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Outside the Circle: Neil Armstrong passes, West Nile cases increase

Neil Armstrong passes away

The life of the first man on the moon ended on Saturday, Aug. 25, as a result of complications from a cardiovascular procedure. Neil Armstrong passed away in Cincinnati, Ohio at the age of 82. Armstrong, an astronaut on Apollo 11, became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Armstrong’s interest in flying began at age six, when he took his first flight. During his college years, he was a naval aviator in the Korean War, and, according to CBS News, continued his education to become a test pilot for aircrafts such as the X-15 rocket plane.

His first space travel occurred in 1966 when Armstrong was an astronaut on Gemini VIII. A thruster on the craft stuck open and almost launched the crew into peril, until Armstrong used a back-up system and made an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean.

After this initial space exploration, Armstrong continued to train for a moon landing, and he got his chance on July 16, 1969 when he, along with other noted astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, left the Kennedy Space Center.

In the two hours and thirty-two minutes that Armstrong spent on the moon, he and Aldrin planted an American flag, collected moon rocks, and set up various scientific experiments.  Armstrong is known for saying, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

When he returned, Armstrong left NASA and taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Commenting on his death, his family said, “While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”

NYPD takes down Empire State Building shooter

On Friday, Aug. 24, New Yorker Steven Ercolino was shot and killed in front of the Empire State Building. Soon after, the gunman was killed by police officers responding to the scene. The shooter, 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson, had been laid off from his job as a women’s accessories designer at Hazan Import about a year before.

Ercolino was a graduate of the State University of New York at Oneonta. The 41-year-old was a Vice President of Sales at Hazan Import. The dispute between the two individuals stemmed from the fact that Ercolino was reportedly not selling enough of Johnson’s design.

Ercolino and Johnson filed harassment complaints against each other in April of 2011. This occurred after Johnson’s firing and he continued to visit the company and start altercations with Ercolino.

The two men were supposed to meet that Friday morning, but instead, Johnson greeted Ercolino with one shot to the head and one shot to the torso. Johnson then turned and calmly walked down the street. A construction worker who saw the shots notified police.

The police officers fired 16 rounds total. The nine other causalities that occurred, although not fatal, were caused by bullet fragments from the two police officers’ guns that ricocheted off of nearby objects.

According to CNN, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that the injuries were not caused by direct shots, but because the officer’s bullets hit “flowerpots and other objects…their bullets fragmented, and, in essence, that’s what caused the wounds.” Six of the nine injured individuals were treated at a nearby hospital and released Friday evening. The other three are still in the hospital.

West Nile cases increase

The number of West Nile cases at this time of year is nearly four times the normal amount. Dr. Lyle Petersen at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that it is too early to determine how many cases of West Nile there will be this year because of the disproportionate number of infections that are reported in August and September. However, at this point, there are more reported cases than at this point in past years.

So far, 1118 illnesses have been reported. Most of these cases are located in Texas. Normally, by this time in August, only about 300 cases are reported. Of the 1118 cases reported, only 41 deaths have occurred. Furthermore, 400 of these 1118 cases were reported in the past week.

The West Nile Virus occurs when mosquitoes pick up the virus from bitten birds. When the mosquitoes bite humans, the virus is passed again. According to the Associated Press, experts believe that the mild winter, early spring, and hot summer allowed mosquitoes to breed more easily and quickly.

Experts also believe that the virus may have mutated, but there is no current information that supports that theory.

The West Nile Virus peaked in 2003 when there were almost 3000 cases of the illness and over 250 deaths. This past year had less than 700 reported cases. Only one out of five people that are infected actually fall ill. The symptoms can include fever, headache, and body aches and usually take three to 14 days to develop. Typically, the symptoms disappear in a few days.

However, one in 150 people will develop more serious symptoms. These symptoms can include neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, and paralysis. So far this year, half of the 1118 cases reported are considered severe. The virus has shown up in 38 states so far.

The best way to avoid the West Nile Virus is to use insect repellents and screens on doors and windows. To avoid mosquitoes and their bites, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and avoid standing water.

Curiosity Lands on Mars

NASA rover Curiosity landed on Mars on Aug. 6 and made its first moves on Wednesday, Aug. 22. The rover drove forward 15 feet, turned 120 degrees, and backed up eight feet. The 16 minute excursion allowed photographs to be taken of the rover’s progress.

According to the New York Times, the mission’s project manager, Peter Theisinger, was thrilled about the progress. “It couldn’t be more important,” he said.

“I mean, we built a rover. So unless the rover roves, we really haven’t accomplished anything,” he continued.

Future plans for Curiosity include a multi-year trek through a 96-mile-wide crater and a trip up a 3.4-mile high mountain inside the crater. The goal is to discover signs that Mars may have supported early microbial life.

Curiosity will begin the journey on Mars from Bradbury Landing, which was named after Ray Bradbury, who passed away in June. He is the author of “The Martian Chronicles” and many other science fiction novels.

Since landing on the planet, Curiosity has been busy vaporizing Martian rocks with lasers. The flashes of light that the laser beam emits help to determine the composition of the rocks. So far, the rocks that have been vaporized seem to be similar to one another and appear to be formed from the rapid cooling of lava.

Curiosity is also fitted with a device built by Russian scientists that allows it to fire neutrons into the soil to search for hydrogen. Findings from this research could point to the existence of water on Mars. The only equipment casualty thus far is a wind sensor that was knocked out. However, there is a second wind sensor supplied by Spain that is fully functional.

Using these instruments, air temperatures have been measured anywhere from -103 degrees Fahrenheit to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, while ground temperatures have been measured anywhere from -132 degrees Fahrenheit to 37 degrees Fahrenheit.

Eventually, those involved in the Curiosity mission hope to analyze the makeup of Mars’s atmosphere. Curiosity will then go to Glenelg, where three different types of environments appear to intersect.

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