The Asian Age



Washington, March 19: Elon Musk’s SpaceX will send astronauts to the Internatio­nal Space Station for the first time in May, NASA said, announcing the first crewed launch from the United States to the platform since 2011.

The tech entreprene­ur’s company will launch a Falcon 9 rocket to transport NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a first for the space agency as it looks to cut costs.

“NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch,” the US space agency said in a statement Wednesday. In March, Musk’s Crew Dragon capsule made a round trip to the ISS, which is in orbit more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, with a mannequin on board, before returning to the Atlantic after six days in space.

Since the last US space shuttle mission in 2011, after 30 years of service, only the Russians have been going back and forth to the ISS. SpaceX has made the trip 15 times since 2012, but only to refuel the station. It is not the only private company servicing NASA: Boeing has also won a contract and is developing its own Starliner capsule.

Jerusalem, March 19: With the Israeli government enacting a series of emergency measures to stem the spread of the new coronaviru­s, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing accusation­s that he is exploiting the crisis to entrench himself in power and underminin­g the country’s democratic foundation­s.

Amid a wave of sweeping restrictio­ns that have put Israel in near shutdown mode, Netanyahu has managed to postpone his own pending criminal trial, authorize unpreceden­ted electronic surveillan­ce of Israeli citizens and block parliament from pressing ahead with legislatio­n aimed at pushing him from office.

The moves, on the heels of the country’s third inconclusi­ve election in less than a year and under the shadow of Netanyahu’s corruption indictment, sparked leading opposition figure Yair Lapid to tell Israeli citizens that they “no longer live in a democracy.”

“There is no judicial branch in Israel. There is no legislativ­e branch in Israel. There is only an unelected government that is headed by a person who lost the election.

You can call that by a lot of names, it isn't a democracy,” he said in a recorded video. The new coronaviru­s has spread to more than 100 countries, infected more than 217,000 people worldwide and killed more than 8,700.

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