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malfunction' Vehicle

A ‘vehicle malfunction’ is behind the giant Apple wildfire in California, officials say – NBC News

A car’s diesel soot caused a large Southern California wildfire that forced the evacuation of thousands and is threatening hundreds of homes, authorities said Monday.

In an interview, a spokesman with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said that witnesses saw a car shooting large diesel particles out of its exhaust system Friday afternoon in the small Riverside County community of Cherry Valley, roughly 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

“They’re almost like a small marble, sometimes larger, and when they land on dry vegetation, they’re extremely hot,” said spokesman Fernando Herrera. “They can ignite any type of fuel.”

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Investigators haven’t identified the vehicle or its driver, he said, but they found the particles in the area where the fire began. In a statement, fire officials described the emissions as a “vehicle malfunction.”

What began as several spot fires had grown by Monday into the 26,450 acre-Apple fire, which has destroyed one home and spread into the San Bernardino National Forest, the statement said.

Physical evidence found at the scene supported the eyewitness claims, the statement said. A spokesperson for the wildfire response did not immediately respond to a request for additional details.

More than 2,000 firefighters are working to extinguish the blaze, which is only 5 percent contained, according to the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Nearly 8,000 people have been evacuated from 2,500 homes in San Bernardino County.

Fire officials said low moisture and high temperatures had intensified the blaze. Images of the Apple fire showed a massive column of smoke rising above the national forest.

Reports of fires spotted on Apple Tree Lane in the community of Beaumont first came in Friday evening, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Climate scientists have said that parts of California could see a brutal wildfire season this year after huge swaths of the state had one of its driest winters on record. The potential health effects of smoke and the need to evacuate large groups of people during a pandemic have also left public health experts worried.

The state has so far recorded nearly 5,800 wildfires. There have been no fatalities and 38 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to Cal Fire. There were 7,860 wildfires last year and in 2018, the state recorded its deadliest wildfire ever, the Camp fire, which left 85 people dead and destroyed the town of Paradise.

Tim Stelloh

Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.

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Stacking Vehicle

Vehicle Stacking: NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Spacecraft Put in Launch Configuration – SciTechDaily

Perseverance From Below

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover’s descent stage was recently stacked atop the rover at Kennedy Space Center, and the two were placed in their back shell. The Ingenuity helicopter can be seen attached to the rover’s underside (lower center of the image). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Stacking spacecraft components on top of each other is one of the final assembly steps before a mission launches to the Red Planet.

Engineers working on NASA’s Perseverance rover mission at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida have begun the process of placing the Mars-bound rover and other spacecraft components into the configuration they’ll be in as they ride on top of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch period for the mission opens on July 17 — just 70 days from now.

Called “vehicle stacking,” the process began on April 23 with the integration of the rover and its rocket-powered descent stage. One of the first steps in the daylong operation was to lift the descent stage onto Perseverance so that engineers could connect the two with flight-separation bolts.

Protecting NASA's Perseverance Mars Rover

The cone-shaped back shell for NASA’s Perseverance rover mission is shown in this April 29, 2020, image from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

When it’s time for the rover to touch down on Mars, these three bolts will be released by small pyrotechnic charges, and the spacecraft will execute the sky crane maneuver: Nylon cords spool out through what are called bridle exit guides to lower the rover 25 feet (7.6 meters) below the descent stage. Once Perseverance senses it’s on the surface, pyrotechnically-fired blades will sever the cords, and the descent stage flies off. The sky crane maneuver ensures Perseverance will land on the Martian surface free of any other spacecraft components, eliminating the need for a complex deployment procedure.

“Attaching the rover to the descent stage is a major milestone for the team because these are the first spacecraft components to come together for launch, and they will be the last to separate when we reach Mars,” said David Gruel, the Perseverance rover assembly, test, and launch operations manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which manages rover operations. “These two assemblies will remain firmly nestled together until they are about 65 feet [20 meters] over the surface of Mars.”

Perseverance Rover Gets in Launch Shape

This image of the rocket-powered descent stage sitting on to of NASA’s Perseverance rover was taken in a clean room at Kennedy Space Center on April 29, 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On April 29, the rover and descent stage were attached to the cone-shaped back shell, which contains the parachute and, along with the mission’s heat shield, provides protection for the rover and descent stage during Martian atmospheric entry.

Whether they are working on final assembly of the vehicle at Kennedy Space Center, testing software and subsystems at JPL or (as the majority of the team is doing) teleworking due to coronavirus safety precautions, the Perseverance team remains on track to meet the opening of the rover’s launch period. No matter what day Perseverance launches, it will land at Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

The Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life. It will also characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet. The Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

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