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NASA is almost ready to touch down on asteroid Bennu and grab a sample – Digital Trends

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been investigating asteroid Bennu since it arrived there in 2018, sharing pictures of the distant body. But the craft didn’t just travel there to snap photos — it will also touch down onto the surface of the asteroid and take a sample to be returned to Earth.

This week, OSIRIS-REx performed its final practice run ahead of its planned touchdown. The rehearsal took four hours, during which NASA engineers checked that the spacecraft could perform its functions as intended, checking its orbit departure burn, the “Checkpoint” burn during which autonomous systems check the craft’s position and speed and adjust as needed to bring it into line with the asteroid, and the “Matchpoint” burn during which the craft matches the asteroid’s speed so it can touch down accurately and safely.

As part of the rehearsal, OSIRIS-REx also deployed its sampling arm, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), which it will use to scoop up a sample of rock and dust from the asteroid’s surface.

This artist's rendering shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu using a mechanical arm to touch the asteroid's surface.
This artist’s rendering shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu using a mechanical arm to touch the asteroid’s surface. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

“Many important systems were exercised during this rehearsal — from communications, spacecraft thrusters, and most importantly, the onboard Natural Feature Tracking guidance system and hazard map,” OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a statement. “Now that we’ve completed this milestone, we are confident in finalizing the procedures for the TAG [touch and go] event. This rehearsal confirmed that the team and all of the spacecraft’s systems are ready to collect a sample in October.”

While it was rehearsing, the spacecraft was also able to gather some science data including images of the asteroid and spectrometry observations. You can see some of the data captured in the video at the top of the page, which shows images taken by OSIRIS-REx’s SamCam camera as the spacecraft approached the asteroid’s surface. The images were taken over a period of less than 15 minutes, and during the rehearsal, the craft came within just 131 feet of the asteroid’s surface.

With everything working and the rehearsal deemed a success, OSIRIS-REx is ready to touch down on the asteroid and grab a sample on October 20, 2020. It will then return this sample to Earth for study, arriving on 24 September, 2023.

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Election ready

Election 2020: ‘Are you ready?’ Biden says of V.P. search – The Washington Post

In a brief exchange with a reporter near his Rehoboth Beach, Del., home, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden gave no indications Sunday morning whether he has come to a decision on his running mate.

“Are you ready?” the former vice president replied when asked whether he’d made his choice.

President Trump, meanwhile, started the day at his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J. He is expected to attend a fundraiser in Long Branch, N.J., before heading back to Washington later Sunday.

Here are some significant developments:

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Trump ready sign executive orders on evictions, unemployment if Democrats don’t bend – New York Post

August 5, 2020 | 7:19pm | Updated August 6, 2020 | 6:25pm

President Trump is prepared to sign executive orders on Friday to revive a moratorium on evictions and the lapsed federal boost in unemployment insurance pay, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday.

“By Friday if we haven’t made significant progress and we’re just too far apart, the president is prepared to take an executive action on those two items,” Meadows said in a CNN interview. “The good news for your viewers is if Congress can’t get it done, the president of the United States will.”

Trump repeated the threat — but not the specific date — at a White House press briefing Wednesday night. The president said he was also considering reducing payroll taxes by executive order.

“The Democrats are primarily interested in a $1 trillion bailout of the poorly run states,” Trump said. “And we can’t go along with the bailout money. We’re not going to go along with it, especially since it’s not COVID-related.”

The federal eviction moratorium and a generous $600-a-week boost in unemployment pay expired last month. An estimated 23 million people could face eviction by October, and more than 30 million people are receiving unemployment benefits from states.

Talks on Capitol Hill are moving slowly.

Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are leading the Republican side of talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Schumer vowed Wednesday to “keep slogging through step by step, inch by inch.” Pelosi has urged Republicans to cave and pass a $3.4 trillion Democratic plan.

Republicans unveiled a $1 trillion coronavirus relief package last week that would give $1,200 stimulus checks to most people, shield companies from virus liability except in cases of gross negligence and misconduct, reduce a federal unemployment supplement to 70 percent of pre-pandemic pay and give schools $105 billion to reopen.

Democrats also support more stimulus checks, and the sides agree they want to continue the recently lapsed moratorium on evictions.

The Democrats, who hold the House of Representatives, largely oppose the GOP liability protection plan and want to continue at the same rate the expired $600 weekly supplement for unemployed people.

The Democratic plan, which passed the House in May, included almost $1 trillion for state and local governments. The Democratic package also would lower federal taxes for wealthy people in areas with higher state and local taxes, such as New York City.

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Who’s Ready for a $5,826 Social Security Benefit Cut? – The Motley Fool

Big changes to the Social Security program may be only 15 years away.

Sean Williams

For most Americans, relying on Social Security income during retirement is the expectation. Surveys conducted by national pollster Gallup earlier this year found that 88% of future retirees expect to lean on Social Security income, to some degree, to make ends meet. For nonretirees, this represents an all-time high, dating back through two decades of surveys. 

It’s an equally important source of income for current retirees, with Social Security Administration data showing that better than 3 in 5 seniors leans on their monthly stipend to account for at least half of their income.

In other words, it’s an indispensable program that’s singlehandedly responsible for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.

And it’s also in trouble.

Two Social Security cards lying atop a large fanned pile of cash.

Image source: Getty Images.

Could you survive a $5,800 annual reduction to your Social Security retirement benefit?

Every year, the Social Security Board of Trustees releases a report that examines the program’s short-term (10-year) and long-term (75-year) outlook. For the past 35 years, the trustees’ report has cautioned that long-term revenue collection would be insufficient to cover outlays. Or, in English, Social Security won’t bring in enough money to sustain its current payout level. It’s been estimated that the program’s $2.9 trillion in asset reserves will be completely exhausted by 2035.

The good news, if there’s any to be plucked from this forecast, is that Social Security is in no danger of going bankrupt or becoming insolvent. Two of Social Security’s three sources of revenue — the 12.4% payroll tax on earned income and the taxation of benefits — are recurring, which means that as along as Americans keep working, money will always be flowing into the program for disbursement to eligible recipients.

However, once Social Security’s asset reserves are depleted, sweeping benefit cuts may be needed to sustain payouts. Based on the latest trustees’ report, retired workers and survivors are looking at an up to 24% benefit cut by 2035.

What would this actually look like for the typical retired worker? For context, the average retired worker was receiving approximately $1,503 a month when 2020 began. Assuming cost-of-living adjustments averaged 2% a year through 2035, the typical retired worker would net $2,022.84 a month. If benefit cuts are enacted in 2035 to preserve payouts for the long-term, the average retired worker would lose $485.48 a month in income, or $5,826 over the course of a year.

Parents cradling their newborn child.

Image source: Getty Images.

Here’s why Social Security finds itself in big trouble

How does a program that’s been paying retired worker benefits without fail for more than eight decades suddenly get to the point where massive benefit cuts are just 15 years (or less) away? The answer lies with a number of ongoing demographic changes.

Aside from the most obvious changes, such as baby boomers leaving the work force and longevity increasing, growing income inequality is one issue to blame. The wealthy often have little or no financial constraints when it comes to paying for preventative care, medical care, or prescription medicines. The same cannot be said for low-income folks. This disparity allows the rich to live notably longer, and thereby collect a bigger monthly check for a longer period of time. Over multiple decades, this has weighed on the Social Security program.

Some blame can also be assigned to record-low birth rates. The Social Security program counts on a steady number babies being born so that the worker-to-beneficiary ratio won’t fall when future generations of workers retire. But with millennials waiting longer to get married and have children, the worker-to-beneficiary ratio could be under added pressure.

Even immigration is a problem — but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Social Security relies on steady levels of net legal immigration into the U.S. every year. Most migrants tend to be young, and therefore spend decades in the labor force contributing via the payroll tax. Over the past 20 years, net legal immigration levels have been halved, which threatens the worker-to-beneficiary ratio.

And just to be clear, illegal immigration isn’t to blame, and Congress didn’t steal a dime from Social Security.

The facade of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Image source: Getty Images.

Hope for a fix, but don’t count on one

You’re probably also wondering why lawmakers in Washington, D.C., haven’t fixed this mess. There’s a twofold answer to that question.

First, it’s not for a lack of solutions. Both Democrats and Republicans have a core solution that works to strengthen the program. Rather, the issue is that both parties have a workable solution, and therefore have zero incentive to find common ground with their opposition. In other words, political hubris is part of the blame.

The second problem is that all Social Security fixes have consequences. No matter what fix is chosen, some group of people will be worse off than they were before. If the wealthy are taxed without receiving a commensurate increase in retirement benefits, then they’re worse off. If the full retirement age is gradually raised, then millennials and generation Z will net less in lifetime benefits. Because every solution results in some group of people losing out, politicians are afraid of enacting Social Security reform and losing their elected seats.

Historically, lawmakers do act to save Social Security when it’s in trouble, but they often wait until the 11th hour to do so.

We can certainly hope that Congress comes to the rescue of the Social Security program, as it’s done in the past, but we shouldn’t count on it. Instead, the tried-and-true method of budgeting, saving money, and investing for the future, is going to the best way to minimize our reliance on Social Security income during retirement.

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'strawberry' ready

Get ready for the full ‘strawberry’ moon on Friday –

Full moon over the old castle in Costa Brava in a holiday village Fosca , Spain.

(Image: © Shutterstock)

Friday’s full moon, also known as the strawberry moon, will light up the night sky in most of the Western Hemisphere (including North America), but that’s not the case the world over.

In much of the Eastern Hemisphere, the full moon on Friday (June 5) will showcase a penumbral lunar eclipse, meaning that the strawberry moon will appear dark and silvery.

For anyone bummed out about missing the penumbral lunar eclipse, just wait one month; on July 4, North America will get a chance to see a different penumbral lunar eclipse, according to, a sister site of Live Science. 

Related: This amazing photo reveals a lunar eclipse like you’ve never seen it before

The moon’s exact moment of fullness happens at 3:12 p.m. EDT (19:12 UTC) on Friday, according to NASA. However, because the moon won’t be visible in North America at the point, your best bet is to gaze skyward at moonrise, when the slightly-less-full moon will begin its ascent at 8:23 p.m. EDT (shortly before sunset at 8:31 p.m. EDT), according to Travel and Leisure.

The strawberry moon is named for the relatively short strawberry growing season in northeastern North America; it’s a name recognized by most Algonquin tribes, the now-defunct Maine Farmer’s Almanac reported in the 1930s, according to NASA. 

In fact, June is prime strawberry growing time for most of the United States, according to the food site Epicurious, which also pointed out that strawberries are a favorite, ranking sixth as the country’s most popular fruit. If you have a sweet tooth, go for wild strawberries, which tend to have sweeter, tangier flavors than the more firm, waterier store-bought ones, Live Science previously reported. 

Other names for this full moon include the mead moon, honey moon, rose moon and LRO moon (for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was launched toward the moon June 18, 2009), according to NASA. Whatever you call it, this will be the last full moon of spring, before the summer solstice on June 20. 

On the other side of the world, June’s full moon will feature a penumbral lunar eclipse. Those in the Southern Hemisphere, including Africa, Australia and Central and Southern Asia, will see the penumbral lunar eclipse in its entirety, while the eastern coast of South America will see the end of the penumbral eclipse at moonrise, according to

Related: Glitzy photos of a supermoon

There are three kinds of lunar eclipses, which can happen only during a full moon. During a total lunar eclipse, when the moon passes directly through Earth’s full shadow (or umbra), the moon appears blood-red, colored by the world’s sunrises and sunsets. During a partial lunar eclipse, the umbra darkens only part of the full moon, making a chunk of the moon appear darker than the rest. 

For the penumbral lunar eclipse this Friday, the strawberry moon is dipping 57% into the penumbra, or outer shadow, of Earth, Travel and Leisure reported. The lunar show begins at 1:45 p.m. EDT (17:45 UTC), but to catch the maximum eclipse, tune in at 3:24 p.m. EDT (19:24 UTC), according to, which explained that “the moon is below the horizon during this eclipse, so it is not possible to view it in New York.” The penumbral eclipse ends 3 hours and 18 minutes later at 5:04 p.m. EDT (21:04 UTC). 

The regions that will see all or part of the June 4-5 penumbral lunar eclipse.

The regions that will see all or part of the June 4-5 penumbral lunar eclipse.  (Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

To watch a live stream of the eclipse, tune into the Virtual Telescope, which will get a peek at part of the penumbral lunar eclipse as it rises over Rome.

The celestial show doesn’t end there. According to, “a solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse.” In this case, the solar eclipse — when the moon is directly between the sun and Earth — will happen on June 21. But, just like the strawberry moon’s penumbral lunar eclipse, this eclipse won’t be visible in North America. 

Originally published on Live Science.

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AT&T’s WarnerMedia has HBO Max apps ready for Roku and Amazon Fire TV – CNET


HBO Max isn’t yet available on Roku or Fire TV, but apps for both platforms are ready once HBO parent AT&T strikes a deal with Roku and Amazon. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

HBO Max’s big launch Wednesday went off largely without a hitch. Unlike other streaming launches, there were no major issues of downtime, no widespread app crashes and no outages preventing large numbers of people from upgrading their HBO Now or cable provided-HBO Go account to a one that has HBO Max. 

The big question for millions, however, is when HBO Max will be available for Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Although there remains a gap between HBO parent company AT&T and the two popular streaming TV platforms, once an agreement is reached the upgrade process to bring HBO Max to either platform should be quick. 

Andy Forssell, executive vice president and general manager of WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer products, tells CNET that the company has HBO Max applications ready to go for both Roku and Amazon Fire TV. 

Once deals are reached, Forssell says the apps could be on either platform’s app stores, “minutes later.” 

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The development team, he adds, has already, “done the hard work” with the issue now being, “about the complexity of the landscape and just getting to a deal that makes sense” for both AT&T and the respective streaming platforms. 

As AT&T’s WarnerMedia was building out the various HBO Max apps the company’s goal was to, “be on every platform,” says Jeremy Legg, executive vice president and chief technology officer for HBO. “And so we build apps for every platform along the way.”

Legg adds that some of the deals to bring HBO Max to platforms like iOS and Android or cable providers like Comcast and Charter, “got done now, some of them will get done later.” But, he continues, “we’ll have apps for all.”

The company’s HBO Go and Now apps have long been staples on Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms and both apps continue to work today for accessing regular HBO. 

It is still unclear when exactly AT&T will reach deals with Amazon and Roku. “It could be days, it could be longer,” says Forssell. “But everybody I think is operating in good faith and so I’m optimistic.”

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