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NASA to send new moon rover to sample water ice on lunar south pole



  • NASA is sending a new rover to the moon’s south pole. If successful, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) would be first spacecraft to ever land there without crashing.
  • The rover will map the moon’s water ice, which is crucial for extended visits if NASA wants to set up lunar base and springboard to Mars. Astronauts traveling to Mars would need to make their jet fuel on the moon.
  • Following two spacecraft crashes in the past, landing on the moon has proven to be difficult due to issues in communications during the final stages of descent, a phase known as “15 minutes of terror.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA is sending a new rover to the moon’s mysterious south pole.

If successful, the machine will be the first to ever land on the moon’s south pole without crashing. It will map the area’s water ice for the first time — information that will be crucial to future astronauts making extended visits to the moon. It will also use a 1-meter (3-foot) drill to collect data on different kinds of lunar soil.

The golf cart-size robot is called the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. It’s scheduled to land in December 2022 and spend about 100 days collecting data. NASA plans to use it to build the first global water resource maps of the moon.

In its Artemis program, the agency has promised to send astronauts to the lunar south pole in 2024 and, eventually, build a permanent moon base. Astronauts living there will likely need to harvest water ice from the area so they can break it down into oxygen (for breathing) and hydrogen (for fuel).

“It’s incredibly exciting to have a rover going to the new and unique environment of the South Pole to discover where exactly we can harvest that water,” Anthony Colaprete, a scientist working on the rover, said in a press release. “VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water.”

nasa moon rover viper

An engineering model of VIPER created to evaluate the rover’s mobility system. Testing involves evaluating performance of the rover as it drives over various slopes, textures and soils that simulate the lunar environment.

NASA/Johnson Space Center

Landing a rover on the moon is a fraught and complicated endeavor. In early September, India’s first ever attempt at a soft landing on the lunar south pole ended in a crash. Moon landers must successfully carry out a series of complex commands with little room for failure, while contending with the moon’s wonky gravity, uneven terrain, and pesky dust.

Still, harvesting the moon’s water is a must if NASA wants to set up base there and springboard to Mars. Astronauts traveling to Mars would need to make their jet fuel on the moon.

The lunar south pole remains a mysterious place, but we know it has ice.


NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world,” Daniel Andrews, the new mission’s project manger, said in the release. “This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.”

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US cities declared coronavirus emergencies to free up funds



  • So far four US cities and counties have declared public health emergencies over the new coronavirus. 
  • The declaration is meant as a preparedness plan, but officials said residents should not worry that they’re at a higher risk of contracting the novel virus. 
  • The measure is meant to allow those localities to free up funds to prepare in case of a potential outbreak. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Cities and counties in the US have declared health emergencies in to prepare for a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus — but it’s no reason to panic. 

Cities like San Francisco and counties, including San Diego County, Orange County, and Santa Clara County issued the emergency declarations to free up funding to tackle an outbreak if it occurs.

And in late January, Washington state declared a “level 1” emergency due to the COVID-19 virus. Washington state is where the first US case of the coronavirus was detected.

According to CNN, declaring an emergency can help a government get reimbursed for the money it spent on preparedness from the state and federal government. They are usually declared in cases of a natural disasters (wild fire, hurricane, earthquake, or another major weather event) or in the case of an other major emergency like a riot. 

San Francisco has “no known cases originating” in the city, but Mayor London Breed said the measure was about preparedness. 

“It allows us to look at things like shelters, and other opportunities for us to expand, in the event that that’s necessary, and do a broader assessment of the city’s capacity to respond in the event that there is an outbreak,” the city’s Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax told CNN.

In the case of San Francisco, declaring an emergency also mobilizes city professionals (nurses, social workers, etc.) to focus on preparedness.

In San Francisco the measure will stay in effect till March 3, but the board of supervisors could vote to extend it, CNN reported. 

Two cases were discovered in Santa Clara County, but no human-to-human transmission has been reported there. Local officials told KGO-TV that the declaration was to ensure the county could prepare in case an outbreak were to occur. 

“What we all understand is — especially because we have three hospitals and we have multiple clinics- is that we want to make sure that we’re providing the very best service, and giving people the very best information so they know how to protect themselves and their family,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez told KGO-TV. 

In Orange County, the declaration came after a court battle, over whether the federal government can transfer COVID-19 patients to a facility in Costa Mesa, California, The Los Angeles Times reported. 

The county has only had one case of the virus, and that patient had a full recovery. 

Last week, San Diego County also issued a health emergency over COVID-19. San Diego is home to the Miramar Air Base, where the federal government has been quarantining repatriated Americans coming from China. According to The Times, the county was made aware of 249 low to medium risks individuals who travelled to other places in China besides Wuhan, who the county has to monitor for symptoms. 

“We continue to obtain a daily list of approximately 20 to 30 names of individuals who are at medium risk and require public health supervision,” Wilma Wooten, San Diego County public health officer told the Los Angeles Times. 

The US has confirmed at least 60 cases of COVID-19, 42 of which were people evacuated from the Diamond Princess. One of the cases, the CDC said, has an unknown origin and is a possible case of “community spread.” The patient reportedly did not recently travel to China or interact with a patient with COVID-19. That person in Northern California is reportedly from Solano County, the congressman who represents the area said.

COVID-19 most likely originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China in December. It’s spread to more than 40 countries with 2,760 deaths and more than 81,000 infections. 

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Coronavirus: Italy has most cases outside Asia, scrambles to curb spread



  • Italy is scrambling to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus within its borders as cases of COVID-19 soar.
  • Italy has the most cases outside of Asia. As of Wednesday evening, 12 people there had died from the disease.
  • The country has put almost a dozen towns under lockdown, canceled major sporting events, and debated closing its borders with neighboring countries.
  • The two most infected regions are Lombardy and Veneto in the north of Italy, home to Milan and Venice. New cases are also being reported in southern Italy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Italy is scrambling to fight a coronavirus outbreak after a sharp spike in cases and deaths made it the worst-hit country outside of Asia.

As of Wednesday evening, 12 people in Italy had died from the virus. Italian authorities reported at least 400 cases of COVID-19 in the country, according to the BBC.

All the people who have died in Italy were elderly or had other health complications, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the Associated Press reported.

The country has put 11 towns on lockdown to contain the virus’ spread.

The two most infected regions are Lombardy and Veneto in the north, which contain the major cities of Milan and Venice. But the virus has also spread farther south, with regions including Tuscany and the island of Sicily also reporting cases on Tuesday and Wednesday.

People wearing sanitary masks walk past the Duomo gothic cathedral in Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. A dozen Italian towns saw daily life disrupted after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China and a pair of case clusters without direct links to the outbreak abroad. A rapid spike in infections prompted authorities in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

People walk past the Duomo in Milan on February 23.

Associated Press

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced an emergency plan to quarantine towns late on Saturday, locking down the settlements by blocking most travel to and from them. He said the quarantine could last for weeks, the BBC reported.

Italian officials estimated on Monday that about 100,000 people in the country were affected by the travel restrictions. Schools, museums, and theaters across the region have been closed.

Police officers and members of the armed forces have been given the authority to enforce the lockdown, the BBC reported.

Italy coronavirus

Italian troops near a checkpoint at the entrance of the small Northern Italian town of Vo Euganeo, situated in the red zone of the coronavirus outbreak, on February 24.

MARCO SABADIN/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Conte warned against panic and defended the country’s response to the virus.

“Obviously I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” he said, according to the AP. “But we trust that with the measures we’ve implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

He also told La Repubblica that “we need to stop panic.” 

Empty carnivals, fashion shows, and soccer stadiums

The virus has prompted the cancelation of the annual Venice Carnival and the closing of some major landmarks.

The fashion house Giorgio Armani also held its runway show at Milan Fashion Week in an empty theater as a precaution.

Major soccer games have been played in empty stadiums, including the clash between the league leaders Juventus and Inter Milan on Sunday.

Photos show stores packed with shoppers and shelves rapidly emptying.

Coronavirus Italy empty stores

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Milan, Italy on February 23.

Luca Bruno/AP Photos

Neighboring countries are worried

Italy’s north has open borders with France, Austria, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

Italians or people who recently visited Italy have tested positive for the coronavirus in Algeria, Austria, Brazil, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Italy coronavirus

A couple on the subway at the Duomo underground station in Milan on February 25.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Matteo Salvini, the former deputy prime minister of the country who leads the far-right Northern League party, called for the country’s borders to be closed, but Conte dismissed the idea at a Saturday press conference.

“I don’t think the conditions for such a move exist at this point,” Conte said, according to Politico.

The European Union said on Monday that it was not considering any travel suspensions within the bloc’s border-free area, also known as the Schengen Area.

France warned anyone visiting the Lombardy and Veneto regions to wear face masks, regularly check their temperature, and avoid nonessential travel, the AP reported.

italy giuseppe conte government

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Officials in France and Austria are monitoring their borders for visitors from Italy who could be carrying the virus, according to the AP. Ireland has also advised its citizens not to travel to affected areas of Italy, and the UK told people to avoid “all but essential” travel to affected towns.

Romania’s health ministry on Sunday said all Romanian citizens coming back from Lombardy and Veneto would be quarantined for 14 days, Politico reported.

Austria temporarily halted rail traffic across its border with Italy on Sunday but later recommenced it.

Trains traveling out of the country from the north of Italy may also face delays and cancellations as train companies perform health checks, sanitize train carriages, and expect reduced demand for travel, La Repubblica reported.

Italy coronavirus

Tourists wear protective masks in Rome on January 31, 2020.


The EU urged coordination during the outbreak

The EU on Monday said it was monitoring the spread of the coronavirus “around the clock” and said it would spend 232 million euros, or $252 million, to try to prevent a global outbreak.

Stella Kyriakides, the EU’s Health Commissioner, told reporters Wednesday that EU countries have to have a coordinated response to tackling the virus.

“All member states need to inform us of their preparedness plans,” she said, according to Reuters. “Diverging approaches across the EU should be avoided.”

The coronavirus, thought to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now infected more than 80,000 people and spread to at least 40 other countries, though most only have a handful of cases. 

France recorded its first death from the coronavirus on Wednesday, though authorities say they do not yet know how or where the person contracted the virus.

The World Health Organization warned over the weekend that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was narrowing.

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Why is Nordstrom Rack so cheap? Overstock, past seasons



  • Nordstrom Rack is thriving even as its full-price store struggles to find its footing amid an uncertain retail climate.
  • During its most recent earnings call, Nordstrom reported eight consecutive quarters of sales growth for its off-price business, while its full-price department store posted declines. 
  • Here’s how Nordstrom Rack keeps its prices so low. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Since its humble beginnings in 1973 as a clearance center in the basement of a Seattle store, Nordstrom Rack has flourished into a go-to destination for discounted designer goods. 

Nearly 50 years later, Nordstrom Rack has nearly 250 total stores and serves as an integral piece of the Nordstrom business. In December, Nordstrom reported that its off-price companies — which also includes the e-commerce company, HauteLook — posted positive sales and increasing inventory turns for the eighth consecutive quarter. In the third quarter of 2019, off-price net sales grew by 1.2% while full-price declined by 4.1%. 

Discount retailers have been popular for decades, but they especially resonated with shoppers in the wake of the recession and continued to grow in subsequent years. Today traditional retailers are leaning on these models more than ever, and Nordstrom isn’t alone in finding solace in the world of off-price: Macy’s recently announced plans to expand Macy’s Backstage in response to growing demand for discounts. 

While Nordstrom Rack sources a significant amount of its inventory from overstock at its full-price store, it also produces some low-cost yet stylish items exclusively for the store.

Here’s a closer look at how Nordstrom Rack keeps its prices so low: 

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