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NASA’s Juno boldly goes to a planet far away

On the Fourth of July, NASA’s Juno spacecraft was the source of a light show that put to shame anything happening on the planet of its origin.

After Juno’s five-year, 1.8 billion-mile trek, NASA scientists initiated a 35-minute engine burn to slow the solar-powered spacecraft from its 40 miles- per-second trajectory to one that would allow it to be captured by Jupiter’s gravity.

Some engineers have described it as the trickiest maneuver NASA has ever attempted with any mission.

At Mission Control, nervousness gave way to celebration once Juno confirmed it had survived the high-speed rendezvous with the oldest and largest planet in our solar system. Eventually it will maintain an elliptical orbit 3,000 miles above clouds that could dwarf Earth’s continents in size. Jupiter is 300 times more massive than Earth.

Once all of Juno’s instruments are back online, its main job will be to map the world beneath those mysterious clouds. Scientists want to find out if the gas giant has a solid core and whether its atmosphere contains water.

We are finally in a position to learn things about conditions that led to the formation of Earth and its neighboring planets.

But all good things must come to an end. On Feb. 20, 2018, Juno will end its mission by diving directly into Jupiter. After 37 orbits, it will have fulfilled its primary mission and surveyed Earth’s oldest sibling as best it could without actually landing. Jupiter’s radiation will have taken its toll and fried much of the craft’s sensors.

Still, it is expected to perform heroically until the end, willingly sacrificing itself to transmit secrets about a world that continues to defy expectations hundreds of years after it was discovered.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 6

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Why we all should care about each of these officer-involved shootings

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Tuesday morning’s police shooting of a black man at a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La.

But cellphone video appears to show Alton Sterling, 37, pinned to the ground by two white officers and then shot multiple times at point-blank range. It is disturbing — and heartbreaking.

And so we find ourselves, once again, trying to understand what may not be understandable. What is behind these police killings of black citizens?

Of course, each of these cases is unique. But together, they add to a sense of despair that a wide swath of Americans feel, that they or their loved ones can be killed at the hands of police without much provocation. That open and conceal carry laws are for the protection of whites with guns but not blacks with guns. That in order to keep their children safe, some parents feel compelled to instruct them about how to behave around these officers sworn to protect them.

Whether we hold these fears or simply know others who do, that should worry us all.

What we know about the Sterling case so far:

Police reportedly were called to the store after an anonymous 911 caller reported a man threatening him with a gun. Officers confronted Sterling and wrestled him to the ground before shooting him.

There is some positive news in the aftermath: The FBI was quickly called in to sort out the facts. The Justice Department’s civil rights division is handling the investigation. The Louisiana governor quickly condemned the shooting.

But we’ve been here many times before. The Washington Post’s database that tracks such shootings shows that Sterling is one of at least 505 people who have been shot and killed by on-duty officers so far in 2016.

And with each new officer-involved shooting, we face a danger of it becoming commonplace, that people become immune to caring.

We live in a civilized nation. We owe these families — we owe ourselves — a careful examination of what happened in each case, why they continue to occur and what we can do to stop them.

The Dallas Morning News, July 7

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