CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – With rubble from an asteroid tucked inside, a NASA spacecraft fired its engines and began the long journey back to Earth on Monday, leaving the ancient space rock in its rearview mirror.
The trip home for the robotic prospector, Osiris-Rex, will take two years.
Osiris-Rex reached asteroid Bennu in 2018 and spent two years flying near and around it before collecting rubble from the surface last fall. The University of Arizona's Dante Lauretta, the principal scientist, estimates the spacecraft holds between a half pound and 1 pound of mostly bite-size chunks. Either way, it easily exceeds the target payload size of at least 2 ounces.
It will be the biggest cosmic haul for the U.S. since the Apollo moon rocks. While NASA has returned comet dust and solar wind samples, this is the first time it's gone after pieces of an asteroid.
Health care protections to cover transgender people
The federal government will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration declared Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that narrowed rights at the intersection of changing social mores and sensitive medical decisions.
The policy announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. The Trump administration had defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender people from the law's umbrella of protection.
Inspector: Attack exposed Capitol Police's inadequacy
The Capitol Police force was hobbled by inadequate intelligence gathering ahead of the Jan. 6 siege, the department's watchdog told Congress on Monday, alarming lawmakers who are concerned for their own safety amid rising threats against members of Congress.
Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton testified in the first of three House hearings this week on what went wrong during the Jan. 6 insurrection. Lawmakers are investigating the riots as they contemplate overhauling security.
A new inspector general report, one of several that Bolton is preparing in response to the insurrection, said the department “has experienced issues” because of the increase in threats over the last five years and recommended the force hire more agents who are dedicated to assessing threats. Bolton said there were multiple deficiencies that led to a lack of communication and guidance ahead of the siege.
Islamic State's attacks on Yazidi genocide, UN says
The head of a U.N. team investigating atrocities in Iraq announced Monday it has found “clear and compelling evidence” that Islamic State extremists committed genocide against the Yazidi minority in 2014 and said the militant group successfully developed chemical weapons and used mustard gas.
Karem Khan told the Security Council the team also concluded that war crimes were committed by the Islamic State group against predominantly Shiite unarmed cadets and personnel from the Tikrit Air Academy who were captured, tortured and subjected to mass execution in June 2014. He said an Islamic State video released in July 2015 showing the killings “constitutes a direct and public incitement to commit genocide against Shia Muslims.”
Biden's approval rating at 63%, according to poll
President Joe Biden is plunging into the next phase of his administration with the steady approval of a majority of Americans, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The survey shows Biden is buoyed in particular by the public's broad backing for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the fourth month of his presidency, Biden's overall approval rating sits at 63%. When it comes to the new Democratic president's handling of the pandemic, 71% of Americans approve, including 47% of Republicans.
The poll also shows an uptick in overall optimism about the state of the country. Fifty-four percent say the country is on the right track, higher than at any point in AP-NORC polls conducted since 2017; 44% think the nation is on the wrong track.