With A Wingspan Wider Than A Football Field, The World’s Largest Plane Takes Flight

The Stratolaunch — the world’s largest plane by wingspan — took its first flight on Saturday above the Mojave Desert in California.

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Stratolaunch Systems

The world’s largest plane by wingspan took its first flight on Saturday above the Mojave Desert in California.

With a wingspan wider than the length of an American football field, the plane features six turbofan engines, a dual fuselage design and was made using parts from two Boeing jets, according to The New York Times.

The Stratolaunch, as the plane is called, is designed to carry rockets to an altitude of 35,000 feet, at which time they would ignite and launch into orbit according to The Verge. The rockets would carry commercial satellites into space.

The plane was built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp., which was created in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. By launching rockets, satellites and other spacecraft from the sky, the company is betting it will be able to avoid the types of delays that ground launches are prone to, such as bad weather.

The Stratolaunch plane features six turbofan engines and a dual-fuselage design.

Stratolaunch Systems


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Stratolaunch Systems

During the test flight that lasted more than two hours, the plane reached an altitude of 17,000 feet and a top speed of 189 mph, according to the company.

“I’m really excited today to share that we have successfully flown the Stratolaunch aircraft for its first test flight this morning,” said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd during a press briefing. “It was an emotional moment for me to personally watch this majestic bird take flight and to see Paul Allen’s dream come to life in front of my very eyes.”

Today the #Stratolaunch aircraft flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert, reaching a top speed of 189 mph. Check out the historic flight here: #StratoFirstFlight pic.twitter.com/x29KifphNz

— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 13, 2019

The company says it wants to begin launching rockets from the Stratolaunch by 2020 at the earliest, according to Reuters. But while it works toward that goal, it also faces competition from the likes of Elon Musk’s SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance.

With a wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch successfully completed its first test flight Saturday morning.

Stratolaunch Systems


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Stratolaunch Systems

Though the company isn’t ready to launch anything just yet, Saturday’s flight was considered a success by many, including test pilot Evan Thomas.

“The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want the first flight to be,” said Thomas at the briefing. “And for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted which is again exactly what we want.”

Said Thomas: “I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness.”

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High Stress Drives Up Your Risk Of A Heart Attack. Here’s How To Chill Out

The trick, of course, is to find moments of deep relaxation wherever you are, not just on vacation. Laughing with friends can be another way to start breaking the cycle of chronic stress, and help keep your heart healthy, too.

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Work Stress. Home Stress. Financial Stress.

The toll of chronic stress isn’t limited to emotional suffering. High stress can set the stage for heart disease.

If fact, research shows that those of us who perceive a lot of stress in our lives are at higher risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems over the long term.

The latest evidence comes from a new study of siblings in Sweden. Researchers identified about 137,000 people who had been diagnosed with stress-related disorders; the diagnoses included post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress following a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one or a violent episode. Then, the researchers identified about 171,000 of their brothers and sisters who had similar upbringings and genes — but no anxiety disorder.

Next, they compared the siblings’ rates of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, cardiac arrest and blood clots, over a number of years.

The Swedes who had a stress disorder, it turns out, had significantly higher rates of heart problems compared to their siblings.

“We saw [about] a 60 percent increased risk of having any cardiovascular events,” within the first year after being diagnosed, says researcher Unnur A Valdimarsdóttir of the Karolinska Institute, and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iceland. Over, the longer term, the increased risk was about 30 percent, Valdimarsdóttir says.

The findings, published in the current issue of the medical journal BMJ, “are quite consistent with other studies,” says Simon Bacon, of Concordia University, who studies the impact of lifestyle on chronic diseases. He points to other studies that show depression, anxiety and stress increase the risk of cardiovascular events. He’s written an editorial that is published alongside the study.

So, when is stress just a normal part of life — something we all just need to deal with — and when does it become so problematic that it sets the stage for disease? Part of the answer here depends on how we respond to stress, the scientists say, and on our own internal perceptions about how much stress we’re feeling.

We’ve all experienced the fight-or-flight stress response.

“Imagine you’re walking down the street and someone jumps out and gives you a scare,” says Bacon. What happens? Your heart rate increases and your blood pressure climbs. “You have that immediate activation,” Bacon says. And, in the short term, this temporary response is good. It gives you what you need to flee or take action.

But, the problem comes if you start to experience these stress response ‘activations’ even when there’s not an imminent threat.

“When people have stress disorders, these systems are being activated at all the wrong times,” Bacon says. For instance, with PTSD, “you can get very exaggerated stress responses just thinking about something that happened.”

People who experience chronic stress seem to be at highest risk of health problems.

“Over the long term, repeated, persistent [stress] responses will activate the immune system and contribute to inflammation,” says Dr. Ernesto Schiffrin, a physician and professor of medicine at McGill University. He says inflammation can set the stage for atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood to your heart and body. When the arteries narrow, this limits blood flow — increasing the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event.

So, since we can’t wave a magic wand and make stress disappear, what are the best coping options? There’s no magic bullet, but day-to-day habits can help tamp down stress.

Schiffrin says he gives his patients this advice: Eat in a healthy way, attempt to have good relationships, have a good attitude, spend time in nature, and exercise. “I think exercise is critical,” Schiffrin says. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these.

  • Exercise When researchers analyzed CDC survey data from more than a million adults in the U.S., they found that people who exercised reported fewer days of bad mental health compared to those who didn’t exercise. And, as we’ve reported, there was an extra ‘boost’ in mental health linked to playing team sports. But, whether you choose a simple walk, forest-bathing, or a group activity, who doesn’t feel a little better after moving their body?
  • Cultivate Friendships Loneliness is an epidemic. And, as we’ve reported, a recent survey found 2 in 5 respondents reported lacking companionship or said they felt isolated from others. Yet, spending time with friends can really boost our moods. No matter your stage of life, signing up for a group activity or volunteering are good options for getting and staying engaged in the community around you.
  • Learn Meditation Or Relaxation Techniques Mindfulness meditation has been shown to tamp down the stress response, and even help reduce blood pressure among people who can maintain the habit. As we’ve reported, one study found that meditation helped 40 out of 60 patients reduce their blood pressure enough to reduce some of their medications.
  • Eat Well There is indeed a link between food and mood. As we’ve reported, a diet full of refined carbohydrates and sugar (the sort you’ll find in packaged snacks and sodas) can lead to a metabolic roller coaster, that can influence your mood, too. On the other hand, a Mediterranean-style diet — rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish — can leave you feeling nourished.
  • Seek Help For Anxiety Disorders These day-to-day habits may help reduce the amount of stress you feel, but for people with stress disorders such as PTSD it may be best to reach out to a professional for help. “People should treat their mental health issues,” says Bacon. You don’t have to grin-and-bare it, he says. Mental health professionals have lots of tools.

“You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you could make your health worse by not doing anything,” Bacon says.

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Tiger Woods Wins His 5th Masters Title, Marking A Career Comeback

Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, nearly 11 years after his last major win.

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Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title on Sunday, marking an incredible comeback from injury and personal hardship that ended a nearly 11-year-long championship drought.

Woods finished the final round of his 22nd Masters appearance 13 under par, winning the tournament by a single stroke over Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who were tied for second place.

Sunday’s win at Augusta National — where Woods won his first major in 1997 — was his 15th time winning a major. Prior to Sunday, Woods hadn’t won a major championship since his victory at the U.S. open in 2008.

With five Masters titles, he is now just one victory away from tying the record for most Masters wins held by American Jack Nicklaus, who has six. The victory also brought Woods closer to tying Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

“THE RETURN TO GLORY!”

Tiger Woods wins the Masters for the 5th time. pic.twitter.com/u3cNdQm6MG

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 14, 2019

The win capped a stunning professional comeback for Woods, who has faced crippling back and leg injuries that led to multiple surgeries and nearly ended his professional golf career. In 2017, he underwent a spinal fusion, his fourth back surgery, with hopes of alleviating the pain.

It was also his first victory at a major since a series of personal troubles that began in 2009 pushed Woods to take a break from the sport.

As the final round of the tournament got off to an early start Sunday morning due to bad weather, it wasn’t clear that Woods would come back from two strokes behind, but he did.

“I was just trying to plod my way along the golf course all day, then all of a sudden I had a lead,” Woods said after his victory. “Coming up to 18, it was just trying to make a five. When I tapped the putt in — I don’t know what I did. I know I screamed.”

As the ball went in, the crowd erupted into applause and chants of “TIGER! TIGER!”

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Remembering Dick Cole, Who Risked His Life In WWII Doolittle Raid

Dick Cole at 103 with the B-25 “Grumpy” at the Oregon International Airshow in Sept. 2018.

Courtesy of David Mackintosh


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Courtesy of David Mackintosh

World War II pilot Dick Cole, the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raid, died last week at age 103.

Cole was renowned aviation pioneer Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in April 1942 on what was regarded as a suicide mission – the first counterattack against the Japanese mainland after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The raid caused Japan to contract its forces and start a battle with the United States over Midway Atoll, a small ring shaped island between North America and Asia. This battle, which the U.S. won, shifted the tide of the war into America’s favor.

A memorial service for Cole will be held at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas on April, 18 — exactly 77 years after the raid occurred.

Lt. Col. Dick Cole after one of his interviews with author Laura Hillenbrand in September 2018.

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Courtesy of David Mackintosh

Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, knew Cole and wanted to write a book about him.

“[the pilots] were very likely to die … and everyone had the opportunity to back out. Not a single man did,” including Cole, Hillenbrand told NPR’s Scott Simon for Weekend Edition.


Interview Highlights

On why the mission was so dangerous

The United States was really knocked back by Pearl Harbor. And after that, the Japanese were just on a winning streak. And the United States could do nothing about it because they had no land base from which to launch bombers and go after Japan. And they had what I think is kind of an insane idea, which is they were going to take 16 B-25s, which are medium-sized bombers. They were going to hoist them onto the carrier Hornet, sail it out off the Japanese coast and launch them … They had a plan that was going to take the planes over Japan, bomb Japan and then head on to friendly bases in China. And Japanese boats spotted their task force way early. They had to launch right at that moment. And they did. And the men knew they did not have enough fuel to make it.

On what happened to Lt. Col. Dick Cole during the mission

They flew over Japan, and they looked down. Cole remembered seeing people waving up and smiling at them as they flew over. They thought they were friendly planes … They headed out over the China Sea, and they started to run out of fuel. And a tail wind caught them and carried them over the Chinese coast. And then their fuel ran out in the darkness in a wild thunderstorm over the mountains of China. And Cole had to jump out of the plane. He had never even practiced parachuting. He’d had no training at all. And he just dove out of the plane headfirst.

A young Dick Cole

Courtesy of David Mackintosh


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Courtesy of David Mackintosh

He walked for a day, and he found a building with a nationalist Chinese flag hanging over it. And a soldier was there — a Chinese soldier — and invited him in. And, the man took him to a dark room, and there was Jimmy Doolittle … And from then, it was a race to get out of where they were because the Japanese were hunting them.

On why the mission was a success

The Japanese were so confident that they were spreading out over the globe and not concentrating their forces. And when this raid happened, that terrified them. And they contracted their forces. And they decided to take aim for Midway Atoll, which, if they could claim it, would give them a land base, making America more vulnerable and making themselves safer. And essentially, the raid lured them into that. We had the Battle of Midway. The United States won it triumphantly. And it turned the course of the war. So these guys – these 80 men on 16 planes – turned the course of history with that little raid.

On Cole’s life after the war

He was a – kind of an institution at the Doolittle Raider reunions that were held every year. And they had a tradition there. The city of Tucson had made up 80 silver goblets inscribed with the names of the 80 men from the raid. And the names were written on one side right-side up and another side upside down. And each year, the men would privately gather and drink brandy in a toast to whoever had passed away the previous year. And then that man’s goblet would be turned upside down. And there was one goblet that was still upright. And it actually still is now. But there’s going to be a ceremony to turn over the very last one because they’re all gone now.

NPR’s Digital Content intern Lindsey Feingold produced this story for Digital. NPR’s Peter Breslow and Ed McNulty produced and edited this story for broadcast.

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At Least 3 People Dead As Severe Weather Moves Across Southern U.S.

Severe weather that moved across the southern U.S. on Saturday left at least three people dead and ravaged numerous homes in its path.

Two children, ages 3 and 8, were killed in eastern Texas when a tree fell on the car in which they were traveling. Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches said in a statement that the children, who were in the car with their parents during the storm, were pronounced dead on the scene.

“They were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Capt. Alton Lenderman of the Angelina County Sheriff’s Office told The New York Times. “The tree fell just as they were going under it.”

In central Texas, approximately a dozen people were injured in Franklin where a tornado was confirmed by the National Weather Service, according to The Dallas Morning News.

In a preliminary damage report, the National Weather Service assigned the tornado an EF-3 rating, saying peak winds reached around 140 mph in Franklin.

Video from the area showed damage to houses with roofs ripped off.

AFTERMATH: A reported tornado leaves destruction in its wake, tearing homes apart and knocking down power lines in Franklin, Texas.

There have so far been four reported tornadoes in eastern Texas as parts of the South contend with severe storms. https://t.co/1JejRijaw5 pic.twitter.com/5Ubli0tHza

— ABC News (@ABC) April 13, 2019

In North Texas, The Dallas Morning News reported hail, ranging from pea-sized to baseball-sized, falling throughout the region.

As the storm moved east, at least one man was killed by a tornado in the northern Mississippi, according to Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley.

During a press conference, Monroe County Road Manager Sonny Clay said the man died when a tree fell on his trailer in Hamilton, Miss. At least 19 others were injured and taken to hospitals for treatment, the AP reports.

In Alabama, a possible tornado damaged some buildings, power lines and trees in the southeastern part of the state Sunday morning, according to the AP, but no injuries were reported.

In preparation for the inclement weather reaching Georgia, the Augusta National announced it would move up the start time on Sunday for Round 4 of the Masters in hope that play would finish before thunderstorms reached the golf course, according to CBS.

An early start meant early arrival for many patrons. Excitement continues to build on Masters Sunday. #themasters pic.twitter.com/eM74End61u

— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 14, 2019

The severe weather is expected to continue into late Sunday evening. According to AccuWeather, regions from Ohio to Pennsylvania and southern New York to northern Florida are at risk of damaging winds and flash flooding.

According to The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang, the potential for isolated tornadoes also exists and could affect the Mid-Atlantic region.

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