Elon Musk’s SpaceX receives $112 million NASA contract for Global Surface Water Survey launch in 2021.

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NASA has sealed a contract with SpaceX for the Falcon 9 launch in 2021 of the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite. (Concept Image courtesy of Thales Alenia/Space News)

NASA has selected SpaceX for the launch of its first science satellite: the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) spacecraft. Scheduled to take place in April 2021, the launch will be from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. NASA said in a statement released Wednesday, “Designed to make the first-ever global survey of Earth’s surface water, in addition to high-resolution ocean measurements, the SWOT mission will collect detailed measurements of how water bodies on Earth change over time.” The satellite will survey at least 90% of the globe, studying Earth’s lakes, rivers, reservoirs and oceans at least twice every 21 days, and aid in freshwater management around the world. The launch of the satellite will be jointly developed and managed by NASA and the French space agency, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The project is expected to cost roughly $112 million USD amid massive slashes on budget for earth science experiments.

Source and more information can be found here.

Cuban Communist Revolutionary leader and former President Fidel Castro passes away, aged 90.

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Left: Fidel Castro during the Cuban revolution. Right: Fidel Castro at his last speech in April. (Images courtesy of BBC/Britannica)

Fidel Castro, the Cuban revolutionary leader, passed away, aged 90. Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and current president of Cuba, announced his death on state television on Saturday. The leader of the 1959 revolution stepped down from office in 2006 due to ill health. In his final years, Fidel Castro lived in relative seclusion but occasionally wrote opinion pieces or appeared with visiting dignitaries. His supporters and citizens describe him as the man who fought off foreign powers and gave Cuba back to it’s people.

More Information on his life can be found here.

 

32 Bodies and 9 Human heads found in Mexican cartel’s mass graves.

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Experts examining the site where at least eight lifeless and dismembered people were found, at the San Miguelito bridge on 21 November. (Image courtesy of The Telegraph UK)

At least 28 bodies have been recovered from a mass grave in Veracruz, an eastern Mexican state plagued by attacks on migrants and drug cartel violence, officials said. The state government said officials found the grave on a ranch outside the town of Tres Valles. It said investigators were still excavating the grave, but did not release any more details. Those with missing relatives or friends are travelling to Tres Valles to see if their loved ones are among the victims. The Gulf Coast state of Veracruz has suffered years of fighting between the Zetas drug cartel and its rivals. It is also crossed by tens of thousands of Central American migrants heading toward the US each year. Officials have discovered a series of mass graves around Mexico in recent years, several filled with the bodies of migrants slain by the gangs that control profitable migrant-smuggling routes.

Source and more information can be found here.

Five men, associated with the Islamic State group, are arrested in France.

Police patrol the downtown area of Lille.

Police patrol the downtown area of Lille. (Image courtesy of CTV News).

Five men, who were arrested in Strasbourg and Marseilles, were planning terror attacks in France, on behalf of the Islamic State group. Francois Molins, the prosecutor, stated that they had been instructed to gather weapons through encryption applications. Seized weapons included handguns, rifles and cartridge clips. The investigators discovered a USB key, in which information regarding the money and weapons was stored. Aged 35 to 46, the men were detained for interrogation by the nation’s intelligence agencies. Molins requested them to be charged for partaking in terrorist associates, and urged for their imprisonment. The nation continues to be in a state of emergency.

Source and more information can be found here.

Tropical storm Otto destroys parts of Costa Rica.

A car crashed into a tree, killing a young boy (Image courtesy of BBC News).

A car crashed into a tree, killing a young boy during storm Otto. (Image courtesy of BBC News).

Otto, the southernmost tropical storm hitting Central America, killed over nine people in Costa Rica this past week. Luis Guillermo Solis, the nation’s president announced that most victims were located in Upala and the Bagaces area. Although it was a category 2 storm as it approached the Caribbean coast, it faded to a tropical storm as it neared the Pacific ocean. The US National Hurricane Center reported that the storm had wind speeds up to 95 km/h. As a result, a state of emergency was declared and schools were closed the next day. Over 4 000 people were evacuated, with the president adding that the damage to coffee and agricultural sectors could be immense.

Source and more information can be found here.