FIRST COMMERCIAL SPACE STATION TRIP PLANNED
California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) plans to send an unmanned freight flight to the International Space Station (ISS) later this month. Named Dragon, the capsule will be launched on the Falcon 9 rocket in a mission tentatively scheduled for Monday, April 30. While Dragon is slated for cargo use, the BBC reports it can also be modified to carry humans into space.
The SpaceX expedition is considered a demonstration flight, since most of its systems and programs are not guaranteed to work. According to a NASA news release, the Falcon 9 has only been launched twice, and Dragon only once — but all successfully. If everything goes as planned, the capsule will be flung into orbit close to the ISS, and a robotic arm will pull it into the space station. Before returning to Earth, the capsule will transfer 1,200 pounds of cargo.
This flight is one step towards NASA’s goal of replacing their own cargo flights — part of their now-defunct space shuttle program — with commercial flights. According to the BBC, a NASA program is currently funding the commercial development of these technologies. With the commercial development of short, near-Earth space flight, NASA’s resources are freed up for exploration farther out into the Solar System.
NEW WORLD BANK PRESIDENT ELECTED
Since the World Bank was founded in 1944, its presidents have always been American. On Monday, April 16, this trend continued with the selection of president-elect Jim Yong Kim. However, unlike former presidents, Kim is a physician with no business or financial background.
The presidents — who serve five-year, renewable terms — are elected by the bank’s board of directors. Kim won over Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Head Jose Antonio Ocampo. This race was the first ever where opponents challenged the U.S. candidacy pick. Kim begins his first term July 1.
Kim is currently the president of Dartmouth College, but he has a strong background in improving healthcare in Third World countries, especially in regards to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. His experience puts him right in line with the World Bank’s mission statement: reducing poverty.
IRAN SEEKS RELAXED SANCTIONS
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi recently suggested that the country might resolve the West’s issues with its nuclear program, if only the West would ease up on their sanctions. However, neither the European Union nor the Obama administration plans to comply without seeing evidence of Iran’s compliance.
Iran is currently working towards enriching uranium for reactor power, which requires 20 percent enrichment. While far from the 90 percent enrichment required for an atomic bomb, many of Iran’s neighbors — as well as the West — feel threatened by an Iran with nuclear capabilities at any level. Israel is especially insistent that Iran halt its nuclear enrichment, because of the continuing strained relationship between the two countries.
In 2009, as a result of these concerns, the West proposed a deal to give Iran nuclear fuel already enriched to 20 percent in trade for low-grade fuel, Reuters reports. The deal fell through at the time, but is being discussed again. This would give Iran the fuel it wants for nuclear power without necessitating the development of technology to produce weapons-grade uranium.
The next talk between the two parties is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23 in Baghdad.