4 weeks ago

Alabama-built rocket set to power NASA mission to Mars this summer

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has been attached to the top of the Alabama-built rocket that will send it toward the Red Planet in the coming weeks.

NASA and Yellowhammer State rocket-builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) recently updated the mission’s launch period, which is the range of days the rocket can launch to reach Mars. It now spans from July 30 to August 15.

Encased in the nose cone that will protect it during launch, the rover and the rest of the spacecraft – the aeroshell, cruise stage and descent stage – were affixed to a ULA Atlas V booster last week at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

According to a release from NASA, that process began when a 60-ton hoist on the roof of the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 lifted the nose cone, 129 feet to the top of the waiting rocket. There, engineers made the physical and electrical connections that will remain between booster and spacecraft until about 50 to 60 minutes after launch, when the two are pyrotechnically separated and Perseverance is on its way.

“I have seen my fair share of spacecraft being lifted onto rockets,” stated John McNamee, project manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But this one is special because there are so many people who contributed to this moment. To each one of them I want to say, we got here together, and we’ll make it to Mars the same way.”

The Atlas V was assembled at ULA’s world-class facility in Decatur, Alabama.

With the mating of spacecraft and rocket complete, the final testing of the two (separately and as one unit) will be underway.

No matter what day Perseverance lifts off during its launch period, it will be scheduled to land in Mars’ Jezero Crater exactly on February 18, 2021. This will come after an approximately seven-month journey spanning about 290 million miles (467 million kilometers).

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life. It will also characterize the planet’s climate and geology, be the first planetary mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust) and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet — which will come through the historic Alabama-powered Artemis program.

NASA is inviting interested members of the public to get involved in the upcoming Mars Perseverance launch here.

RELATED: Aderholt sounds alarm over Fiscal Year 2021 NASA budget

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 mins ago

Saban: ‘Players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on Monday afternoon weighed in on the player-led #WeWantToPlay movement to save the 2020 college football season.

In an interview with ESPN, Saban commented on the movement that is in part led by Crimson Tide star running back Najee Harris.

The movement, less than a day old, has quickly gained steam, garnering public reactions already by President Donald Trump, other prominent elected officials across the nation and many in and around college football.

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Speaking to ESPN, Saban pushed back on the notion that student-athletes will inherently be safer if the season is not played.

“I want to play, but I want to play for the players’ sake, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban said.

“I know I’ll be criticized no matter what I say, that I don’t care about player safety,” he outlined. “Look, players are a lot safer with us than they are running around at home. We have around a 2% positive ratio on our team since the Fourth of the July. It’s a lot higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this unless they play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they’re in a bar or just hanging out.”

The legendary coach noted that the SEC has already pushed back the start of its season to September 26 to allow the fall semester to resume before final decisions are made on football.

“It’s going to be a challenge when the other students get on campus, and I get that,” Saban remarked. “But we really don’t know what that entails until it happens. It’s a big reason we pushed the season back, to assess that, which is the prudent way to do it.”

Bama senior All-American offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood also spoke with ESPN, strongly stating his position. He underscored that players need to have a voice as conferences and schools make decisions.

“There’s a lot of noise and bad stuff out there about playing football with the virus going on, but I haven’t really seen anything about what the players want,” Leatherwood told ESPN. “We’ve been grinding all summer, and you don’t want it to be all for nothing.

“The story that needs to be written is that we want to play,” he added. “We take risks every single day, especially in this sport, and life shouldn’t stop. If there is a chance for long-term effects if you get it and people don’t feel comfortable, then don’t play. Everybody is entitled to their right. But we want to play, and we’re going to play.”

Harris, speaking to ESPN, praised Saban’s leadership.

“Coach Saban listens to his players and wants to hear from us first,” the running back advised. “He told us that none of this is about him, but it’s about us. He wants to hear our concerns, and we made it clear that we want to play and feel like Alabama is doing everything they can to make sure we can play safely.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth backed Saban on the matter in a tweet.

“I’m with Coach Saban on this one. The player are much safer on campus and at practice than back home. For the players sake, let them play,” he commented.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Birmingham, Huntsville rated best business climates among cities their size

Business Facilities magazine has ranked Birmingham and Huntsville as two of the most business-friendly cities in the United States.

Birmingham was ranked as the number one most business-friendly mid-sized city, and Huntsville took the number one ranking for small cities.

The same magazine ranked Alabama as the fourth-most business-friendly state in the nation, behind Texas, Virginia and Tennessee.

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Ed Castile, director of Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), told Made in Alabama why he believes Alabama received good grades in business rankings.

Castile said it is because the state has “an available workforce with an extraordinary work ethic, world-class companies that choose Alabama and hire our citizens, a business-focused Governor and Legislature who are totally engaged in our workforce strategies, and a Secretary of Commerce who helped create the Accelerate Alabama strategy that is the foundation of all our work.”

Business Facilities is a national publication that targets the industrial development and site selection industry. It has been publishing for more than 5o years.

“Alabama, home to thriving automotive and aerospace sectors, continues to expand its reach,” the publication wrote about the Yellowhammer State.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

1 hour ago

Trump, Cavanaugh support players’ #WeWantToPlay movement to save college football season

President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted his support for the #WeWantToPlay movement, of which University of Alabama star running back Najee Harris is a prominent leader.

The movement, brought to light after a Sunday evening conference call among players involved, is attempting to save the 2020 college football season.

The Big 10 and Pac-12 on Monday seemed poised to formally cancel their fall seasons, but the other Power 5 conferences have not made decisions. Reports suggest the SEC and ACC are most likely to play football this year, although Oklahoma and Texas are pushing other Big 12 teams to join them in supporting playing.

After Yellowhammer News reported on the fluid situation and Harris’ leadership on Monday, President Donald Trump came out in support of the movement.

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The president tweeted, “The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay.”

Trump was joined by one of his Alabama Trump Victory campaign co-chairs, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, in supporting this player-led effort.

“The college football season needs to happen,” Cavanaugh told Yellowhammer News on Monday afternoon. “Our players and coaches have put in so much hard work to get to this point. Communities and small businesses across Alabama and the rest of the country depend on these games being played. We need to continue taking precautions, but we also need to get on with our lives. Now is not the time to back down.”

While not a member of a Power 5 conference, Troy Trojans head coach Chip Lindsey on Monday also came out in support of the #WeWantToPlay cause.

“I met with the leaders of our team today & the response was unanimous, #WeWantToPlay,” the former Auburn assistant coach tweeted. “The work they have put in on the field & to follow all of the safety protocols must be commended. They deserve the chance to see their work payoff with a season; I stand with & support them.”

The Sun Belt Conference, of which Troy is a member, is currently planning on a schedule that features eight conference games, also allowing up to four non-conference contests.

The SEC has adopted a conference-only, 10-game schedule for this season. Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey on Monday tweeted, “We know concerns remain. We have never had a [football] season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I don’t know. We haven’t stopped trying. We support, educate and care for student-athletes every day, and will continue to do so…every day.”

UPDATE 2:20 p.m.

University of Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne has weighed in.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Crimson Tide star helps spearhead effort to save college football season

University of Alabama running back Najee Harris is a leader in the #WeWantToPlay movement to save the 2020 college football season.

On Monday, the Big 10 canceled its fall football season, according to reports, and the Pac-12 is expected to follow their lead.

That leaves the SEC, ACC and Big 12 as the remaining Power 5 conferences yet to make a decision on playing their fall schedules.

While some of the national (and in-state) sports media world continues to cheer the death of the season, key players from Power 5 schools on Sunday jumped on a conference call to try and rescue the situation.

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ESPN reported that the Crimson Tide’s Harris was one of the players on the call, along with the likes of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

During that call, the players came up with a list of key takeaways to share with the college football universe. That list has been turned into a graphic and shared widely on social media by players since the call.

Former Bama quarterback Greg McElroy reacted to the players’ efforts in a tweet on Monday.

“All weekend, it felt like the 2020 College Football Season was doomed,” he said. “But, the #WeWanttoPlay movement has given it new life. Ultimately, I don’t know if it will make a difference, but it feels like the players are the only people that can make a season happen.”

Kristen Saban Setas, daughter of head coach Nick Saban, also advocated for the season to occur in a tweet of her own.

If the SEC ultimately forges ahead with a season (with or without the ACC and Big 12), there could also be the question of further conference alignment changes — at least for this fall.

One Ohio State player has suggested the Buckeyes bail on the Big 10 and play in the SEC this year, and Notre Dame has already signed up with the ACC in an effort to preserve their season.

Even more movement is expected this week in the college football world, with the SEC, ACC and Big 12 each set to hold regularly scheduled meetings of their directors of athletics.

Reports on Monday morning said that Texas and Oklahoma are the Big 12 schools trying to save their fall season, however the SEC could be looking to scoop up those schools if the Big 12 as a whole decides not to play this year.

Right now, the SEC has adopted a conference-only, 10-game schedule for this season.

Alabama is scheduled to play homes games versus Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Texas A&M, along with contests at Arkansas, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri and Tennessee.

Auburn has home games against Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M, as well as games at Alabama, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama pre-apprenticeship program launched to create better pathways to workforce

The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA) announced Monday a new program for those seeking to develop marketable skills and enter the workforce quickly.

The pre-apprenticeship initiative will use “a combination of curriculum, on-the-job training and simulated work experiences” in order to “allow a person to gain access to a specific industry and improve existing skills,” according to a release from AlabamaWorks.

Individuals applying for the pre-apprenticeship must include a signed memorandum of agreement with a registered apprenticeship program for the application to be considered by the AOA.

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The application instructions available on the agency’s website indicate that those applying for a pre-apprenticeship have an amount of flexibility in constructing the experience they will undergo as part of the pre-apprenticeship.

AlabamaWorks says that pre-apprenticeship programs also help employers, because they provide “pre-screened, ready-to-work employees who have already begun their training.”

“A major focus of the AOA right now is to help employers think beyond these uncertain times and use this moment as an opportunity to invest in their own future success,” Josh Laney, director of AOA remarked in a statement.

“Ultimately our economy will rebound and the companies who are investing in training programs now will be the ones poised to capitalize when it does,” he continued.

Laney concluded, “Apprenticeships are also going to serve as critical vehicles for people to access the training they need to become re-employed in higher skilled and more durable occupations.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95