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Emergency on Mars as Nasa loses control of the Curiosity Rover exploration robot

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Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012
Curiosity has been operational on Mars since August 2012 (Image: Nasa)

Nasa engineers dramatically lost control of the Curiosity Rover as it underwent a safety check, the space agency has revealed.

The car-sized machine is currently exploring a crater called Gale and carrying out experiments including tests designed to sniff out signs of life.

But it ‘froze’ in the middle of a safety procedure in which it analysed local surroundings so it can avoid damaging collisions.

Dawn Sumner, a planetary geologist at the University of California, wrote: ‘Knowing where our bodies are helps us move through the world. We know if we are standing or sitting, if our arms are out or by our sides (or for some people, not there at all). This body awareness is essential for staying safe.

‘Rovers also need to know where their bodies are relative to their surroundings. Curiosity stores its body attitude in memory, things like the orientation of each joint.

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‘It also stores its knowledge of the environment, things like how steep the slope is, where the big rocks are, and where the bedrock sticks out in a dangerous way.

‘Curiosity evaluates this information before any motor is activated to make sure the movement can be executed safely.

‘When the answer is no – or even maybe not – Curiosity stops without turning the motor. This conservative approach helps keep Curiosity from hitting its arm on rocks, driving over something dangerous, or pointing an unprotected camera at the sun.’

Unfortunately, the rover ‘lost its orientation’ during this procedure.

‘Curiosity stopped moving, freezing in place until its knowledge of its orientation can be recovered,’  Sumner added.

‘Curiosity kept sending us information, so we know what happened and can develop a recovery plan.

Nasa is now working to make sure Curiosity lives to fight another day.

Sumner continued: ‘The engineers on the team built a plan to inform Curiosity of its attitude and to confirm what happened. We want Curiosity to recover its ability to make its safety checks, and we also want to know if there is anything we can do to prevent a similar problem in the future.

‘This approach helps keep our rover safe.’

An illustration of the oasis on Mars, which has now dried up (Image: Nasa)
An illustration of the oasis on Mars, which has now dried up (Image: Nasa)

Last year, Curiosity found a mysterious ‘oasis’ on the surface of Mars, raising hopes that evidence of life may also one day be found on the Red Planet.

The  Rover discovered traces of ‘shallow, salty ponds that went through episodes of overflow and drying’.

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It made the astonishing find within Gale Crater, a 100-mile-wide dry lakebed, using a tool which allows it to zap Martian rocks with a laser to work out their chemical make-up.

The discovery is more proof that Mars was once able to support life – but is not quite the smoking gun which proves extraterrestrial organisms thrived on the now-barren planet.

‘We’ve learned over the years of Curiosity’s traverse across Gale Crater that Mars’ climate was habitable once, long ago,’ said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator of the ChemCam instrument at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of a paper on the research.

‘What these new findings show is that the climate on Mars was not as stable as we thought it was.

‘There were very wet periods and very dry periods.’

Currently, Mars is a ‘freezing desert’, but it was once wetter and therefore more hospitable.

Analysis of the rocks in the desiccated oasis suggest its rocks dried out completely at times but were soaked at others, indicating huge ‘fluctuations in the Martian climate’.

Gale Crater was formed in a massive impact and was eventually filled with sediment.

Over the aeons, the wind carved out a large hill which has been named Mount Sharp, which Curiosity is currently climbing up.

‘We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” said lead author William Rapin of Caltech.

‘Understanding when and how the planet’s climate started evolving is a piece of another puzzle: When and how long was Mars capable of supporting microbial life at the surface?’

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Coronavirus UK: Death toll hits 1,798 as over 22k test positive

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A record-breaking 390 coronavirus deaths have been announced in the UK today, taking the total to 1,798 fatalities.

It marks the darkest day so far for the NHS, which has seen patients dying by the dozen in hospitals in every corner of the country.

And the figure is more than twice as high as it was yesterday, when only 180 new fatalities were announced. 

One of today’s victims was just 19 years old and didn’t have any other health conditions, making them the UK’s youngest otherwise-healthy patient to have died. 

England is at the centre of Britain’s crisis and 1,651 people there have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in a hospital. Meanwhile more than 60 people have died in both Scotland and Wales, plus around 30 in Northern Ireland. 

Today’s development comes after government statisticians revealed this morning that the true death toll may be 24 per cent higher when people who died outside of NHS hospitals are added in to the count.

The Office for National Statistics found that 210 people had died in the UK by March 20, when the Government had only record 170 in the same time frame – a difference of 24 per cent. If that ratio remains true today the true number of people dead could be 2,230. 

Other developments in the UK’s crisis include:

  • Utility companies warned there is a risk staff shortages will lead to power cuts and have written to vulnerable customers to make sure they’re prepared
  • Statistics have revealed the early coronavirus deaths in the UK were overwhelmingly elderly and male, with over-85s making up 47% of all fatalities
  • Hundreds of shoppers sparked fury in Bristol after being spotted buying plants and headphones on leisurely shopping trips despite a Government lockdown
  • Foreign NHS staff will receive automatic visa extensions from the Government to enable them to stay in the UK fighting the coronavirus outbreak
  • London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Slough have the highest rates of coronavirus infections in the UK, per 100,000 people, according to official data
  • NHS Blood and Transplant has said it is rejecting organ transplants from donors infected with the coronavirus
Medical staff are pictured wheeling a patient out of an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital in London today. The capital city, home to around nine million people, is at the centre of the UK's crisis

Medical staff are pictured wheeling a patient out of an ambulance at St Thomas' Hospital in London today. The capital city, home to around nine million people, is at the centre of the UK's crisis

Medical staff are pictured wheeling a patient out of an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London today. The capital city, home to around nine million people, is at the centre of the UK’s crisis

An ambulance is pictured outside the ExCeL conference centre in London, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients

An ambulance is pictured outside the ExCeL conference centre in London, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients

An ambulance is pictured outside the ExCeL conference centre in London, which has been converted into a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients

In its statement published this afternoon, NHS England said: ‘A further 367 people, who tested positive for the Coronavirus (Covid-19) have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 1,651.

‘Patients were aged between 19 and 98 years old and all but 28 patients (aged between 19 and 91 years old) had underlying health conditions.’ 

Increases in positive tests today pushed the number of diagnosed coronavirus patients in Scotland to 1,993, 1,563 in Wales and 586 in Northern Ireland.

An update on the number of positive tests in England is expected from the Department of Health later this afternoon.

Experts believe the true number of people who have been infected with the coronavirus could now be more than two million, but the Government is only testing people ill enough to be admitted to hospital.

Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the Government, has said there could be around 1,000 cases for every one person who dies.

With a death count of 1,798, this could mean almost 1.8million people have been infected with the virus.  

Sir Patrick, speaking at yesterday’s Government briefing, said the number of people being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is going up ‘in a constant amount’.

The number of hospital patients has risen to around 9,000 from just 4,300 last Thursday. 

But Sir Patrick assured the public the fact the NHS was seeing an additional 1,000 patients a day with coronavirus-related admissions was ‘not an acceleration’ and that the health service was still coping. 

The new death figures come after a set of statistics this morning suggested the number of people dying could be 24 per cent higher than the NHS says. 

Patients who had COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificates numbered 210 in England and Wales up to March 20, the Office for National Statistics revealed.

Sheffield and Slough are coronavirus hotspots in the UK, not far behind London which continues to speed ahead. London has 64 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, with 52 cases. Birmingham is third with 50 cases per 100,000, followed by Slough, a town in Berkshire, with 49 cases per 100,000

Sheffield and Slough are coronavirus hotspots in the UK, not far behind London which continues to speed ahead. London has 64 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, with 52 cases. Birmingham is third with 50 cases per 100,000, followed by Slough, a town in Berkshire, with 49 cases per 100,000

Sheffield and Slough are coronavirus hotspots in the UK, not far behind London which continues to speed ahead. London has 64 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, with 52 cases. Birmingham is third with 50 cases per 100,000, followed by Slough, a town in Berkshire, with 49 cases per 100,000

Statistics released this morning revealed basic details about the first 108 people in Britain to have COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Elderly people and men were the worst affected, the data showed

Statistics released this morning revealed basic details about the first 108 people in Britain to have COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Elderly people and men were the worst affected, the data showed

Statistics released this morning revealed basic details about the first 108 people in Britain to have COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate. Elderly people and men were the worst affected, the data showed








STATISTICS REVEAL DETAILS OF FIRST 108 UK COVID-19 DEATHS 

Three quarters of the UK’s first coronavirus fatalities were over the age of 75, according to official statistics. 

Details of the first 108 people to die from COVID-19 in England and Wales have emerged today in figures revealing deaths outside of NHS hospitals for the first time.

They show that 59 per cent of the victims up to March 20 were male, a total of 64 out of 108, while 44 women died.

Only one person under the age of 44 was counted among the fatalities and 73 per cent (79 people) were over the age of 75.

The numbers, published by the Government’s Office for National Statistics, revealed that the true death toll of the virus may be 24 per cent higher than NHS data shows.

The ONS recorded 210 deaths up to and including March 20 in England and Wales, during which time the Department of Health tallied only 170.

The higher figure includes anyone who had COVID-19 mentioned on their death certificate, whether it was a direct cause of death or not. Some may not have even been tested. 

Statistics show the majority of the first coronavirus deaths in England and Wales were among people aged over 85.

There were 45 deaths among over-85s; 34 deaths in the 75-84 age group; 21 deaths between 65 and 74; seven for 45 to 64-year-olds; and one between 15 and 44. There were none among children. 

The single hardest-hit age group was men over 85, among whom there were 27 fatalities. There were 20 among men aged 75-84, and 18 for female over-85s.

This was 24 per cent higher than the 170 deaths recorded by NHS England and Public Health Wales during the same time frame. 

If the ratio has stayed true since that time, the true current number of fatalities could be around 1,739 instead of the official 1,408.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has launched a new data series adding in the numbers of people who have died with or after having COVID-19 in the community, including those who died in care homes or their own houses.

Coronavirus was not necessarily the cause of death for every one of the patients, but was believed to have been a factor. 

The statistics show that only one of the UK’s first 108 coronavirus victims was under the age of 44. 60 per cent of them were men and 93 per cent were aged over 65. 

The data does not include Scotland or Northern Ireland – up to March 20, eight people had died in the those countries (six in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland), suggesting the true figure could have been 10.

Anyone who has the virus – for which at least 22,141 people have tested positive in the UK – mentioned on their death certificate will be included in the weekly statistics.

This adds to the daily updates coming from NHS hospitals around the country where adults of all ages are dying in intensive care units. 

It comes after it was revealed that King’s College Hospital in London has had three times as many deaths as official figures show and there are concerns the true figure is days or even weeks behind because of how long it takes to confirm cases.

In France, senior officials have admitted they expect their national count is wrong because of delays and unreported deaths happening outside of hospitals. 

The ONS showed that a total 210 deaths in England and Wales that occurred up to and including March 20 (and which were registered up to March 25) had COVID-19 mentioned on the death certificate.

This compares with 170 coronavirus-related deaths reported by NHS England and Public Health Wales up to and including March 20. 

The majority of the deaths reported by health authorities around the UK have taken place in the 10 days since March 20.

During that period the fatality total has risen almost 10-fold from 177 to 1,408. 

While statistics have until now only counted people dying in NHS hospitals, new counts will show any death that medics link to the virus, wherever it happens.

Death tolls around the UK are expected to soar in the coming days and weeks as people who caught the virus before the country was put into lockdown succumb to the disease.

It can take up to three weeks before somebody is killed by COVID-19, suggesting there could be another fortnight before the effects of last Monday’s travel restrictions start to show.

It has been one week since Britons were told not to go outside unless it was necessary.

As well as a delay between people catching the virus and dying, there can also be lags between someone’s death and it being officially announced.

NHS staff have to test critically ill patients more than once to confirm they have the disease and must also notify their families.

Death statistics being shared by NHS hospitals have already shown time lags of 10 days or more.








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Government urged to clarify lockdown rules amid public confusion

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Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Christine Jardine said ‘mixed messages from ministers only add to the chaos and fuel anxiety’ (Picture: LNP – Alamy Live)

The government has been urged to be ‘absolutely clear’ about what they expect from the public during the UK lockdown.

Boris Johnson has ordered people stay at home aside from shopping for food, one form of exercise a day, any medical need, to provide care or help a vulnerable person, or to go to work if they cannot work from their house.

But with ministers and police said to be taking ‘wildly different approaches’ to the shutdown, the government has been accused of sending ‘mixed messages’ which ‘add to the chaos and fuel anxiety’.

Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said the majority of the public were willing to comply with the guidelines, but the government needed to clarify its message.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 13: Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate Christine Jardine speaking after retaining her Edinburgh West seat in the general election, on December 13, 2019 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The current Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the first UK winter election for nearly a century in an attempt to gain a working majority to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. The election results from across the country are being counted overnight and an overall result is expected in the early hours of Friday morning. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
Liberal Democrats home affairs spokesperson (Picture: Ken Jack/Getty Images)
Alamy Live News. 2BBF2YC Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. 31 March, 2020. Police patrol public parks and walking areas to enforce the coronavirus lockdown regulations about being outdoor. Police patrol at Gypsy Brae recreation ground on waterfront. Iain Masterton/Alamy Live News This is an Alamy Live News image and may not be part of your current Alamy deal . If you are unsure, please contact our sales team to check.
Police patrol public parks and walking areas to enforce the coronavirus lockdown regulations (Picture: Alamy Live News)

For all the latest news and updates on Coronavirus, click here. Read the latest updates: Coronavirus news live.

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The Scottish Liberal Democrat politician said: ‘With police taking wildly different approaches to enforcing social distancing measures and ministers’ off-the-cuff remarks adding to the confusion, it’s no wonder people are uncertain about what the government expects of them during this crisis.

‘The vast majority are keen to comply with advice and will do whatever it takes to keep themselves and others safe by curbing the spread of the virus.

‘However, the government must make every effort to be absolutely clear about what the expectations are and why they are necessary.

‘Mixed messages from ministers only add to the chaos and fuel anxiety.’

Her comments come after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed people should only go out to shop for food ‘once a week’ if possible.

He told the BBC: ‘People know the rules that have been set. Try and shop just once a week – just, you know, just do the essentials not everything else.’

However, guidance set by the government does not limit the number of times someone can shop a week, instead stating that people should shop for essentials as infrequently as possible’.

? Licensed to London News Pictures. 31/03/2020. London, UK. Members of the public exercise in Greenwich Park in South East London . The Government has announced a lockdown to slow the spread of Coronavirus and reduce pressure on the NHS. Photo credit: George Cracknell Wright/LNP
Members of the public exercise in Greenwich Park in South East London (Picture: George Cracknell Wright/LNP)
20,000 retired medical staff return to frontline work Picture: Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is currently self-isolating after testing positive (Picture: Boris Johnson)

The prime minister himself has been criticised for ignoring social distancing guidelines after insisting that he would shake hands with coronavirus patients – despite scientific advice warning against this.

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Mr Johnson is currently self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus with ‘mild symptoms’.

Some police officers have also come under fire for being ‘heavy handed’ during the lockdown by using drones to spy on people taking walks at beauty spots and stopping dog-walkers from driving their pets to open spaces.

Some reports have even claimed officers had urged shops not to sell Easter eggs because they were ‘not essential’ items.

thumbnail for post ID 12484688The huge temporary morgues being built across UK for coronavirus dead

Cabinet minister Michael Gove attempted to clarify the rules on exercise last week when he advised people to limit jogging to 30 minutes.

Government guidelines say that ‘one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household’ is allowed.

Speaking to BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Gove said: ‘Well, obviously it depends on each individual’s fitness. I would have thought that for most people, a walk of up to an hour, or a run of 30 minutes or a cycle ride of between that, depending on their level of fitness is appropriate.’

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster added that most people were already displaying ‘common sense’ when it came to following social distancing guidelines.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

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Retired nurse, 65, offers to give up ventilator to save younger coronavirus patient

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Photos of retired nurse Darlene Freyer
Retired nurse Darlene Freyer, pictured, has updated her living will to stipulate that she should not be given a ventilator if she falls seriously ill with coronavirus (Pictures: WTAE)

A 65 year-old retired nurse says she wants to give her ventilator to a younger coronavirus sufferer should she fall seriously ill with Covid-19. Darlene Freyer, from Pittsburgh, insists that the life-saving equipment should be given to someone ‘who still has a life to live,’ and says her children have accepted her decision.

She explained: ‘I’ve lived my life. I’m 65 years old. I’ve raised a whole family. I spoke to them about this decision. They respect this decision.’ Freyer is currently healthy, but has updated her ‘living will’ with instructions not to put her on a ventilator should she fall seriously-ill with Covid-19.

And she says she’s also happy for an older patient to receive the life-saving breathing equipment instead, saying: ‘I don’t want to take some college student’s ventilator, I don’t want to take some young mother with four children’s ventilator, I don’t want to take a 70-year-old person’s ventilator who maybe has a disabled child that they’re still caring for. Age doesn’t always have to be a factor with this.’

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The former nurse, who retired six years ago, told WTAE: ‘Common sense tells me our medical professionals are going to have to make some very hard decisions choosing who gets the ventilators and who does not. Why not help our warriors that are on the front line do their job just a little bit easier?’

Pennsylvania had almost 4,100 coronavirus diagnoses as of Tuesday morning, with 48 people killed by Covid-19 across the state so far.

Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, has seen 290 coronavirus diagnoses and two deaths.

Covid-19 can cause severe pneumonia which can kill patients if they are not given breathing assistance with a ventilator, with most countries across the planet frantically manufacturing the life-saving equipment to ensure there are enough to go around.

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