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Nine Private U.S. Firms Will Get to Land Lunar Landers on the Moon

Nine U.S. firms have been selected by NASA to compete for the right to ferry scientific instruments and tech demo payloads to the Moon aboard commercial robotic landers.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Nine U.S. firms have been selected by NASA to compete for the right to ferry scientific instruments and tech demo payloads to the Moon aboard commercial robotic landers.

This $2.6 billion contract entered into with these companies is the first step in NASA’s aim to expand private investment in deep space exploration. It’s part of the “Commercial Lunar Payload Services,” or CLPS (pronounced “clips”) program. One of CLPS’ goals is to return Americans to the lunar surface after more than six decades.

The nine companies are:

* Aerospace Inc. (Cedar Park, Texas);

* Astrobotic Technology Inc. (Pittsburgh);

* Deep Space Systems (Littleton, Colorado);

* Draper (Cambridge, Massachusetts);

* Intuitive Machines LLC (Houston);

* Lockheed Martin Space (Littleton, Colorado);

* Masten Space Systems Inc. (Mojave, California);

* Moon Express (Cape Canaveral, Florida) and

* Orbit Beyond (Edison, New Jersey).

These companies will own and operate the robotic landers that get to the Moon, For its part, NASA will buy capacity on the spacecraft for its research equipment. They will be able to bid on NASA task orders to haul specific instruments and payloads to the lunar surface.

Working with the private sector represents a fundamental change in NASA’s traditional way of developing missions to the Moon and other solar system destinations. The existing method has the government fund, own and oversee every aspect of a lunar project.

“We’re doing something that’s never been done before,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. He said when the U.S. returns to the Moon again, it wants to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the Moon. He said NASA wants multiple providers that compete on cost and innovation.

Bridenstine said CLPS is one way NASA seeks to jump-start a stagnant U.S. lunar exploration program that’s seen starts and stops under past presidential administrations over the past few decades. The Trump administration instructed NASA to re-emphasize the return of astronauts to the Moon. On the other hand, the Obama administration made getting to Mars as NASA’s goal.

Bridenstine said the inclusion of commercial companies will make the current lunar exploration effort “more resilient” than those of the past.

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Politics

North Korea Threatens to Cancel Denuclearization Talks over Latest Sanctions

North Korea angrily blasted the latest United States sanctions, saying this move by the Trump administration could “block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever.”

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Pyongyang, North Korea (4E) – North Korea angrily blasted the latest United States sanctions, saying this move by the Trump administration could “block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever.”

North Korea denounced the latest U.S. sanctions, which Washington imposed on three top Noorth Korean officials for serious human rights abuses and censorship. It expressed “shock and indignation” at the new U.S. sanctions while accusing Trump of being “bent on bringing… relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire.”

Pyongyang noted Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” will be his “greatest miscalculation.”It urged Trump to return to the confidence building that was hoped for following the summit in Singapore last June between Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Washington said it imposed the sanctions after a U.S. Department of State report revealed human rights abuses committed by the men. The U.S. Department of Treasury named those sanctioned as Ryong Hae Choe, an aide close to Kim, who leads the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department. Also sanctioned was State Security Minister Kyong Thaek Jong sand Propaganda and Agitation Department head Kwang Ho Pak.

The sanctions freeze any assets the three North Koreans might have under U.S. jurisdiction. It also generally prevents them from making transactions with anyone in the United States. The sanctions were announced as the State Department released a report on North Korean human rights and other abuses.

The State Department report said human rights abuses in North Korea “remain among the worst in the world and include extrajudicial killings, forced labor, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.

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Chris Matthews Predicts Trump Might Resign “in the Coming Weeks”

Liberal pundit Chris Matthews, who hosts the talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, told his TV audience about his hunch Donald Trump might resign in the coming weeks as part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

New York, NY, United States (4E) – Liberal pundit Chris Matthews, who hosts the talk show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC, told his TV audience about his hunch Donald Trump might resign in the coming weeks as part of a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Matthews also said Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump could be the “next dominoes to fall” in the Mueller investigation. Trump’s children might face prosecution and possible prison time for their roles related to Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

“But what if the prosecutor were to offer the president an alternative,” asked Matthews. “What if he were to say he would let the children walk if the old man does the same? That would mean giving up the presidency in exchange for acquittals all around — not just for himself, but for all his kids.”

He said Trump might have to emulate former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned in 1973 as part of a deal with prosecutors to avoid prison time in a tax evasion case.

“Leverage the office while you still have it,” said Matthews in a piece of advice to Trump.

“So let’s watch the probable events of the coming weeks bring all this to a breaking point,” he said. “It is going to be historic.”

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US Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to decrease America’s substantial prison population by lowering some mandatory federal sentences, giving inmates added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time, and encouraging prisoners to better themselves so they are less likely to return to crime upon release.

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Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – The U.S. Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved legislation to decrease America’s substantial prison population by lowering some mandatory federal sentences, giving inmates added opportunities to earn reductions in jail time, and encouraging prisoners to better themselves so they are less likely to return to crime upon release.

Passing 87-12, the First Step Act was hailed by proponents as a long-overdue retooling of the federal criminal justice system, an effort that drew resounding support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as well as President Donald Trump.

“Congratulations to the Senate on the bipartisan passing of a historic Criminal Justice Reform Bill,” Trump tweeted shortly after the vote. “I look forward to signing this into law!”

“The bill makes smart changes to our criminal justice system in ways that will make it fairer, more humane, and more just,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said.

“This legislation is proof that we can be tough on crime and more compassionate to those who deserve a second chance,” Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker said in a statement.

The bill retroactively ends the discrepancy in federal sentences for drug offenses involving crack and the powder form of cocaine, which would reduce jail time for thousands of prisoners convicted of crack offenses.

The legislation also reduces some mandatory sentences, gives federal judges more flexibility to make exceptions to mandatory prison terms, and allow inmates to earn greater sentence reductions through good behavior and vocational training.

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