IDLIB, Syria: More than 300 children in rebel-held northwest Syria kicked off their own football World Cup on Saturday, with organizers hoping to shine a light on communities battered by 11 years of war.
The excited children took part in the opening ceremony at the municipal stadium in Idlib, some wearing the jerseys of this year’s World Cup teams, an AFP photographer said.
Their 32 squads correspond to the nations that have qualified for the World Cup, which starts Sunday in Qatar, and their competition opened with a match between the host country and Ecuador, reflecting the official schedule.
“I represent Spain and I hope we win the cup,” gushed 12-year-old Bassel Sheikho, who works in a garage.
While children from camps for displaced people in Idlib and surrounding areas make up 25 of the teams, the other seven are composed of children who work in industrial zones in the region.
Syria’s war has killed around half a million people and displaced millions more since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.
The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.
Children aged 10 to 14 have been training for months to take part in the “camps World Cup,” said Ibrahim Sarmini from the NGO Violet, which organized the tournament.
He said the event aims to encourage children to participate in sports, and to “focus international attention on displaced youth and those who work,” who are among those most exposed to sometimes deadly risks.
The last pocket of armed opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime includes large swathes of Idlib province and parts of the neighboring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.
The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) militant group, led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, is dominant in the area but other rebel groups are also active.
The “camps World Cup” matches will continue throughout the official tournament period, and the final will be organized in a camp in Idlib.
Sarmini noted that winter was set to begin in full force, with rains expected to once again bring misery to the ramshackle, poverty-stricken camps.
“I hope the whole world will turn their attention to the displaced and will support them so they can return to their homes as soon as possible,” he said.
DUBAI: US actress Jessica Chastain took to Twitter on Friday to show solidarity with the nationwide protests that have hit Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini.
Accompanied by a photograph of the actress in a white shirt with Mahsa Amini’s name repeatedly written on it in red ink, Chastain’s tweet read: “It’s been over two months since the death of #MahsaAmini.”
Twenty-two-year-old Amini died in Iran in September after she was detained and allegedly beaten by the morality police for wearing her hijab in an “insufficiently modest” manner.
“Over two months of nationwide protests in Iran. Over two months of the regime’s violent crackdown, killing women, men and children who are fighting for freedom. Stand with Iran. Use your voice,” Chastain wrote.
She also called on the public to show support and help in two simple ways: “1) share any posts you see about what is happening in Iran. This will put a spotlight on the atrocities of the regime. 2) show your support by signing the petitions that are circulating.”
Those petitions include one posted on change.org against the mandatory wearing of the hijab.
Last month, British singer Harry Styles honored Amini during a concert in Chicago. He held up a sign that read: “Stand with the women of Iran. #MahsaAmini.”
Arab News has previously reported that a number of Iranian sportsmen, actors and filmmakers have backed the protests, asking authorities to listen to the people’s demands.
It’s been over two months since the death of #MahsaAmini. Over two months of nationwide protests in Iran. Over two months of the regime’s violent crackdown, killing women, men and children who are fighting for freedom. Stand with Iran. Use your voice. pic.twitter.com/lADr0Kp1Kn
ABU DHABI: Queen Nanasipauʻu of Tonga visited the Zayed Higher Foundation for People of Determination on Thursday, an organization that provides support services for people with disabilities.
The queen was accompanied on a tour of the facility by senior ZHO officials and learned about the services it provides to help people integrate into society, reported the Emirates News Agency on Friday.
She also attended a reception hosted by ZHO Secretary-General Abdullah Abdul Ali Al-Humaidan and Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al-Khaili, who heads the community development department in Abu Dhabi.
The queen, who is on an official tour of the UAE, said she was pleased to have had the opportunity to visit the foundation and expressed admiration for the services it provides, describing them as matching the best in the world. She also met a number of workers and students.
She added that she would like to see greater cooperation between the foundation and similar organizations in Tonga so that people in her country might benefit from Zayed’s experience and expertise.
Al-Humaidan said: “The foundation is proud to provide this service to groups dear to all of us, in light of the great support it receives from the wise leadership and the follow-up and supervision of Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan.”
The UAE refers to people with disabilities as “people of determination” in recognition of their achievements in different fields.
The ZHO says on its website that it helps people “educationally, functionally, culturally and socially in line with their abilities and aspirations.”
BENGALURU: India successfully launched its first privately developed rocket, the Vikram-S, on Friday, a milestone in the country’s effort to create a commercial space industry and to compete on cost.
The 545-kg rocket, developed by space startup Skyroot, took off from the Indian space agency’s launch site near Chennai and hit a peak altitude of 89.5 kilometers (km).
The rocket has the capability of reaching Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — and carrying a payload of 83 kg to an altitude of 100 kilometers, the company said.
The Skyroot team had set a target of 80 km for its first launch, a benchmark some agencies define as the frontier of space. The Karman line — set by an international aeronautics body as defining the boundary between the Earth’s atmosphere and space — is at 100 km altitude.
Video footage showed the rocket taking off from the space center, leaving a plume of smoke and fire in its trail. It splashed down in the Bay of Bengal about 5 minutes after launch, officials said.
“I’m happy to announce the successful completion of Mission Prarambh, the beginning,” said Pawan Goenka, who chairs the Indian government agency that coordinates private-sector space activities.
Skyroot, which was started by Pawan Chandana and Bharath Daka, has set a target of cutting development costs by up to 90 percent versus existing platforms to launch small satellites.
It expects to achieve that cost savings by using a rocket architecture that can be assembled in less than 72 hours with composite materials. It plans launches capable of delivering satellites starting next year.
“Innovation and cost efficiency should be the two drivers for the industry. Cost efficiency has already been achieved, and now we should look at cutting edge technology,” Chandana said.
The Indian government has been pushing to develop a private space industry to complement its state-run space program known for its affordable launches and missions.
India’s unmanned Mars mission in 2014 cost only $74 million, and made headlines for costing less than the Academy Award winnning film “Gravity.”
Until now, the state-run ISRO has had a monopoly on launching rockets in India.
The Skyroot rockets are named after Vikram Sarabhai, the Indian physicist and astronomer considered the father of India’s space program.
Hyderabad-based Skyroot, founded in 2018 and backed by Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC, was the first space startup to sign an agreement to use Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launch and test facilities after the government opened the door to private companies in 2020.
It has raised 5.26 billion rupees ($64.42 million) so far and employs about 200 people. Close to 100 people have been involved in its maiden launch project, the company said. ($1 = 81.6550 Indian rupees)
LONDON: Qatar Airways has unveiled new branding at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4 roundabout.
It includes a 9-meter-long scale model of a Boeing 777-9 aircraft above a 12-meter LED screen highlighting the carrier’s products, services, destinations, and marketing campaigns.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 logo is also featured to promote the airline’s official partnership with the international governing body for football.
Qatar Airways’ group chief executive officer, Akbar Al-Baker, said: “We are fully committed to serving passengers in the UK – one of our key markets – and we are fully confident that our new branding at Heathrow brings to life some of the exciting products and services we have on offer.”
Arianne Riddell, director of sales at airport advertising company JCDecaux Airport, said that as international travel continued to bounce back after the coronavirus pandemic, airport advertising remained a powerful method of communication.
The new branding came after Qatar Airways opened a new frequent-flyer lounge exclusively for Privilege Club members and oneworld alliance partners at Terminal 4.
The Qatari flag-carrier airline currently operates six daily flights from London Heathrow, two daily flights from London Gatwick, up to three each day from Manchester, and one a day from Edinburgh.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA’s towering next-generation moon rocket blasted off from Florida early on Wednesday on its debut flight, a crewless voyage inaugurating the US space agency’s Artemis exploration program 50 years after the final Apollo moon mission.
The 32-story Space Launch System (SLS) rocket surged off the launch pad from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral to send its Orion capsule on a three-week test journey around the moon and back without astronauts aboard.
Liftoff came on the third attempt at launching the long-delayed, multibillion-dollar rocket, after 10 weeks beset by numerous technical mishaps, back-to-back hurricanes and two excursions trundling the spacecraft out of its hangar to the launch pad.
Dubbed Artemis I, the mission marks the first flight of the SLS rocket and the Orion capsule together, built by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp, respectively, under contract with NASA.
It also signals a major change in direction for NASA’s post-Apollo human spaceflight program after decades focused on low-Earth orbit with space shuttles and the International Space Station. (See graphic)
Named for the ancient Greek goddess of the hunt — and Apollo’s twin sister — Artemis aims to return astronauts to the moon’s surface as early as 2025.
Twelve astronauts walked on the moon during six Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972, the only spaceflights yet to place humans on the lunar surface. But Apollo, born of the Cold War-era US-Soviet space race, was less science-driven than Artemis.
The new moon program has enlisted commercial partners such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the space agencies of Europe, Canada and Japan to eventually establish a long-term lunar base as a stepping stone to even more ambitious human voyages to Mars.
The Artemis I countdown climaxed with the rocket’s four main R-25 engines and its twin solid-rocket boosters roaring to life, sending the spacecraft streaking skyward and lighting up the night sky over Florida’s central Atlantic coast.
About 90 minutes after launch, the rocket’s upper stage is designed to loft Orion out of Earth orbit on course for a 25-day flight that will bring it to within 60 miles (97 km) of the lunar surface before sailing 40,000 miles (64,374 km) beyond the moon and back to Earth.
The capsule is expected to splash down on Dec. 11.
SPACEFLIGHT STRESS TEST
Getting the SLS-Orion spacecraft off the ground was a key hurdle for the ambitious Artemis program. Its first voyage is intended to put the vehicle through its paces in a rigorous test flight, pushing its design limits to prove the spacecraft is suitable to fly astronauts.
If the mission succeeds, a crewed Artemis II flight around the moon and back could come as early as 2024, followed within a few more years by the program’s first lunar landing of astronauts, one of them a woman, with Artemis III.
Billed as the most powerful, complex rocket in the world, the SLS represents the biggest new vertical launch system NASA has built since the Saturn V of the Apollo era.
Although no people were aboard, Orion carried a simulated crew of three — one male and two female mannequins — fitted with sensors to measure radiation levels and other stresses that astronauts would experience.
A top objective is to test the durability of Orion’s heat shield during re-entry as it hits Earth’s atmosphere at 24,500 miles (39,429 km) per hour, or 32 times the speed of sound, on its return from lunar orbit — much faster than re-entries from the space station.
The heat shield is designed to withstand re-entry friction expected to raise temperatures outside the capsule to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).
The spacecraft also is set to release a payload of 10 miniaturized science satellites, called CubeSats, including one designed to map the abundance of ice deposits on the moon’s south pole, where Artemis seeks to eventually land astronauts.
Sending astronauts to Mars, an order of magnitude more challenging than lunar landings, is expected to take at least another decade and a half to achieve.
More than a decade in development with years of delays and budget overruns, the SLS-Orion spacecraft has so far cost NASA least $37 billion, including design, construction, testing and ground facilities. NASA’s Office of Inspector General has projected total Artemis costs at $93 billion by 2025.
NASA calls the program a boon to space exploration that has generated tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in commerce.