Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) announced Tuesday that he’s designating a day that recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S., as an official holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union general Gordon Granger read federal orders to the people of Galveston, Texas that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.
Gov. Northam’s announcement was made in the capital city of Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy. He made the announcement after more than a year of backlash for his controversial 1984 medical school yearbook photo, which featured two men (one of them Northam himself), one wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and the other with blackface.
Virginia’s Gov. Coonman von Blackface Northam must be getting nervous with everything getting cancelled again. pic.twitter.com/MWM1RmvNc8
— ForAmerica (@ForAmerica) June 17, 2020
Juneteenth is celebrated each year on June 19. As an official holiday in Virginia, Juneteenth would be a paid day off for all state employees.
“It’s time we elevate this,” Gov. Northam said of Juneteenth. “Not just a celebration by and for some Virginians but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”
Northam was joined Tuesday at his press conference by musician Pharrell Williams, a Virginia native. Pharrell said he believes that Juneteenth deserves the same level of recognition and celebration as Independence Day.
“Here’s our day, and if you love us, it’ll be your day too,” Pharrell said.
WATCH: Pharrell joins the governor of Virginia in announcing Juneteenth is officially a state holiday. Celebrated on June 19th, it marks the day in 1865 when African Americans heard the news that slavery was abolished. https://t.co/hfiG0NQAMr pic.twitter.com/xfVoVjiD4F
— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 17, 2020
Virginia is the second state to declare Juneteenth as a state holiday. Texas did so in 1980.
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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Returns After 7-Year Journey with Asteroid Samples
After a remarkable seven-year voyage spanning nearly 4 billion miles in space, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to make its triumphant return to Earth on Sunday. OSIRIS-REx, an acronym for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, was launched in 2016 on a groundbreaking mission to collect material from an asteroid in space.
The capsule, holding a precious cargo of nearly 9 ounces of rocks, dust, and dirt gathered from the asteroid Bennu, will detach from the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft before making an anticipated landing inside the Defense Department’s Utah Test and Training Range. According to reports from Fox News, teams from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the vehicle’s builder, will eagerly await its arrival.
Describing the precision required for this endeavor, OSIRIS-REx Deputy Project Manager Michael Moreau likened it to a challenging game of accuracy, stating, “It’s like putting a dart board at one end of a basketball court and throwing the dart from the other end and getting a bull’s-eye.”
This years-long mission holds significant scientific importance. It will aid researchers in investigating the formation of planets, shed light on the origins of life, and enhance NASA’s understanding of asteroids that could pose potential threats to Earth.
Furthermore, the collected sample is expected to offer “generations of scientists a window into the time when the Sun and planets were forming about 4.5 billion years ago,” according to NASA.
Moreover, the mission could contribute crucial information to Earth’s defense against a potential collision with Bennu, an asteroid roughly the size of the Empire State Building. NASA estimates a 1-in-2,700 chance of Bennu impacting Earth in the latter half of the 2100s.
The journey leading up to this momentous return has been a long and meticulous one. OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu in 2018 and spent two years closely orbiting the asteroid, gathering vital data.
In 2020, the spacecraft made history with a successful landing on Bennu’s surface, collecting a “touch and go” sample in under a minute. Despite an initial setback due to a jammed door that led to the loss of some space dust, the sample collected still surpasses the mission’s requirement of two ounces.
Once the capsule safely touches down in the Utah desert, a dedicated NASA team will transport the precious material to a meticulously clean environment. Subsequently, the Bennu samples will find their way to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Approximately 70% of the asteroid material will be preserved for future research endeavors, allowing scientists worldwide to delve into its mysteries. Additionally, a portion of the sample will be shared with the Japanese Space Exploration Agency as part of an exchange for samples collected by Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft.
Looking ahead, OSIRIS-REx is set to continue its mission by studying another asteroid named Apophis, named after a demon serpent in ancient Egyptian mythology, symbolizing evil and chaos. This ambitious mission marks another chapter in humanity’s ongoing exploration of our solar system and beyond.
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