About eight and a half years ago, I stayed up until well after midnight to watch Curiosity make Marsfall. At the time, all eyes were glued to what is euphemistically referred to as the “seven minutes of terror.” It took Curiosity and will take Perseverance approximately that long to descend from the top of the Martian atmosphere to the ground below. It takes 11 minutes for a signal from Mars to reach Earth, which means the entire descent will be over before we receive the first signals it’s begun.
“The Perseverance team is putting the final touches on the complex choreography required to land in Jezero Crater,” said Jennifer Trosper, deputy project manager for the mission at JPL. “No Mars landing is guaranteed, but we have been preparing a decade to put this rover’s wheels down on the surface of Mars and get to work.”
If you want to watch the Mars landing live, starting at 3:48 PM EST, you can do so on the NASA YouTube channel linked below. We’ll continue discussing some of what Perseverance faces after the jump:
At 3:38 PM EST, the cruise stage and entry capsule will separate. Atmospheric entry begins at 3:48 PM. The fact that Mars has an atmosphere in the first place allows NASA to use some of the same tactics it uses to return spacecraft to Earth, but Mars’ atmospheric pressure at sea level is less than one percent of Earth’s. Small, light objects can parachute down from orbit the same way they would here, but larger, heavier craft require special tools.
Note: NASA actually has a term for “Purposefully hurling your spacecraft at the ground in an attempt to stop it.” While most of us would refer to this as “crashing,” it turns out that’s only the appropriate term when you hit the planet accidentally. When you throw yourself directly at the planet intentionally, it’s called “lithobraking.” Perseverance is much too heavy for lithobraking, so NASA will deploy a tool it last used for Curiosity: A rocket-powered hover crane.
NASA technically calls this its “Sky Crane,” but in a survey of myself, “Rocket-powered hover crane” polled higher. It’s also a more accurate description of what the Sky Crane actually does.
It’s got rockets. It hovers. It’s a crane. (It’s a ship. It goes through the gate). Random deep cut sci-fi references provided free of charge.
This image from Curiosity’s landing shows exactly the same procedure NASA plans for Perseverance. After it enters the upper atmosphere, Perseverance will brake itself via parachute and retro-rockets. Retro-rockets, however, kick up a tremendous amount of dust if used too close to the surface, potentially damaging the rover. The surface descent stage will lower Perseverance to the surface of the Red Planet from an altitude of ~25 feet. If all goes well, the rover will signal its own survival at approximately 3:55 PM EST.
Perseverance carries its own unique payload of scientific instruments compared with Curiosity and will conduct its own investigations of Jezero Crater as it uncovers past and present conditions on Mars. It also carries the helicopter Ingenuity, intended to be the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet.
U.S. President Donald Trump is on the verge of being impeached for a second time in an unprecedented House vote Wednesday, a week after he encouraged a mob of loyalists to “fight like hell” against election results just before they stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly siege.
Trump, who would become the only U.S. president twice impeached, faces a single charge of “incitement of insurrection.”
The stunning collapse of Trump’s final days in office, against alarming warnings of more violence ahead by his followers, leaves the nation at an uneasy and unfamiliar juncture before Democrat Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
The House chaplain opened the session early Wednesday with a prayer for “seizing the scales of justice from the jaws of mob-ocracy.”
Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern began to make the party’s case that the only remedy was Trump’s removal.
“Domestic terrorists broke into the United States Capitol and it’s a miracle more people didn’t die,” McGovern said of the Jan. 6 violence.
“These were not protesters. These were not patriots. These were traitors. These were domestic terrorists, and they were acting under the orders of Donald Trump,” he added.
Republicans push for censure, commission
Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole urged Democrats to consider other measures, and he and colleagues from his party who spoke early on pushed for a formal censure that Cole claimed would have “significant bipartisan support,” as well as a national commission to understand the events that lead to the deadly Capitol siege.
“There’s still time to choose a different path, one that leads to reconciliation,” said Cole.
Cole objected to what he called a rushed process, with no scheduled witnesses testifying. He said that legal experts in the past week have arrived at “dramatically different conclusions” as to whether Trump’s words and actions justified an impeachment charge.
Five deaths have been connected to the Jan. 6 riots, two in violent fashion. A San Diego woman who travelled to Washington to protest the certification of Biden’s win, Ashli Babbitt, was shot to death, while Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was assaulted in the violence and later died in hospital.
Three other people were said to have suffered medical episodes leading to death, while another Capitol Police officer on duty that day died by suicide on Jan. 9.
Lawmakers had to scramble for safety and hide as rioters took control of the Capitol and delayed by hours the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.
The outgoing president offered no condolences for those dead or injured, only saying, “I want no violence.”
WATCH l Trump pans House’s efforts:
Staging what will surely be one of his ‘last stands’ before a section of border wall in Texas, U.S. President Donald Trump praised his accomplishments while deriding Democratic efforts to impeach him for the second time even as members of Congress prepare for an impeachment vote. 3:02
The four-page impeachment resolution relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the falsehoods he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a White House rally on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, in building its case for high crimes and misdemeanours as demanded in the Constitution.
Trump took no responsibility for the riot, suggesting it was the drive to oust him, rather than his actions around the bloody riot, that was dividing the country.
“To continue on this path, I think it’s causing tremendous danger to our country, and it’s causing tremendous anger,” Trump said Tuesday, his first remarks to reporters since last week’s violence.
Limited House Republican support so far
At least five Republican lawmakers, including third-ranking House leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming, were unswayed by the president’s logic. The Republicans announced they would vote to impeach Trump, cleaving the Republican leadership and the party itself.
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack,” said Cheney in a statement. “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is said to be angry at Trump, and it’s unclear how an impeachment trial would play out. In the House, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California, a top Trump ally, scrambled to suggest a lighter censure instead, but that option crumbled.
So far, Republican Reps. John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; Fred Upton of Michigan; and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state announced they, too, would join Cheney to vote to impeach.
The House tried first to push Vice-President Mike Pence and the Cabinet to intervene, passing a resolution Tuesday night calling on them to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
The resolution urged Pence to “declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
Pence made it clear he would not do so, saying in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that it was “time to unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden.”
With new security, lawmakers were required to pass through metal detectors to enter the House chamber, not far from where Capitol police, guns drawn, had barricaded the door against the rioters. Some Republican lawmakers complained about the screening.
The impeachment bill draws from Trump’s own false statements about his election defeat to Biden. Judges across the country, including some nominated by Trump, have repeatedly dismissed cases challenging the election results, and former Attorney General William Barr, a Trump ally, has said there was no sign of widespread fraud.
Trump was impeached just over a year ago for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for trying to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to help damage Biden politically.
International Trade Minister Mary Ng is expected to introduce legislation this afternoon to implement Canada’s new transitional trade agreement with the United Kingdom, but it’s unlikely to become law before the government’s Dec. 31 deadline.
Global Affairs Canada is preparing to release the legal text of the agreement to coincide with the bill’s introduction, followed by briefing sessions for business groups and other stakeholders to offer a more complete picture of what’s in store than was presented when the two countries announced they’d reached a deal on Nov. 21.
As of Jan. 1, the current rules governing trade between Canada and the U.K. will expire, as Brexit takes hold and the British government assumes full responsibility for its trade policy independent from the European Union.
The trade minister has promised to work with her U.K. counterpart to mitigate any short-term effects of not having the new measures in place.
Until now, trade with the U.K. was liberalized under the terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). While not yet fully ratified by all of the EU’s member states, the bulk of CETA’s measures took effect in 2017.
Had no deal been reached to cover future two-way trade with Canada, new tariffs and other restrictions could have hit Canadian and British businesses this winter.
Instead, the new deal temporarily “rolls over,” or replicates, most of CETA’s terms for the immediate future, allowing both countries more time to consider what kind of arrangements they want to have in place permanently.
However, the new implementation bill is unlikely to pass before the end of the year. The House of Commons is scheduled to rise for its holiday break on Friday.
‘Working to ensure no disruptions’
Ng has downplayed the risk of not having the transitional agreement fully ratified and ready to implement in the new year.
However, the Canadian government has not released any details of interim measures it’s working on with the British government to avoid new trade barriers disrupting the two-way trade in goods, services and investment with its fifth-largest trading partner. For example, the two sides could reach an understanding not to collect tariffs otherwise payable on each other’s products until the implementation legislation is passed.
“I want businesses to know that is my absolute top priority, making sure they get that predictability heading to the end of the year,” Ng said after the cabinet met on Monday, adding that the transitional deal “maintains the high standards we have in CETA.”
“We’re absolutely working to ensure there is no impact or disruptions for our businesses,” she said.
WATCH | What we know about the interim Canada-U.K. trade deal:
The two countries have agreed to ‘roll over’ the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). 5:35
Both countries have committed to start negotiating a more permanent, comprehensive trade deal in the new year.
There is no sunset date for the terms of the transitional deal, but parliamentarians on the Commons trade committee have been told that the text of the deal says the two parties intend to conclude their bilateral negotiation by 2024.
According to federal government policy, trade treaties are supposed to be tabled in Parliament 21 sitting days before implementation legislation — a bill changing laws and regulations to comply with the new agreement — is introduced for debate.
That policy does not seem set to be applied for this Canada–U.K. transitional deal.
Ratification of trade agreements is the responsibility of the federal cabinet. It’s unclear if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet has officially signed off on the terms of this transition deal, to the extent that they may deviate from the CETA arrangements already in place.
When implementation legislation for the revised North American trade agreement was rushed through Parliament last spring, the Trudeau government agreed to Opposition demands that it engage in a more comprehensive consultation process for future trade deals. That process also has yet to be followed.
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It’s not just because of The Crown.
Diana, Princess of Wales, is back in the headlines, on magazine covers, is the subject of podcasts and has cropped up pretty much anywhere else someone thinks her name might rustle up some more attention.
But beyond that, there have been a spate of recent headlines delving into the high-profile BBC interview Diana gave in 1995, and there is anticipation of other shows, including a movie and a streaming musical, that will focus on her.
More than 23 years after her death, the mythic tone around her image seems to resonate as much as it ever has.
“It’s the same question people ask about James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or those sorts of icons. They’re embedded into our psyche,” British public relations expert Mark Borkowski said over the phone from the U.K.
“They died … before the ravages of time could take over … so you’ve got the telegenic quality of their image that hasn’t changed.”
With Diana, the image began as Shy Di, and indeed, the first glimpse of her in the latest season of The Crown is as a beguiling forest nymph dressed for a part in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It’s in marked contrast to the high-wattage celebrity royal she became, and whose own struggles and warm way with those she met in person seemed to strike an emotional connection with many watching the House of Windsor from afar.
She was, of course, a complex character who also had some less appealing traits, and was well-versed in using the media for her own ends. Along the way there was the high-profile collapse of her marriage to Prince Charles, which is one storyline taking prominence in The Crown‘s interpretation of her arrival in the Royal Family.
Now, said Borkowski, with the “full marketing weight” of Netflix behind The Crown, it’s had “extraordinary global publicity” and any website looking for clickbait knows “that if they can run a Diana narrative, they’re going to get eyeballs.”
At the same time, there’s been renewed attention on the controversial interview she gave to BBC journalist Martin Bashir that was broadcast in November 1995, which is frequently cited for her remark about Prince Charles that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
WATCH | Why the latest season of The Crown has sparked controversy:
Season 4 of The Crown has proven popular with viewers, but because it is based on relatively recent history it’s facing more criticism for distorting real-life events. 2:16
Diana’s brother, Charles, has alleged that the BBC used forged bank documents to get his sister to agree to speak with Bashir.
The attention on the interview, Borkowski said, is the result of a “perfect storm” of events, including the 25th anniversary of the broadcast, which became the hook for the story. He said there is also some “BBC-bashing” from other media organizations seeing an opportunity for “payback” after being vilified by the network for the phone-hacking scandal several years ago.
The recent interest in Diana comes at the same time Borkowski sees other events playing out in the Royal Family that have echoes of her experience.
“She was the original disruptor for the Royal Family, her legacy [is] her kids [William and Harry], and Harry continues to disrupt the … narrative,” Borkowski said.
Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stepped back from the upper echelons of the Royal Family earlier this year and are living with their son, Archie, in California.
Harry’s “relationship with Meghan … has all the parallels of Diana, you know, in many ways, certainly his touchy-feely, empathetic [way],” and being “more film star than establishment figure,” said Borkowski.
The actor playing Diana sees that empathy in the real Diana, too. In a recent interview with The Royal Fascinator, Emma Corrin said Diana “just didn’t fit into the Royal Family.”
“She was far too empathetic. She was far too affectionate and feeling,” Corrin said. “The Royal Family, especially how we depict them, are so broken and so … stunted in their emotional growth — and I’m not saying the actual family is … but I feel that she wasn’t.”
Her opinion piece last month in the New York Times has been praised for offering support to others who have had miscarriages — and for helping to shatter the stigma that so often surrounds this deeply personal trauma, which is experienced in as many as one in four pregnancies.
Meghan’s revelation is a stark contrast to the way in which senior members of the Royal Family have approached matters of their own health.
“Announcements about royal babies and serious health issues relating to senior members of the family normally come from Buckingham Palace, but I don’t think they would ever announce an early miscarriage,” said royal author and biographer Penny Junor via email.
“The public would only be told if the palace had already announced the pregnancy and the child had been lost.”
That happened in the case of Sophie, Countess of Wessex, who is married to Prince Edward, the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Sophie spoke of being “very sad” after losing a baby in 2001 following an ectopic pregnancy.
It also happened in the case of Zara Tindall, Princess Anne’s daughter, “who then went on to tell a newspaper that she had suffered two miscarriages but hadn’t wanted to talk about it because it had been too raw,” Junor said.
“So what Meghan has done is unprecedented, but not out of character.”
Borkowski said the piece played to Meghan’s strengths of being “hugely open, talking empathetically about something millions of women across the world will understand.”
Meghan might also have been influenced by royal and celebrity examples of speaking openly about pregnancy and miscarriage, said Carolyn Harris, a Toronto-based royal author and historian.
Meghan’s piece in the New York Times comes a few weeks after model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen shared her grief via social media following the loss of a son during pregnancy in September.
“Meghan’s article where she calls upon people to commit to asking one another if they are OK may also reflect the influence of advocacy among the younger members of the Royal Family for greater emotional support for those experiencing difficult personal circumstances,” Harris said.
Because Meghan and Harry are no longer working members of the Royal Family, they can “more or less do as they please,” Junor said.
“And writing in this way is Meghan all over. She feels strongly that it’s important to talk about feelings — something pretty alien to the older generation of the Royal Family — and I suspect would have spoken out about a miscarriage whether or not she had married Harry.”
Junor said Meghan “is brave to be talking about it so soon after the event, and I am sure it will be a great comfort to women who are or have been in a similar situation.”
Still, she said, “it is puzzling that she should go public about something so very personal and painful when she has repeatedly asked for privacy.”
A different royal Christmas
Christmas is cancelled for the Royal Family this year — or at least the large family gathering that has brought them together on Dec. 25 at the Queen’s Sandringham estate northeast of London since the late 1980s.
Buckingham Palace said this week that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip would mark the day quietly at Windsor Castle. Elizabeth and Philip have been living at Windsor throughout the pandemic, except for a summer break at Balmoral in Scotland, and some time Philip has spent at a residence on the Sandringham estate.
The announcement came after considerable media speculation about just what family bubble might share Christmas with the Queen, given how festive gatherings are supposed to be pared down in size this year. Would it be Charles and Camilla? What about William and Kate and their three children?
Current British government guidelines allow for the formation of “Christmas bubbles” of people from no more than three households.
I truly believe, big change starts small. <a href=”https://t.co/WWf1IuxrFj”>pic.twitter.com/WWf1IuxrFj</a>
“It is a brave thing to believe in an outcome — in a world even — that might not be fully felt for a generation or more.”
— Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, who has released results from a survey by the Royal Foundation that focused on child development and the early years, for youngsters under five.
Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles in Season 4 of The Crown, says he advocated for the heir to the throne on set. “He’s always told: ‘Shut up,'” O’Connor told journalist Tom Lamont. [The Guardian]
Princess Eugenie and her husband, Jack Brooksbank, who are expecting their first child in the new year, have moved into Frogmore Cottage, a residence near Windsor Castle that had been restored for Meghan and Harry before they decamped to North America. [ITV]
Negotiations over another coronavirus relief bill continue, the No. 2 Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives said as a federal jobless benefit was set to expire on Friday with no sign of a deal between the White House and Democrats.
“We’re going to be negotiating every minute that is possible,” despite the Republican-led Senate’s adjournment for the weekend, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told MSNBC in an interview.
Lawmakers and the White House are at odds over efforts to further shore up the economy and manage the novel coronavirus pandemic that has left tens of millions of Americans out of work and killed at least 152,384 people in the United States.
The CARES Act in March included a provision for an additional $ 600 US in jobless benefits for those eligible, with an expiry date of July 31.
The White House on Friday sought to put the onus on Democrats in Congress for a failure to renew the benefits, saying they had rejected four offers put forward by the Trump administration without countering.
“What we’re seeing is politics as usual from Democrats on Capitol Hill,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters. “The Democrats believe that they have all the cards on their side and they’re willing to play those cards at the expense of those that are hurting.”
But several Democrats took to social media urging Republicans to act, as well as criticizing leading Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, who late Thursday sent the chamber home for the weekend without reaching a deal to extend the extra cash.
“Senate Republicans are letting the $ 600 federal unemployment insurance benefit expire today,” tweeted New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “This is the only thing keeping many American workers afloat during this crisis. We need to rectify this and pass an extension, now.”
Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are letting the $ 600 federal unemployment insurance benefit expire today. <br><br>This is the only thing keeping many American workers afloat during this crisis. <br><br>We need to rectify this and pass an extension, now.
Virginia congressman Don Beyer posted tweets from constituents who have contacted him to communicate how vital the relief has been.
“Without that money, I cannot cover the mortgage and keep food on the table,” one Virgnia woman said.
In a meeting on Thursday night between top White House officials and congressional Democratic leaders, negotiations focused on an extension of the expiring unemployment benefit.
According to a person familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the White House proposed reducing the $ 600 weekly payment to $ 400 for the next four months. While that was a move toward the demands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, the source said they rejected it as insufficient.
Republicans seek to reduce top-up amount
On Thursday, Senate Republicans tried, without success, to pass a bill reducing the jobless benefit to $ 200 per week.
For weeks, McConnell has said that any deal with Democrats would require a shield for companies and schools from liability lawsuits as they reopen during the pandemic.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said the White House hinted that it could embrace a deal without that provision.
Besides the $ 600 “enhanced” payment, Democrats are seeking a wide-ranging economic stimulus bill that would include about $ 1 trillion in aid to state and local governments experiencing plunging revenues during the economic downturn.
In mid-May, the Democratic-controlled House passed a $ 3 trillion bill that the Republican Senate has ignored.
“We’re here, we’re on the phone. We will be negotiating with those who want to get to a reasonable place,” Hoyer told MSNBC.
Also set to end, unless lawmakers intervene, is a federal moratorium on evictions that has shielded millions of renters, although some Americans remain protected by similar state and local actions.
In a normal year, the federal government tables a budget in the spring and then an economic statement or fiscal update in the fall.
But this is not a normal year. The budget that was supposed to be presented in March was pushed back and then completely swamped by the first wave of COVID-19, the economic shutdown that resulted and the federal aid that soon followed.
Some opposition MPs and economists subsequently pushed for a fiscal update. The Liberal government contended, with some justification, that making long-term projections in a time of such incredible uncertainty would be — to use Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s words — “an exercise in invention and imagination.”
What’s being released this afternoon is being described instead as a fiscal “snapshot” — a status report on where things stand after four months of the pandemic.
It should provide some insight into what the last four months have meant for the federal government’s balance sheet and Canada’s economy. Ideally, it also would offer some sense of what the future might look like — at least the near future.
The deficit is going to be alarming
Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s presentation is not expected to offer new policy announcements, but it could further quantify both the economic disruption and the government’s response to that shock. That undoubtedly will include the projection of a large deficit for the current fiscal year.
The exact number might be new, but it’s already clear that the deficit likely will be in excess of $ 250 billion.
Last fall, months before the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China, Morneau projected that the deficit for 2020-2021 would be $ 28.1 billion. Since then, a lot has changed.
This spring’s pause in economic activity and employment meant a drop in the revenue the government receives from taxes. Meanwhile, more money has been going out in the form of government support measures to help individuals and businesses get through the shutdown.
Since April, the Liberal government has provided bi-weekly updates on its relief spending to the finance committee of the House of Commons. The most recent tally, provided on June 25, showed $ 174.1 billion in direct support for individuals and businesses and $ 19.4 billion in federal funding for health and safety measures.
The office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer also has provided a regularly updated “scenario analysis” that projects the broad economic and fiscal implications. In its most recent analysis, released on June 18, the PBO projected a deficit of $ 256 billion for 2020-2021.
As a percentage of Canada’s GDP, a deficit of that size would be the largest for the federal government since the Second World War.
There has been little to no debate about the need to spend the money on emergency relief; if anything, the Liberals have been under political pressure to spend more and faster. Recent analysis by Scotiabank found that failing to provide that relief would have led to much worse economic results and an only slightly lower level of federal debt.
But after any deficit-related sticker shock wears off, the next question will be how well the government is positioned to manage that accumulated debt.
Governments are not like households — a government can effectively carry debt in perpetuity — so their primary goal is to manage that debt rather than pay it off outright. Most of the fiscal analysis of government debt focuses on its size in comparison to the national economy.
The PBO estimated that the federal debt-to-GDP ratio will reach 44.4 per cent, while Scotiabank projects that the ratio will be closer to 48 per cent.
It’s bad — but it’s been worse
Either number would be a significant increase over what Morneau projected last fall, when the Liberals forecast a debt-to-GDP ratio of 31 per cent in 2020-2021, declining annually thereafter.
But something around 45 per cent also would still be well below Canada’s historic peak of 66.6 per cent back in 1995-1996. That debt ratio, coupled with high interest rates and nervous international markets, led Jean Chrétien’s government to make drastic cuts to balance the budget and get the national debt under better control.
If the federal debt-to-GDP does increase to 45 per cent, it will be back to where it was in 2001.
But the fiscal story of COVID-19 will be only partly about what has happened over the last four months. It also will be about what happens over the next few months — and then several years after that.
Where do we go from here?
It’s not clear how far into the future the Liberal government is willing to look, but there are a number of questions it could start trying to answer.
What are the potential pathways for economic recovery? How much longer might the temporary relief measures be needed? How much more new spending might be necessary? And how does Morneau see the recovery and the debt being managed?
“There will be significant unemployment across Canada for the duration of the recovery,” Rebekah Young, director of fiscal and provincial economics at Scotiabank, told CBC’s Power & Politics on Tuesday.
“The [employment insurance system] was not and is not sufficient to cover all Canadians that will be out of work, but the [Canadian Emergency Response Benefit] clearly is too expensive for that duration. So I think … we would like to see some signals that they have a plan for the next 18 months in terms of addressing his persistent shock that the economy will be facing.”
In an email, Young said she thinks Wednesday’s “snapshot” could set up a fall budget that lays out longer-term plans.
“In addition to an updated statement of transactions, the country needs a fiscal plan from the federal government,” said Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer who is now president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa. “We need a fiscal plan to understand what role federal fiscal policy will play to support the recovery.”
A proper plan, Page said, would boost consumer confidence and investor confidence and mitigate the possibility of further downgrades to Canada’s credit rating.
Finance officials might be quick to note the unprecedented amount of uncertainty at the moment, but Page said a plan could be debated and adjusted.
“A ‘snapshot’ that is only backward-looking would be a major missed opportunity,” he said.
In the midst of managing a national response to a pandemic, it’s important to not get ahead of yourself — to focus on the crisis in the here and now.
But sooner or later, the federal government will need to confront the future.
NASA and SpaceX are just hours away from making history. After years of development and testing, SpaceX is set to become the first private spaceflight firm to carry American astronauts into space as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This is also the first crewed launch from US soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, a long-overdue step that will free NASA from reliance on Russian Soyuz launches. With the big moment approaching, we chatted with former astronauts Cady Coleman and Nicole Stott, both veterans of multiple Space Shuttle launches, to see how they felt about the return of crewed spaceflight to the US. Spoiler: pretty excited.
How We Got Here
SpaceX has moved quickly to develop the technology that makes its launch platform suitable for NASA service — it’s providing both the rocket (Falcon 9) and crew module (Dragon) for these launches. Former astronaut and retired USAF Colonel Cady Coleman says that has a lot to do with the way a private aerospace firm operates. “It’s a different world now. If you think back to the early space program, the government really was the designer. Working together [with private firms] is more necessary than it ever was because of the ability that commercial companies have. They can take bigger risks with [developing] hardware.”
SpaceX didn’t get here on its own, though. “The SpaceX team has had access all along to the lessons learned from NASA’s other programs,” says former astronaut Nicole Stott. “That’s a real advantage when going into a new project. When we have public-private partnerships, we can avoid re-learning the same lessons.”
Today’s launch is primarily about the Crew Dragon capsule, sometimes called Dragon 2. This is the same type of spacecraft that SpaceX used in last year’s uncrewed Demo Mission-1. Unfortunately, that craft exploded when it was undergoing testing back on Earth. SpaceX and NASA had to push back the launch timeline, but all systems are go just a year later. That might seem fast to an outside observer, but both Coleman and Stott expressed great confidence in the way NASA and its commercial crew partners have worked together. “We’ve always had a ‘here’s how we can’ not ‘here’s why we can’t’ approach,” says Coleman.
Today’s launch, known as Demo Mission 2 (DM-2), will take place on the historic launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX is using a Falcon 9 Block 5 design, the same rocket the company uses for cargo missions on a regular basis. This core in particular (B1058) has never been launched before, but SpaceX will try to land it on its drone ship after it detaches from the Dragon.
If all goes to plan, the Falcon 9 carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will leave the launchpad at 4:33 PM EDT. This launch will differ from past crewed missions in several ways, and it took time for SpaceX and NASA to come together on the details. “In getting ready for launch, there are some things that are just a given,” says Coleman. “NASA has done this and that forever, but SpaceX says ‘we’re not doing it that way.’ And some of that is maybe not well-thought-out, and some of that is actually a really good new idea.”
Unlike previous NASA crewed launches, SpaceX will fuel the Falcon 9after Hurley and Behnken board the spacecraft. The launch and approach to the ISS will be automated like the Demo-1 mission last year, but Hurley and Behnken will still have the option to manually control the capsule. According to Nicole Stott, that wasn’t SpaceX’s intention at the outset.
“For a long time, SpaceX as a company thought they wouldn’t need those manual backups anymore — you know, we can do everything redundantly with the electronics in the spacecraft,” she said. “Maybe at some point we’ll get there, but I think when there are humans in the spacecraft, we’re looking for that manual backup.”
Robert Behnken (left) and Douglas Hurley (right)
While the Dragon 2 has superficial similarities to the older capsule-based spacecraft like the Apollo command module and Soyuz, it’s a much more futuristic design. Nicole Stott describes it as having a “new car feel” with a “simple elegance.” Stott says the Space Shuttle cockpit had displays, switches, and circuit breakers almost surrounding the crew. By comparison, the Dragon 2 has a few large touchscreens and compact manual controls.
After reaching orbit, Hurley and Behnken will be able to remove their restraints and float around the capsule. As this is a demo mission, NASA will most likely have an array of tasks for the crew to complete as they monitor the Dragon’s performance. Just like the ascent, rendezvous and docking will be controlled autonomously by the Dragon. After a brief stay aboard the ISS, Hurley and Behnken will return to Earth in the Dragon.
The Crew Dragon should splash down in the Atlantic Ocean with parachutes, which SpaceX tested one final time early this month. The Dragon capsule technically has the ability to land propulsively with its SuperDraco engines, which also power the launch abort system. However, NASA opted for the tried-and-true parachute option. That’s not to say SpaceX will never have a chance to use those engines for landing.
“I think we’re going to continue looking at [propulsive landings] as an option,” says Stott. “When you get into reduced gravity environments like landing on the moon or on Mars, we’ve done that in the past. I think we’re looking at what makes the most sense with the time we have available.” Essentially, NASA needs a reliable US spacecraft now, and we know parachutes work.
After the completion of DM-2, the Crew Dragon will be ready to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS on a regular basis. Of course, that assumes everything goes well. Spaceflight is dangerous, even more so when it’s a new spacecraft. Both SpaceX and NASA have maintained a positive outlook — NASA actually chose to publicize the overall Loss Of Crew (LOC) risk of 1 in 276. Prior to the first Space Shuttle launch, the agency’s engineers estimated the LOC as at least 1 in 500. After reviewing real mission data, they said it was probably closer to 1 in 12. By the end of the Shuttle program, it was 1 in 90.
We can only hope that the mission is a complete success and these launches become non-events — astronauts just hop on their space bus and commute to the ISS. But today, Hurley and Behnken are making history. Nicole Stott put it succinctly, saying, “They’re setting off a new era of getting back into space from the US, helping us expand what we do with all our partners in space. And as always, with the goal of improving life here on Earth.”
This historic launch will take place at 4:33 PM EDT today with live streams from both NASA and SpaceX. National Geographic and ABC News will also have two hours of live coverage starting at 3 PM EDT today on “Launch America: Mission to Space,” featuring Cady Coleman among others. In the event of bad weather, NASA has another launch window set for May 30th.
Canada reached a new grim milestone Monday, as the number of deaths from COVID-19 exceeded 5,000. Most of those deaths are in Quebec, where the number today reached 3,013, with a total of 38,469 cases.
Despite the high numbers in the province, children were allowed to return to classrooms across much of Quebec today, as daycares and elementary schools outside the Montreal region welcomed students back, despite concern from some about the risk of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Classes were allowed to have a maximum of 15 students, desks were to be spaced apart and schools employed a range of measures to ensure physical distancing. But even with the public health measures, some parents are choosing not to send their children back to class, which is allowed as attendance is not mandatory.
Schools in hard-hit Montreal, which were initially slated to open May 18, have had their opening date pushed back to May 25 at the earliest.
WATCH | Canada watches as Quebec begins to reopen some schools during pandemic:
There are ‘still a lot of unknowns around this whole situation,’ says Joanne Henrico, the principal of Ormstown Elementary School. 3:05
Quebec’s move comes as provinces across the country are making decisions about what restrictions to lift and when, as many areas are seeing the daily number of new coronavirus cases drop.
As of 1:15 p.m. ET, Canada has a total of 69,905 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases, with 32,663 of those listed as resolved by the provinces and territories. A CBC News tally of coronavirus deaths based on provincial information, regional data and CBC’s reporting lists 5,056 deaths in Canada.
Restrictions put in place to try and slow the spread of the virus have had major financial consequences for families and for businesses of all sizes.
On Monday, the federal government said it will provide loans and financing to the country’s largest employers to help them weather the COVID-19 economic crisis. The Liberals said the government will offer bridge financing to companies whose financial needs aren’t being met by conventional credit so they can stay open and keep employees on their payrolls.
The government said in a media release that another goal of the financing program, aimed at companies with $ 300 million or more in revenues, is to avoid bankruptcies of otherwise viable firms wherever possible. Rules on access to the money will place limits on dividends, share buy-backs and executive pay. Any companies convicted of tax evasion won’t be eligible for the money, which will be open to all sectors of the economy.
WATCH | Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer reacts to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s bridge financing announcement:
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer reacts to Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s bridge financing announcement that will offer big Canadian businesses across all sectors to help keep employees on the payroll through the pandemic. 0:57
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the low-cost lending isn’t for those who don’t need it, nor is it to rescue companies that were facing insolvency before the crisis.
Morneau said the terms of the funding will be consistent across companies.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the financing amounts to “bridge loans, not bailouts.”
“Our purpose is to keep large Canadian companies on their feet and protect the millions of jobs they provide.”
Speaking outside Rideau Cottage, Trudeau again urged people to be cautious and continue to follow public health guidelines.
“Please let caution and medical advice be your guides,” the prime minister said. “We are all anxious to see life go back to something that looks more like normal. But we’re not out of the woods yet and we cannot squander the sacrifices we’ve made over the past two months.”
According to a case tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 4.1 million reported coronavirus cases around the world, with more than 283,000 deaths.
Public health officials have cautioned that infection numbers are likely higher, as reported data doesn’t include people who haven’t been tested or cases that are still under investigation.
The virus, which first emerged in China in late 2019, causes an illness called COVID-19. While most cases are mild to moderate, some people, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health issues, are at risk of severe illness or death.
What’s happening in the provinces and territories
British Columbia’s top doctor said the province is working on a plan to safely allow people back in to long-term care homes to visit loved ones. “These new ways of doing things will be coming in the coming weeks and days,” Dr Bonnie Henry said over the weekend. Read more about what’s happening in B.C.
WATCH | The problems in long-term care that COVID-19 could change:
Advocates for seniors say the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the fragility and inadequacy of care for older Canadians, and footage from a CBC Marketplace investigation highlights that a lack of standards for staffing was a problem before the COVID-19 crisis. 6:01
Ontario’s legislature will sit Tuesday and is expected to extend the province’s state of emergency to June 2, while also holding question period again — with physical distancing measures in place. The province reported 308 new coronavirus cases on Monday, for a total of 20,536 cases in the province. Read more about what’s happening in Ontario.
WATCH | Cargill closes Quebec meat-processing plant with COVID-19 outbreak:
Cargill Canada is shutting down a Quebec meat-processing plant over concerns for worker safety after a COVID-19 outbreak in the cramped workplace. The move follows Canada’s biggest COVID-19 outbreak at another Cargill plant in Alberta. 1:58
Newfoundland and Labrador reported no new coronavirus cases on Monday, the province’s fourth straight day with no new cases. The total number of confirmed cases in the province remains at 261. Read more about what’s happening in N.L.
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at 12:30 p.m. ET
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that he expected several regions in the state to be able to begin a phased reopening as soon as this weekend after a stay-at-home order expires on May 15.
“Some regions are ready to go today,” Cuomo told a daily briefing at which he showed slides indicating that the Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley regions met the criteria to reopen. “They just need to get some logistical pieces in order by the end of the week.”
In Florida, hair and nail salons along with barbershops began reopening in much of the state on Monday.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed such businesses to reopen with tight regulations, except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the state’s two most-populous. That comes almost six weeks after businesses were ordered closed statewide.
DeSantis himself has expressed eagerness to get a haircut, saying last week he hasn’t had one since February.
The state has ordered that barbers, cosmetologists and manicurists wear masks when seeing customers, that they require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside, and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the work station.
Customers were already waiting when J. Henry opened his barbershop early Monday in downtown Orlando. Folding chairs lined the outside front window for waiting customers so they wouldn’t be inside and there was a sign-in notebook on a stand next to the door to fulfil the appointment requirement.
In South Dakota, an ongoing dispute is taking place between the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the state’s governor.
The community is refusing to take down checkpoints in defiance of an order from Kristi Noem to do so, concerned that relaxing the shutdown measure could strain its limited hospital capacity. Noem is one of a handful of governors in the U.S. who did not issue any kind of stay-at-home order, even as a Smithfield Foods Inc. meat-processing plant in Sioux Falls was idled for more than three weeks due to a significant coronavirus outbreak.
Here’s a look at what’s happening around the world
From The Associated Press and Reuters, updated at noon ET
Visitors in face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened Monday in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism that was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.
The House of Mouse’s experience in Shanghai, the first of its parks to reopen, foreshadows hurdles global entertainment industries might face. Disney is limiting visitor numbers, requiring masks and checking for the virus’s telltale fever.
“We hope that today’s reopening serves as a beacon of light across the globe, providing hope and inspiration to everyone,” the president of Shanghai Disney Resort, Joe Schott, told reporters.
China, where the pandemic began in December, was the first country to reopen factories and other businesses after declaring the disease under control in March even as infections rise and controls are tightened in some other countries.
However, on Monday China’s National Health Commission reported 17 new cases: seven of them imported, five in the original epicentre of Wuhan and five spread across three northeastern provinces. It was the second consecutive day of double-digit increases after more than a week when daily new cases were in the single digits.
The National Health Commission said the rise is a growing concern. “In the past 14 days, there were seven provinces reporting new confirmed local cases,” spokesperson Mi Feng said. “The number of cases from local mass infections continues to grow. We must find out the origins of the infections and the routes of transmission.”
South Korea has pushed back its reopening of schools by a week as health authorities scramble to isolate virus carriers and trace their contacts after finding dozens of coronavirus infections linked to clubgoers. Before discovering the new transmissions, the country relaxed physical distancing guidelines amid what had been a slowing caseload and scheduled the reopening of schools, starting with high-school seniors on Wednesday.
WATCH | Singapore’s coronavirus crackdown exposed treatment of migrant workers:
Singapore contained its coronavirus outbreak through aggressive tracing, testing and clamping down on its economy, but it exposed some ugly truths about its treatment of migrant workers in the process. 6:18
India reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases Monday as it prepared to resume train service to ease a lockdown that has hit migrant workers especially hard by eliminating the daily wages they use to feed their families. The government reported 4,213 new cases.
New Zealand reported three new cases, ahead of a decision on whether to ease restrictions further and allow more business and recreational activities to resume.
In a change of advice, the British government says people should wear masks covering their mouth and nose in enclosed spaces, such as buses and subway trains.
The about-face comes as part of a plan to gradually lift a nationwide lockdown that was imposed in the U.K. on March 23.
In a 50-page document outlining next steps, the government says “people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.”
That is a recommendation rather than a rule, and people won’t be penalized if they don’t wear a mask.
The road map document outlines a three-stage approach to ending Britain’s lockdown, beginning Wednesday with a relaxing of limits on outdoor exercise and leisure activity. If there is no new spike in infections, that will be followed in June by a return to class for some school pupils, the reopening of nonessential shops and the return of televised sports, played behind closed doors.
A third stage planned for July would see the gradual reopening of restaurants, cafés, pubs, hairdressers and other businesses.
The plan has put Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s U.K. government at odds with semi-autonomous authorities in Scotland and Wales, who are urging more caution.
But the government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, says the first stage of relaxing the rules involves “a very small risk” and has “some very clear benefits” to people’s health and well-being.
Cars began slowly filling Paris’s wide Champs-Elysees in a sleepy start to post-confinement life in the French capital after two months of strict lockdown.
Shoppers and gawkers timidly walked down sidewalks that were typically packed with crowds in pre-coronavirus times. Only half the shops on the famed avenue were expected to open Monday.
The notorious traffic jams of the Paris region were distinctly absent on the first day of deconfinement. Authorities have encouraged businesses to continue allowing employees to work from home and are promoting bicycles and other “soft” transport.
Still, people wearing required masks filled the city’s St. Lazare station, a hub for western suburbs. Stickers marked train seats and floors to ensure physical distancing, but in the station lobby crowds pressed together and scores of people were shoulder-to-shoulder reaching for masks being handed out.
Italy’s transport minister said tourists from abroad won’t have to go into quarantine once they are able to visit again. Presently during pandemic travel restrictions, foreigners can enter Italy for as long as five days but only for work reasons. Then they must leave.
Transport Minister Paola De Micheli told the foreign press association in Rome on Monday that the timing around when that restriction can be lifted depends on how coronavirus infection rates are running in specific countries.
Switzerland has begun a gradual return nearer to normal amid a recent decline in confirmed coronavirus cases. The government on Monday relaxed nearly two months of restrictions that had shuttered schools, offices, restaurants and nearly all stores except food vendors and pharmacies.
Roughly half of the 47 million Spaniards are stepping into a softer version of the country’s strict confinement, beginning to socialize, shop in small establishments and enjoy a meal or a coffee in restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.
Altogether, 11 of Spain’s 17 regions, as well as the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in the northern African coast, are officially from Monday in the so-called Phase 1 of the rollback, as the country departs from the uncompromising lockdown imposed in mid-March.
The hard-hit region around the Spanish capital, Madrid, and the economic powerhouse of Barcelona, in the northeastern Catalonia region, are among those territories that remain under stricter measures while authorities watch contagion rates and other health indicators closely.
Saudi Arabia announced Monday it was tripling taxes on basic goods, raising them to 15 per cent, and cutting spending on major projects by around $ 26 billion US as it grapples with blows to its economy from the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become South Africa’s coronavirus hot spot, accounting for more than half of the nation’s confirmed cases.
South Africa has confirmed more than 10,600 cases of COVID-19 and the Western Cape province has 5,621 cases, according to figures released Monday. Of the country’s 206 deaths caused by COVID-19, 116 have occurred in the province.
Cape Town, with its poor, densely populated townships, is the centre of the cases in the province. South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses.
However, the concentration of cases in Cape Town may see the city return to a stricter lockdown.