Obama Visits Ethiopia, Reminds Us We’re Part Of ‘Same Human Family, The Same Chain’

During President Obama’s historic trip to Africa, he had the opportunity to view one of our “ancestors” whose discovery was of huge significance to humankind.

While at Ethiopia’s National Palace on Monday, POTUS met “Lucy,” the 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid — an early ancestor to humans, Reuters reported. While Obama observed the skeleton, Zeresenay Alemseged, senior curator of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences informed the president that Lucy, whose species human beings evolved from, shows that all human beings are connected.

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For the president, the fact spoke to a deeper meaning.

“We honor Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. In fact, I just met Lucy, our oldest ancestor,” Obama said at a state dinner later that day, reflecting on the experience, according to Reuters. “When you see our ancestor … we are reminded that Ethiopians, Americans, all the people of the world are part of the same human family, the same chain.”

Lucy, whose name is inspired by the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (which was playing during celebrations following the skeleton discovery), is from the Australopithecus afarensis species. The skeleton, which was discovered back in 1974 in Ethiopia, is usually kept at the country’s National Museum but was transported to the palace for Obama’s viewing, the Guardian reported. During the experience, POTUS learned about the skeleton and was even allowed to touch a vertebra from Lucy’s torso — a rare privelege, typically only designated for scientists.

The president said that there’s a lesson to be learned from humankind’s connection to Lucy.

“As one of the professors who was describing the artifacts correctly pointed out, so much of the hardship and conflict and sadness and violence that occurs around the world is because … <a target="_blank" —> Read More

Virgin Galactic Pilot Describes Free Fall After Spaceship Disintigrated

WASHINGTON (AP) — The pilot of a Virgin Galactic spaceship that disintegrated midflight recalls trying in vain to activate oxygen to help him breathe as he fell toward the California desert.

Federal accident investigators on Tuesday released a summary of their interview with Peter Siebold, who survived when SpaceShipTwo ripped to pieces during an October test mission.

The mission was part of nascent efforts to create a space tourism industry.

Siebold says he recalls the violent breakup of the craft before he blacked out. When he awoke, he tried to get his emergency oxygen flowing. He next remembered the jolt of his parachute automatically opening.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded during a hearing that SpaceShipTwo broke apart after Siebold’s co-pilot prematurely unlocked its brakes as the craft was shooting toward space.

From NTSB:

The feather system, which was designed to pivot the tailboom structures upward to slow the vehicle during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere, was to be unlocked during the boost phase of flight at a speed of 1.4 Mach. The copilot unlocked the feather at 0.8 Mach; once unlocked, the loads imposed on the feather were sufficient to overcome the feather actuators, allowing the feather to deploy uncommanded, which resulted in the breakup of the vehicle.

The Board found that Scaled Composites failed to consider the possibility that a test pilot could unlock the feather early or that this single-point human error could cause the feather to deploy uncommanded…

“Manned commercial spaceflight is a new frontier, with many unknown risks and hazards,” Hart said. “In such an environment, safety margins around known hazards must be rigorously established and, where possible, expanded.”

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