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Former astronaut Cunningham, member of first crewed Apollo flight, dies at age 90

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WASHINGTON: Former US astronaut Walter Cunningham, who flew to space aboard Apollo 7 in 1968 on the inaugural crewed Apollo mission that paved the way for the first human moon landing nine months later, died on Tuesday at age 90, NASA said.

Cunningham joined crewmates Walter Schirra and Donn Eisele for the 11-day mission, which was conducted in low-Earth orbit. It was the first human test flight of the new Apollo spacecraft, which would ultimately land a dozen astronauts on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1972.

He was the last surviving member of the Apollo 7 crew, following the deaths of mission commander Schirra, one of the original “Mercury Seven” astronauts, and command module pilot Eisele, in 2007 and 1987, respectively.

Cunningham was the flight’s designated lunar module pilot, even though Apollo 7 did not carry the moon landing craft, and he was responsible for all spacecraft systems except launch and navigation.

Blasting off on Oct. 11, 1968, Apollo 7 marked the resumption of NASA’s lunar spaceflight program 21 months after the fire that killed all three members of the Apollo 1 crew — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee — during a ground-based launch rehearsal in late January 1967.

Prior to his assignment to Apollo 7, Cunningham had been the backup lunar module pilot for the ill-fated Apollo 1 mission and was on the prime crew for Apollo 2 until it was cancelled.

Apollo 7 also was notable for providing the first live television transmission of onboard crew activities, as well as for testy exchanges between ground control and the astronauts, who developed head colds during the flight and openly voiced annoyance with mission directors at times.

Due in part to those tensions, none of the three astronauts went to space again, though Schirra, who by then had flown two previous NASA missions, had already announced plans to retire.

Still, the mission was considered a technical success for proving the capabilities and integrity of systems that would carry Apollo 11 to the lunar surface in July 1969 for the historic first moonwalks by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.

Cunningham, who served in the US Navy and Marine Corps, flying 54 missions as a fighter pilot before retiring with the rank of colonel, was selected as an astronaut in 1963 as part of NASA’s third astronaut class, the space agency said.

Between his military service and NASA tenure, Cunningham spent three years as a Rand Corp. scientist, working on classified defence studies and problems related to the Earth’s magnetic field.

“Walt Cunningham was a fighter pilot, physicist and an entrepreneur — but, above all, he was an explorer,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement announcing his death.

Following Apollo 7, Cunningham was assigned to lead the Skylab branch — an early space station program — under NASA’s flight crew directorate, and he retired from the space agency in 1971.

He went on to a post-NASA career as an investor and executive in several business ventures, becoming a frequent keynote speaker and radio talk show host.

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VPNs, X, and Slow Internet Services Are Still Blocked in Pakistan

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Users are reporting poor performance on numerous social media sites due to widespread slowdowns in internet access. Furthermore, X (previously Twitter) has been inaccessible for the past six days, despite the Sindh High Court’s directive to allow access. In the meantime, Pakistan is blocking VPN services.

X Remains Unblockable

On February 17, 2024, the Pakistani government first prohibited access to X when it was discovered that Rawalpindi’s Commissioner had rigged election results. The block is still in effect, even though there has been no official announcement or explanation for it. Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the prohibition, the administration has not yet disclosed any plans for reinstatement. Furthermore, officials are giving media outlets conflicting information about the limitations.

Blocked VPN Services

Virtual private network (VPN) services are being widely blocked nationwide, which exacerbates the problem. Apart from limiting accessibility to X, the government has initiated the banning of prominent VPN providers, impeding users’ capacity to establish connections with any server.

sluggish internet access

There is a noticeable slowdown in internet speeds and a decline in performance across Pakistan. The problem hasn’t been acknowledged by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), nevertheless. Even though internet service providers (ISPs) insist there aren’t any outages, consumers on social media sites are nonetheless complaining about poor access.

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Another X, previously Twitter, outage has affected Pakistan.

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Adding to the current difficulties with online connectivity, internet users in Pakistan experienced yet another disturbance when attempting to use the services of social media site X, formerly known as Twitter.

Users from Islamabad and other regions of the nation were unable to use the site for several hours since the service was down.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which is becoming increasingly concerned about the frequent outages, has not made an official remark about the matter.

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Pakistan

Elections 2024: On February 8, a “suspension” of cellphone and internet services was suggested.

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The suggestion was made at the meeting of the ECP, which was convened to examine the state of law and order in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

According to those with knowledge of the situation, there was a suggestion to cut back on mobile and internet service in vulnerable sections of the nation in time for the general elections in 2024.

The election candidates’ security was also a topic of discussion during the conference, and CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja voiced his worries about the rise in attacks on political gatherings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

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