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Geopolitics

A Quick Glance In Space As Pandemic Consumes Planet Earth Below

Expedition 63 crewmembers Ivanishin and Vagner prepare to go the ISS
Expedition 63 crewmembers Ivanishin and Vagner prepare to go the ISS

The colossal impacts of that tiny virus are visible from space. Wired magazine reported about a Colorado-based space technology company Maxartaking low-Earth orbit satellite photographs of COVID-19 hotspots, capturing images of empty cities, make-shift hospitals being constructed and airport rental car lots suddenly filled with cars as people stopped traveling.

But the flipside question to those photos is also worth asking: What is the impact of coronavirus on space?

Despite the outbreak, NASA is working hard to ensure the launch of the Mars 2020 mission in July. Limiting or even suspending other space projects amid the global pandemic, the US Space Agency made Mars 2020 its top priority, especially since their Chinese counterparts have no intention of giving up their ambitious Martian project Huoxing-1 scheduled for take-off on July 23, reports Le Monde.

Some missions are still being carried out: American astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner were launched to the International Space Station on April 9 after being quarantined for two weeks.

Three other astronauts, instead, are set to leave what might be the "safest place for human beings," after more than six months aboard the ISS, with return scheduled for Friday to an Earth that is forever changed. In a video interview, U.S. astronaut Jessica Meir said that she and her fellow crew members exercise daily to maintain their physical and mental health, and keep in touch with friends and family via weekly video chats. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, NASA has set up a crowdsourcing platform to exchange research ideas to aid in the fight against the pandemic, with three areas in which it could potentially make the most meaningful difference: personal protective equipment, ventilators and forecasting the spread and impact of the coronavirus.

Al-Jazeerareports that NASA with the Space Medicine Innovations Laboratory at Dartmouth University have developed a self-guided online program to manage conflict, stress, and depression. This conflict resolution module designed for astronauts on missions for long periods of time in tight living quarters is now available for everyone.


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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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