2 weeks ago

Perseverance completes historic Mars landing — Mission launched by ULA Alabama-built rocket

NASA’s Perseverance Rover on Thursday completed the most difficult landing ever attempted on Mars, quickly sending back images from the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater.

The robotic spacecraft can now embark on the meat of its “Mars 2020” mission, which is to find evidence of ancient life on the planet. This is the first ever American mission designed to find life on another world.

This historic enterprise was made possible thanks to Alabama, as Perseverance on July 30 lifted off from Earth atop an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur.

Federal elected officials from the Yellowhammer State and beyond celebrated the achievement.

“Alabama’s leadership in space exploration is showcased once again – the rocket that launched the Perseverance Rover to Mars was made in Decatur,” stated U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL). “This would not have been possible without the world-class innovation from the men and women at ULA. Congratulations to NASA and all involved in this historic milestone!”

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) tweeted, “Congratulations to [NASA] and the contractors on another successful Mars landing – this time, the Perseverance. Alabama built the rocket that got it there (ULA Atlas V), and Tuscaloosa County High School student Vaneeza Rupani named the Ingenuity helicopter!”

ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every previous U.S.-led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. In fact, the perfectly-executed launch of this latest mission marked ULA’s 20th trip to Mars.

While the discoveries already made from prior missions are amazing — including that liquid water once was prevalent on Mars and that life might still exist under the Red Planet’s surface, Mars 2020 is expected to reveal even more groundbreaking information, then-NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine outlined last year. He thanked ULA for making the mission possible.

“[T]his is the first time in history where we’re going to go to Mars with an explicit mission to find life on another world — ancient life on Mars,” he emphasized. “It’s a great day.”

“Are we going to be able to do that? We don’t know. We don’t know if life existed there or not. But we do know that Mars at one point in its history was habitable. We don’t know that it was inhabited, but we know that it was habitable,” Bridenstine continued. “And now we’re actually, no kidding, going to do an astrobiology mission to the surface of Mars.”

He mentioned that then-President Donald Trump has challenged NASA with planting an American flag on Mars in the near future as part of the Artemis program, which is also powered by Alabama.

“In order to do that, we’re going to need to send humans,” Bridenstine noted. “And when we send humans to Mars, they’re going to have to be able to breathe, and we can’t take all of that oxygen with us [to the planet]. So in this mission (Mars 2020), we have a technology demonstration called ‘Moxie.’ We’re going to take the carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars and we’re going to turn it into oxygen, so that when humans get there, we know that we know that we know that we’re going to be able to create the oxygen necessary for life support.”

He further stressed that another important Mars 2020 technology demonstration will come in the form of the Ingenuity helicopter.

According to NASA, the helicopter will ride to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover. The vehicle will eventually deploy and operate on its own throughout the planet; the helicopter will become the first aircraft to attempt powered flight on another planet, per NASA. Ingenuity, weighing four pounds and operating under solar power, was named by an Alabama high school student.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” Bridenstine advised.

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

43 mins ago

7 Things: Pressure to end COVID restrictions builds on Ivey, University of Alabama System back to full-time schedules this fall, more vaccines coming to Alabama and more …

7. Trumps get vaccinated

  • According to one of former President Donald Trump’s advisers, Trump and former first lady Melania Trump got their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine before they left the White House this year. This is the first news that Trump received the vaccine.
  • Of course, their second doses were administered while living in Florida. Previously, Trump didn’t say one way or the other if he would get the vaccine, and his doctors had said he shouldn’t get the vaccine due to possible complications from treatments he received when he had the virus.

6. U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl makes monuments fight a national issue

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  • There has been a lot of debate in Alabama over the future of Confederate monuments in the state. The battle is now moving to Washington, D.C. after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) recommended 150 sites be changed. Included in the suggestions are the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and even monuments that honored Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.
  • Now, U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) has introduced the “The American Heritage Protection Act” that would protect national monuments from bureaucrats. He advised, “My bill is in response to D.C. bureaucrats’ attempts to change the names, remove, relocate, or “contextualize” the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.”

5. Biden is back to believing all women should be heard

  • Apparently, hitting on a girl at a wedding is the straw that broke the back of the American news media and their Democrats, as they are covering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) many scandals. This comes after the third accusation of sexual harassment has come out against Cuomo. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that President Joe Biden would support an “independent” investigation.
  • Biden was much less open to an investigation into Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against him, but Psaki claims that “Biden has been consistent that he believes every woman should be heard.”

4. Tuberville: 2022 is the last chance to keep America 

  • U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recently spoke about the future of the country and upcoming elections while at the 2021 Winter Meeting for the Alabama Republican Party. Tuberville said that “we’re in trouble” and noted that Republicans are those who want “God in our schools, that want “to go with the Constitution” and that want to “have small government.”
  • Tuberville added that Democrats “are just the opposite.” He added that 2022 is the last chance before “it’ll be too far gone,” stressing the importance of the midterm elections for Republicans.

3. Alabama to receive over 40,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

  • The Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine is the third vaccine on the market, and the Alabama Department of Public Health has said that the state will receive 40,100 doses just this week.
  • This will dramatically increase the vaccination rate in Alabama, where 617,768 people have already received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It’s now expected that Alabama will receive 140,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines this week.

2. These kids are going to throw a tantrum

  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa will all reopen for the fall 2021 semester as normal, removing all classroom restrictions and returning to full in-person classes.
  • There’s a “strong likelihood” that going back to regular on-campus activity will be safe in the fall, according to dean of UAB School of Medicine Dr. Selwyn Vickers. Vickers also stated that “if safety concerns arise, we can adjust our plan” as the health and safety of those who attend and work for the schools is the “top priority.”

1. We are officially two weeks from the one year anniversary of “15 days to slow the spread”

  • As daily coronavirus cases have declined throughout the state and more people are being vaccinated every day, there is some question that the statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Kay Ivey may be allowed to expire on March 5. Alabama hospitals want it extended.
  • Ivey has renewed the order since it was first put in place in July, but she has yet to signal if she will be extending the order again. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has said, “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

1 hour ago

Alabama House to consider bill giving legislature more oversight over how executive branch spends money

The Alabama House will consider a bill on Tuesday, backed by the chamber’s leaders, that would create a joint legislative committee with the authority to approve contracts, leases and agreements made by the executive branch.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), chair of the powerful Rules Committee, HB392 comes in the wake of Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to build three massive new prisons for men. Legislators from both parties have complained about their branch of government’s lack of input in the massive deal.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) in a statement.

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McCutcheon is a cosponsor of the legislation alongside Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R-Mobile).

The bill creates the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency and invests it with the power to approve or disapprove of any state agency’s proposed financial arrangement worth $10 million or 5% of its annual appropriation, whichever is less.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

Meetings would occur at the call of the chair of the new joint committee, a position which would be elected from among its members at its first meeting. The responsibility of chairing the committee would switch between a member of the House and a member of the Senate each year.

A majority of committee members would also have the authority to call a meeting.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislation is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the committee were not to issue a decision on a contract within 45 days, it would be considered approved.

Disapproval by the committee would delay a contract from going into effect until after the end of the current or next regular session, giving lawmakers a chance to legislate on the issue.

Only future financial agreements would be subject to examination by the committee, meaning passage of Jones’ bill would not affect Ivey’s prison construction plan.

“Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated,” remarked McCutcheon.

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

2 hours ago

Rep. Jerry Carl introduces bill to prevent bureaucrats from removing, altering certain historical monuments

Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-01) on Monday filed his first-ever piece of legislation, titled “The American Heritage Protection Act of 2021.”

The Republican freshman representative from Mobile noted that his bill comes after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) last fall recommended 150 sites in our nation’s capital be either removed, contextualized or have their name changed. Sites specifically under fire include the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle.

Other historical figures with listed buildings or monuments included Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.

“Today, I was proud to introduce the American Heritage Protection Act of 2021, which protects our nation’s history from being erased or altered based on the whims of government bureaucrats,” said Carl in a statement.

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Carl’s bill would explicitly prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from changing the names, removing or altering the following monuments in D.C.: the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Additionally, the legislation would prevent Interior from removing or altering statues related to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 or Civil War battlefields under its purview.

“While many people wish to erase or rewrite our history, I believe the best path forward involves learning from our complex history and avoiding judgment of historical figures based on today’s standards,” the Coastal Alabama congressman concluded. “If we erase or rewrite our history, we are unable to learn and grow from our past. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in this endeavor so we as Americans can engage in honest, accurate, and unifying discussions that enable us to move forward as one nation.”

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

2 hours ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — March 2, 2021

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Tuesday will convene for the 10th day of its 2021 regular session.

There is also one committee meeting scheduled for the day, as well as one subcommittee meeting.

Read about what occurred last Thursday on the ninth legislative day here.

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Looking ahead

The Alabama Senate will gavel in at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

This will come after the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee meets at 1:00 p.m. The committee’s agenda includes four election-related bills; especially of note, SB 235 sponsored by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) would ban curbside voting in Alabama. Curbside voting is not provided for in Alabama law, however it is also not explicitly barred at this time.

The committee is further scheduled to take up SB 259 by Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) that would allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. The provisions of the bill would require a joint proclamation by the Senate pro tem and the House speaker to call a special session; a resolution carrying the support of 2/3 of each chamber would then have to be adopted before business could be taken up in such a special session. The bill was officially introduced last week on the first legislative day following Governor Kay Ivey’s “herd of turtles” remarks. Between Barfoot and 16 cosponsors, the bill already has the support of an effective majority of the Senate, which only has a maximum of 32 members in attendance so far this session. SB 259 is a companion bill to Rep. Becky Nordgren’s (R-Gadsden) HB 21, which was prefiled back in October. Her bill is set to be considered in a House committee on Wednesday.

The House will convene at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Before that, the County and Municipal Government Committee’s Government Service Subcommittee will meet at 11:00 a.m. On that docket is SB 107 by Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Daphne).

The lower chamber’s floor action is set to focus on a 16-bill special order calendar, which can be viewed here.

Included on that calendar is Rep. Jamie Kiel’s (R-Russellville) HB 103, which would effectively erase the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses during a pandemic or other declared emergency.

Also slated for consideration is Rep. Scott Stadthagen’s (R-Hartselle) HB 391; this bill would mandate that public school students can only compete in athletic competitions aligning with the gender on their birth certificates.

Another notable bill on the House special order calendar is Rep. Paul Lee’s (R-Dothan) HB 249. This legislation would cap a health insurance beneficiary’s cost-sharing or co-pay for an insulin drug prescription at $100 per 30-day supply.

Observers may also be interested to know that Rep. Jeremy Gray’s (D-Opelika) HB 246 is on the calendar; this is the bill that would allow yoga to be offered in public K-12 schools.

Finally, Rep. Mike Jones’ (R-Andalusia) HB 392 is set to be considered. This bill would create a formal layer of legislative oversight — and additional transparency — on executive branch contracts, leases and agreements exceeding $10 million.

“It is important that we maintain a system of checks and balances, and the Legislature must be able to access important information about agreements that obligate the General Fund to substantial expenditures,” Jones said in a Monday statement. “This bill provides an additional layer of oversight on large executive branch agreements in a manner that is fair, transparent, and, most of all, constitutional.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) stated that he supports the bill.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” McCutcheon said. “Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated.”

While it could pertain to items similar to Governor Ivey’s prison plan in the future, the legislation would not be retroactive and would not apply to current contracts, leases and other obligations.

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

3 hours ago

LISTEN: Actor Robert Ri’chard previews upcoming faith-based movie ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

Robert Ri’chard grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a very challenging environment. He had to make disciplined choices at an early age that would help determine his future and get him to where he is today.

Robert, an actor, entertainer, entrepreneur and mentor, lives with purpose every day.

In this episode, we discuss the choices we all need to make each day to become who God calls us to be. We also talk about the upcoming movie he co-stars in which will be coming out this month, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The movie deals with the struggles of PTSD and how God can help people overcome it. TC Stallings stars as a veteran returning from war and trying to reestablish a life back home. Robert plays his best friend, Donnie, and the two struggle to maintain their relationship after division arises between the two of them. The film also features Keisha Knight Pulliam and Joey Lawrence.

This is a great faith-based movie that is good for the whole family. Check local listings and online for viewing options starting March 19.

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