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US astronauts prepare station for commercial space taxis

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Two NASA astronauts left the International Space Station on Friday for a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk to install a parking spot for upcoming commercial space taxis, which will end U.S. reliance on Russia for rides to the orbiting outpost.

Station commander Jeff Williams and flight engineer Kate Rubins floated outside the station’s airlock at about 8:15 a.m. EDT (1215 GMT) and headed toward the berthing slip once used by NASA’s now-retired space shuttles, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

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“Great view,” said Rubins, who is making her first spacewalk.

Since grounding the shuttle fleet in 2011, the United States has been dependent on Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, at a cost of more than $70 million per person.

During Friday’s spacewalk, Williams and Rubins plan to attach an adapter onto the shuttle’s docking port that will allow commercial space taxis under development by Space Exploration Technologies and Boeing to park at the station, a $100 billion research laboratory that flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

California-based SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to begin test flights of its new passenger Dragon capsule to the station in 2017.

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Boeing’s debut flight of its CST-100 Starliner capsule is expected in 2018.

NASA had hoped to have the first of two new docking ports installed last year, but the equipment was destroyed during a SpaceX cargo ship launch accident in June 2015.

A replacement docking port is under construction and expected to be delivered to the station in early 2018.

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(Reporting by Irene Klotz in Cairns, Australia; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Paul Simao)


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Here’s how the law governing whistleblowers applies to the Trump Ukraine complaint

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This week it was revealed that President Donald Trump did something so concerning that an intelligence staffer felt the need to report the incident and file for whistleblower protections.

Trump asked Ukraine to look into scandals about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter. For nearly a year, Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani was admittedly working to persuade officials in Ukraine to find "dirt" on the Bidens that they could use in the election. While the accusations against the younger Biden have been disproven, it's suspected, but not confirmed, that this was the incident detailed in the complaint.

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Retiring Republican lawmaker blames Trump’s ‘petty, childish bullsh*t’ for massive GOP exodus

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In an examination of the record-breaking number of Republican lawmakers who have decided to quit or retire despite holding a seat in solidly conservative congressional districts, one lawmaker admitted that he grew weary of having to deal with Donald Trump's daily Twitter habit and other shenanigans -- so he is calling it quits.

As the Washington Post reports, "Since Trump’s inauguration, a Washington Post analysis shows that nearly 40 percent of the 241 Republicans who were in office in January 2017 are gone or leaving because of election losses, retirements including former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis)."

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Internet rains hell on ‘fake Christian’ Karen Pence’s new Twitter account: ‘I can’t wait for the rapture’

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The Internet reacted with scorn over the weekend after Second Lady Karen Pence announced a new Twitter account aimed at reelecting President Donald Trump.

In her first tweet, Pence posted a video lavishing praise on the president.

"There are probably a lot of things you don't know about me," Pence says in the video. "For example, I enjoy painting, I love to ride my bike and I like nothing better than reading a good book. On my new Twitter account, I will share what I'm up to when I'm not in the office at the White House."

Excited to start a new #Twitter account to help tell the story of all the accomplishments under the leadership of @realDonaldTrump and @mike_pence! Follow along to KEEP AMERICA GREAT! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RaPwC5ThyR

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