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NASA blasts off Mars-bound spaceship to study quakes

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VANDERBERG AIR FORCE BASE — NASA has launched its latest Mars lander, InSight, on Saturday designed to perch on the surface and listen for ‘Marsquakes’ ahead of eventual human missions to explore the Red Planet.

The spacecraft, launched atop an Atlas V rocket at 4:05am Pacific time (11:05 GMT) on Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marks NASA’s first interplanetary mission from the US west coast.

The $993 million project aims to expand human knowledge of interior conditions on Mars, inform efforts to send explorers there, and reveal how rocky planets like the Earth formed billions of years ago.

“This is a big day. We are going back to Mars,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine after the launch.

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“It is important for our country. It is also important for the world and it really establishes American leadership in a lot of ways.”

About an hour and 40 minutes into the flight, the spaceship separated from the upper stage of the rocket, as planned.

“I’m on my own now,” said the US space agency Twitter account, @NASAInSight.

“This marks the beginning of my six-month journey to #Mars.”

If all goes well during the 301 million mile (485 million kilometer) trip, the lander should settle on the Red Planet on November 26.

InSight is short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport.

NASA chief scientist Jim Green said experts already know that Mars has quakes, avalanches and meteor strikes.

“But how quake-prone is Mars? That is fundamental information that we need to know as humans that explore Mars,” Green said.

Agencies

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Google+ to shut down after private data of about 500,000 users exposed

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KATHMANDU — Alphabet Inc’s Google is going to shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data-sharing policies after announcing that private profile data of about 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers, the company said on Monday.

Google, however, kept silent for more than six months its discovery of a bug that put at risk the personal data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users.

The issue was discovered and patched in March as part of a review of how Google shares data with other applications, Google said in a blog post.

But the delay until October in revealing the incident could reignite long-standing complaints from federal and state officials that tech giants such as Google are reckless with user privacy.

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Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier.

The Journal reported that Google opted not to disclose the security issue at the time due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, citing unnamed sources and a memo prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff for senior executives, adding that chief executive Sundar Pichai had been briefed on the issue.

Google announced in its blog post Monday that it will mostly discontinue Google+ limiting it to only business and other enterprise customers.

The search engine giant has also announced new curbs on the information, such as call logs and contact lists, that outsider developers can gather on Android, the Google operating system used by most of the world’s smartphones. And it will also impose new limits on the data shared about users of its popular email service, Gmail.

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