Top ACM Award, but Female Acts Own the Night

Carrie Underwood brought the Academy of Country Music Awards to church. Maren Morris won two honors, including song of the year. Miranda Lambert performed three times and held on to her record as the most decorated winner in ACM history. And Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman to host the awards show, gave a powerful, top-notch vocal performance. Though female country stars didn’t compete for the night’s top prize – Luke Bryan was named entertainer of the year – they owned Sunday’s ACM Awards. Underwood’s performance stood out the most. She was joined by gospel legend CeCe Winans and the dynamic duo blended their voices like angels onstage. Underwood performed songs from her recent gospel hymns album “My Savior,” kicking off the set with “Amazing Grace” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Then Winans joined in, matching her strong vocal performance.Carrie Underwood, left, and CeCe Winans perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on 17, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.Lambert performed three times, first alongside rock-pop singer Elle King for a fun, energetic performance of their new duet “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).” Lambert, who founded pet shelter nonprofit MuttNation, also performed alongside album of the year winner Chris Stapleton for “Maggie’s Song,” a tribute to Stapleton’s dog who died 2019. Her final performance was with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall. The performances that aired Sunday were pre-taped at various locations in Nashville, Tennessee, including the Grand Ole Opry House, the Ryman Auditorium and The Bluebird Cafe. Winners, wearing masks, accepted awards in real time in front of small audiences made up of medical and health care workers. Bryan was set to perform Sunday but backed out of the show because he recently tested positive for the coronavirus. “I’m so sorry I could not be there,” he said from Los Angeles. “And to all my fans out there and country radio, we miss touring. We’ve missed being on the road with everybody that makes me an entertainer. My bus drivers, my band, my crew, what a challenging year. But to all the fans and everybody we’ll be back out on the road doing what we love.” Morris spoke about the taxing year without live music when she won female artist of the year. “Really just happy to be in a category with women that were not able to tour this year, but brought so much heat to the game to country music this year. You’ve inspired me so much to no end, and even in a year where no one’s gotten to play shows, I have heard some of the best music out of all of you this past year. So thank you so much for inspiring me,” she said. Collaborating onstage was the theme of the awards show, and Morris and hubby Ryan Hurd sang together, ending with a kiss. A teary-eyed Morris won song of the year for her Grammy-nominated hit “The Bones,” which topped the country music charts for months last year. Morris lost single of the year, where all of the nominated songs were performed by female artists. Carly Pearce and Lee Brice’s platinum duet, “I Hope You’re Happy Now,” won the prize.Lee Brice, left, and Carly Pearce perform at the 56th annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 18, 2021, at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.“We wrote this song about my story and I guess it resonated with everybody,” Pearce said onstage, also thanking busbee, who produced the song and died in late 2019. “This is the last song that my producer worked on.” Another tender moment came when Blanco Brown presented Old Dominion with group of the year. It marked Brown’s first public appearance after suffering significant injuries in a head-on vehicle collision last year. But the entire three-hour show didn’t go smoothly. The Grammy-winning duo Dan + Shay performed their latest hit, “Glad You Exist,” but the pre-taped moment aired out of sync. “Apparently there was an audio/video sync issue on the television broadcast,” the duo tweeted. “We’re bummed about it, but it happens, especially when performances are happening in multiple locations.” Another mishap occurred when Martina McBride announced the winner of single of the year. McBride correctly announced “I Hope You’re Happy Now” though “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett appeared on the TV screen. Pearce and Brice’s “I Hope You’re Happy Now” also won musical event of the year, while Barrett was named new female artist of the year. Rhett won male artist of the year and Jimmie Allen was named new male artist of the year. Those acts performed Sunday, as did Alan Jackson, Lady A, Blake Shelton, Ashley McBryde, Brothers Osborne and Guyton, who gave an all-star performance of “Hold On” during the show, which she hosted with Keith Urban. She recently had her first child and became the first Black solo woman nominated for a Grammy in the country category this year. Little Big Town also performed — but as a threesome. The Grammy winners sang “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” without band member Phillip Sweet since he recently tested positive for COVID-19. Sweet and Bryan weren’t the only country stars missing from the show. Morgan Wallen, whose latest album and singles have found major success on both the country and pop charts, was declared ineligible by the ACMs after he was caught on camera using a racial slur earlier this year. 

12 of Europe’s Top Football Clubs Form Breakaway League, Amid Criticism

Twelve of Europe’s top football clubs launched a breakaway Super League on Sunday, in what is certain to be a bitter battle for control of the game and its lucrative revenue.The move sets up a rival to UEFA’s established Champions League competition and was condemned by football authorities and political leaders.Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus are among the leading members of the new league, but UEFA has threatened to ban them from domestic and international competition and vowed to fight the move.French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both issued statements condemning the breakaway and supporting UEFA’s position.Along with United, English Premier League clubs Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have signed up to the plans.Barcelona and Atletico Madrid from Spain join Real. AC Milan and Inter Milan make up the trio from Italy along with Juventus.The Super League said they aimed to have 15 founding members and a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season.The clubs would share a fund of 3.5 billion euros ($4.19 billion) to spend on infrastructure projects and to deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world. Football is the only global sport in the world with more than 4 billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires,” said Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, the first chairman of the Super League.No German or French clubs have yet to be associated with the breakaway.World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, expressed its “disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures.”But there was no mention of a previous threat from FIFA to ban any players taking part in a breakaway from participating in World Cups.The announcement came just hours before UEFA is to sign off on its own plans for an expanded and restructured 36 team Champions League on Monday.UEFA issued a strong statement jointly with English, Spanish and Italian leagues and football federations, saying they were ready to use “all measures” to confront any breakaway and saying any participating clubs would be banned from domestic leagues, such as the Premier League.”The clubs concerned will be banned from playing in any other competition at domestic, European or world level, and their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams,” UEFA said.”We thank those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up to this. We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced. This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”The moves were condemned by football authorities across Europe and former players such as Manchester United’s ex-captain Gary Neville who called it “an absolute disgrace” and said the club owners were motivated by “pure greed.”France’s Macron raised his voice against the breakaway.”The president of the republic welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate to a European football Super League project that threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit,” the French presidency said in a statement sent to Reuters.”The French state will support all the steps taken by the LFP, FFF, UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, whether national or European,” the Elysee added, citing the national, European and globally soccer governing bodies.Britain’s Johnson also opposed the move.”Plans for a European Super League would be very damaging for football and we support football authorities in taking action,” he tweeted.”They would strike at the heart of the domestic game and will concern fans across the country. The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps.”There have been reports of a breakaway for several years and they returned in January with several media reported a document had been produced outlining the plans.In October, then Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club had accepted a proposal to join a breakaway league.Those reports led FIFA and UEFA to warn that they would ban any players involved in a breakaway from playing in the World Cup or European Championship.

US, China Pledge Urgent Climate Control Measures

China and the United States, the world’s two biggest carbon polluters, have reached a new agreement to take urgent measures to curb climate change.The two countries said in a joint statement late Saturday that they “are committed to cooperating with each other” and other nations to deal with the climate crisis “with the seriousness and urgency that it demands.”U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry and Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua reached the agreement during three days of talks last week in Shanghai, just days ahead of the virtual summit on the issue being hosted this week by U.S. President Joe Biden.Kerry told reporters in Seoul on Sunday that he considers the language of the document to be “strong” and that China and U.S. agreed on “critical elements on where we have to go.”But Kerry, a former U.S. secretary of state and the losing Democratic candidate for president in 2004, added, “I learned in diplomacy that you don’t put your back on the words, you put on actions. We all need to see what happens.”China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter, and the second worst, the United States, emit nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere. Their cooperation would be crucial in combating man-made pollution.The U.S., the world’s biggest economy, and No. 2 China, are trade rivals across the globe and have contentious relations on human rights and China’s territorial claims surrounding Taiwan, which the U.S. supplies with military weapons even as it continues its “one China” policy, recognizing Beijing as the sole Chinese government.Kerry noted that China is the world’s biggest coal user and discussed ways to transition to other forms of energy.“I have never shied away from expressing our views shared by many, many people that it is imperative to reduce coal, everywhere,” he said.Su Wei, a member of the Chinese negotiation team, told state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday that the two countries reached a consensus for future cooperation on climate issues.  Biden has invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the climate summit on Thursday and Friday. Biden’s Earth Day Summit Aims for Reset on Climate ChangeStakes are rising, but delivering will not be easyThe U.S. and other countries are expected to announce further targets to cut carbon emissions ahead of or at the summit, and pledge financial help for climate control by poorer countries. It appears unlikely that China will set new environmental control targets.Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told the Associated Press on Friday, “For a big country with 1.4 billion people, these goals are not easily delivered. Some countries are asking China to achieve the goals earlier. I am afraid this is not very realistic.”But Xi on Friday said China remained committed to climate goals he had announced last year, while adding that the climate issue should not be “a bargaining chip for geopolitics” or “an excuse for trade barriers,” an apparent reference to ongoing disputes with the United States.  “This is undoubtedly a tough battle,” Xi said in a conference call with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, according to an account of the meeting released by the Chinese foreign ministry.“China is sure to act on its words, and its actions are sure to produce results,” Xi said. “We hope that the advanced economies will set an example in momentum for emissions reductions, and also lead the way in fulfilling commitments for climate funding.”It is not clear whether Xi will join Biden’s summit, but Kerry Sunday said, “We very much hope that (Xi) will take part.”Within hours of taking office, Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris climate accord, reversing the withdrawal by his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump.The U.S.-China statement from the Shanghai meetings said the two countries would enhance “their respective actions and cooperating in multilateral processes, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.”It said both countries intend to develop individual pollution control strategies before the planned U.N. climate conference in Glasgow in late 2021 and take “appropriate actions to maximize international investment and finance in support of” the energy transition in developing countries.Both China and the U.S. have set goals to become carbon-neutral in the coming decades.Xi said last year that China would be carbon-neutral by 2060 and is aiming to reach a peak in its emissions by 2030.Biden says the U.S. will switch to an emissions-free power sector by 2035 and have an emissions-free economy by 2050. 

Mars Helicopter Flight Test Promises Wright Brothers Moment for NASA

NASA hopes to score a 21st-century Wright Brothers moment on Monday as it attempts to send a miniature helicopter buzzing over the surface of Mars in what would be the first powered, controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet.Landmark achievements in science and technology can seem humble by conventional measurements. The Wright Brothers’ first controlled flight in the world of a motor-driven airplane, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903 covered just 120 feet (37 meters) in 12 seconds.A modest debut is likewise in store for NASA’s twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter Ingenuity.If all goes to plan, the 4-pound (1.8-kg) whirligig will slowly ascend straight up to an altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) above the Martian surface, hover in place for 30 seconds, then rotate before descending to a gentle landing on all four legs.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 0 MB480p | 0 MB540p | 0 MB720p | 0 MBOriginal | 0 MB Embed” />CopyNASA’s Ingenuity helicopter begins a Slow spin test of its blades, April 8, 2021, the 48th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. (Credit: NASA)While the mere metrics may seem less than ambitious, the “air field” for the interplanetary test flight is 173 million miles from Earth, on the floor of a vast Martian basin called Jezero Crater. Success hinges on Ingenuity executing the pre-programmed flight instructions using an autonomous pilot and navigation system.“The moment our team has been waiting for is almost here,” Ingenuity project manager MiMi Aung said at a recent briefing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles.NASA itself is likening the experiment to the Wright Brothers’ feat 117 years ago, paying tribute to that modest but monumental first flight by having affixed a tiny swath of wing fabric from the original Wright flyer under Ingenuity’s solar panel.The robot rotorcraft was carried to the red planet strapped to the belly of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that touched down on Feb. 18 in Jezero Crater after a nearly seven-month journey through space. Although Ingenuity’s flight test is set to begin around 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Monday (0730 GMT Monday), data confirming its outcome is not expected to reach JPL’s mission control until around 6:15 a.m. ET on Monday.NASA also expects to receive images and video of the flight that mission engineers hope to capture using cameras mounted on the helicopter and the Perseverance rover, which will be parked 250 feet (76 meters) away from Ingenuity’s flight zone.If the test succeeds, Ingenuity will undertake several additional, lengthier flights in the weeks ahead, though it will need to rest four to five days in between each to recharge its batteries. Prospects for future flights rest largely on a safe, four-point touchdown the first time.“It doesn’t have a self-righting system, so if we do have a bad landing, that will be the end of the mission,” Aung said. An unexpectedly strong wind gust is one potential peril that could spoil the flight.NASA hopes Ingenuity — a technology demonstration separate from Perseverance’s primary mission to search for traces of ancient microorganisms — paves the way for aerial surveillance of Mars and other destinations in the solar system, such as Venus or Saturn’s moon Titan.While Mars possesses much less gravity to overcome than Earth, its atmosphere is just 1% as dense, presenting a special challenge for aerodynamic lift. To compensate, engineers equipped Ingenuity with rotor blades that are larger (4-feet-long) and spin more rapidly than would be needed on Earth for an aircraft of its size.The design was successfully tested in vacuum chambers built at JPL to simulate Martian conditions, but it remains to be seen whether Ingenuity will fly on the red planet.The small, lightweight aircraft already passed an early crucial test by demonstrating it could withstand punishing cold, with nighttime temperatures dropping as low as 130 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius), using solar power alone to recharge and keep internal components properly heated.The planned flight was delayed for a week by a technical glitch during a test spin of the aircraft’s rotors on April 9. NASA said that issue has since been resolved.