Blue Origin Makes Historic Rocket Landing

Van Horn, Texas – November 24, 2015 – Blue Origin today announced that its New Shepard space vehicle successfully flew to space, reaching its planned test altitude of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) before executing a historic landing back at the launch site in West Texas.

“Now safely tucked away at our launch site in West Texas is the rarest of beasts—a used rocket,” said Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. “Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle flew a flawless mission—soaring to 329,839 feet and then returning through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to make a gentle, controlled landing just four and a half feet from the center of the pad. Full reuse is a game changer, and we can’t wait to fuel up and fly again.”

Bezos stated: “This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design. Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.”

Named in honor of the first American in space, Alan Shepard, the New Shepard vertical takeoff and vertical landing vehicle will carry six astronauts to suborbital altitudes beyond 100 kilometers, the internationally-recognized boundary of space. The New Shepard space vehicle is a fully reusable and operated from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site. The vehicle is comprised of two elements—a crew capsule in which astronauts would ride, and a rocket booster powered by a single American-made BE-3 liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen engine. At liftoff, the BE-3 delivers 110,000 pounds of thrust. During ascent, astronauts would experience 3x the force of gravity as the spacecraft accelerates through the atmosphere.

Following powered flight, the crew capsule would separate from the booster and coasts into space, providing several minutes of weightlessness. As the crew capsule descends, it reenters the atmosphere with astronauts experiencing about 5x the force of gravity before deploying three main parachutes for landing. Meanwhile, the booster descends under guided flight to the landing pad. Just prior to landing, the booster re-ignites its BE-3 engine which slows the vehicle to 4.4 mph for a gentle, powered vertical landing, enabling vehicle reuse.

Flight Details

  • Launched at 11:21 a.m. Central Time, November 23, 2015
  • Apogee of 329,839 feet (100.5 kilometers) for the unmanned crew capsule
  • Mach 3.72
  • Re-ignition of rocket booster at 4,896 feet above ground level
  • Controlled vertical landing of the booster at 4.4 mph
  • Deployment of crew capsule drogue parachutes at 20,045 feet above ground level
  • Landing of the crew capsule under parachutes at 11:32 a.m. Central Time

A video is below (with a somewhat confusing inclusion of some animated segments):

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NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission to International Space Station

NASA took a significant step Friday toward expanding research opportunities aboard the International Space Station with its first mission order from Hawthorne, California based-company SpaceX to launch astronauts from U.S. soil.


Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, which are slated to lift off from the historic pad in the near future. A horizontal integration facility has been constructed near the perimeter of the pad where rockets will be processed for launch prior of rolling out to the top of the pad structure for liftoff. SpaceX anticipates using the launch pad for its Crew Dragon spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Credits: SpaceX

This is the second in a series of four guaranteed orders NASA will make under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts. The Boeing Company of Houston received its first crew mission order in May.

“It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan.”

Determination of which company will fly its mission to the station first will be made at a later time. The contracts call for orders to take place prior to certification to support the lead time necessary for missions in late 2017, provided the contractors meet readiness conditions.

Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America’s human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX’s crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, has advanced through several development and certification phases. The company recently performed a critical design review, which demonstrated the transportation system has reached a sufficient level of design maturity to work toward fabrication, assembly, integration and test activities.

“The authority to proceed with Dragon’s first operational crew mission is a significant milestone in the Commercial Crew Program and a great source of pride for the entire SpaceX team,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX. “When Crew Dragon takes NASA astronauts to the space station in 2017, they will be riding in one of the safest, most reliable spacecraft ever flown. We’re honored to be developing this capability for NASA and our country.”

Commercial crew launches will reduce the cost, per seat, of transporting NASA astronauts to the space station compared to what the agency must pay the Russian Federal Space Agency for the same service. If, however, NASA does not receive the full requested funding for CCtCap contracts in fiscal year 2016 and beyond, the agency will be forced to delay future milestones for both U.S. companies and continue its sole reliance on Russia to transport American astronauts to the space station.

Orders under the CCtCap contracts are made two to three years prior to actual mission dates in order to provide time for each company to manufacture and assemble the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions.

A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time.

“Commercial crew launches are really important for helping us meet the demand for research on the space station because it allows us to increase the crew to seven,” said Julie Robinson, International Space Station chief scientist. “Over the long term, it also sets the foundation for scientific access to future commercial research platforms in low- Earth orbit.”

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manages the CCtCap contracts and is working with each company to ensure commercial transportation system designs and post-certification missions will meet the agency’s safety requirements. Activities that follow the award of missions include a series of mission-related reviews and approvals leading to launch. The program also will be involved in all operational phases of missions to ensure crew safety.

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National Space Society Urges Presidential Signing of the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

On November 10, 2015, the Senate passed H.R. 2262, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (CSLCA). The House responded on November 16, 2015 by passing the final version as well. NSS congratulates both the Senate and House leadership for their hard work in hammering out a compromise between the previously passed House and Senate versions. “The CSLCA is a large and important pro-space bill that contains some vitally important steps toward space development and settlement,” said Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President. “NSS has been campaigning for the extension of the International Space Station, and NSS is delighted to see that the CSLCA formally extends the ISS to 2024.”

Other provisions in the CSLCA extend the so-called “learning period” for commercial human space flight by seven years, allowing the nascent space tourism industry to get a running start before full-on FAA regulations are put in place. Additionally, commercial space operators are allowed to both operate experimental and operational spacecraft at the same time, which was previously prohibited by law. “NSS has been working hard for both of these changes over the last year,” said Mark Hopkins, Chair of the NSS Executive Committee. “NSS believes that space tourism, including sub-orbital tourism, is one of the best routes to creating a low-cost road to the high frontier of space.”

The CSLCA calls for the establishment of a legal right for U.S. citizens to mine asteroids in a fashion consistent with international law, including the Outer Space Treaty. Milestone 18 of the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap calls for the exploration, utilization, and settlement of the asteroids ( “The establishment of the right to mine asteroids and profit from the results is an event of historic importance,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President.

The CSLCA contains a large number of additional provisions, each important in some fashion to advancing the development of space resources. “Of particular interest are the provisions encouraging U.S. leadership in space commerce, including remote sensing,” said Stan Rosen, a member of the NSS Policy Committee. “When combined with initiatives related to space traffic management, orbital debris and others, they make the CSLCA the most important space legislation in many years.”

One hurdle remains for the CSLCA – signing by President Obama. “This legislation is critical for our future in space. NSS urges that the President sign the CSLCA,” said Dale Skran.

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Making the Overview Effect Real

By Gary Barnhard & Uma Shri Verma

Being in space and looking down at the Earth, astronauts are hit with an astounding reality: our planet is a tiny, fragile ball of life, “hanging in the void,” shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. This phenomenon is known as the Overview Effect.

Why do we explore? Surely it’s to discover the vastness of something outside of ourselves, something surreal and sublime.

What happens when you put yourself in the position to experience something astonishing? You are simultaneously filled with humility as you bask in the silence and are awed by beauty that is the reality of our planet.

The impossibly significant and insignificant merge as you seek to comprehend the part of the universe that you inhabit.

mccandlessThe image of U.S. astronaut Bruce McCandless using a manned maneuvering unit drives this home. Virtual reality can bring this experience to everyone and inspire the next generation of explorers.

Today we are at the cusp of witnessing one of the major technological breakthroughs in Virtual Reality (VR), the next disruptive technology that will redefine the future. It is an immersive experience that makes you feel like you’re physically present in an environment that you are not a part of. You’re transported to a virtual world and the result is spell-binding. It is possible for everyone to have the opportunity to experience the truly infinite, boundless universe that we live in…through virtual reality.

Through virtual reality you will be able to see the entire Earth pass underneath you, seeing exactly what astronauts do. Watch fireworks shoot off the planet on July 4th or a SpaceX Dragon module dock with the station as if you were floating right there!

Space is the final frontier, and everybody should have a chance to be a part of exploring it and, in turn, being influenced by it—to experience the Overview Effect. There’s a lot of excitement about exploring space by the people, for the people, and it will not happen unless people choose to be involved.  Together we can make the universe accessible to everyone, inspire the next generation of explorers and get people excited about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) fields.

SpaceVR is a San Francisco based start up working on sending a virtual reality camera to the International Space Station for everyone to experience what it’s like to see the world like an astronaut.  They plan to use 360-degree cameras placed in the International Space Station’s (ISS) Cupola observatory to capture and downlink imagery to Earth so a broader community can experience space travel in immersive virtual reality. From there their future plans include the Moon, asteroids, Mars and beyond. More details on their work can be found on their website at

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New Worlds 2015, October 16 and 17 in Austin

The Alliance for Space Development, of which the National Space Society is a member, is a cosponsor of the October 16-17 New Worlds 2015 conference in Austin, TX. ASD and NSS Board Member Al Globus will be one of the speakers and will host the free-space settlement session. Members of ASD member organizations (that includes NSS) can get a 25% discount by using a promotional code: speakerglo15. This code is good for the first 150 applicants who use it.

New Worlds 2015 is the first comprehensive gathering of the people, companies and institutions that will open space to human development and settlement.  New Worlds 2015 will include academic sessions, interactive discussions and business presentations, blended with education, and the art, vision and the culture of the New Frontier.

New Worlds 2015 is the inaugural annual space conference and celebration presented by the New Worlds Institute. Featuring top level academic sessions on such topics as space habitats, resources, transportation systems and international policy, New Worlds brings together the best of the best when it comes to those setting our course towards the Moon, Mars and the Free Space between worlds, from NASA to commercial New Space companies. In parallel, specialized workshops and a cutting-edge student design competition and educational program will create a fully rounded experience that can speak to and inspire people of all types and all generations.

Unlike any other space conference ever, New Worlds, while built on a foundation of hard-core science and engineering, is also a celebration. Including art and music with diverse events ranging from recognizing those educating the next generation to an electronic dance festival that will inspire the next generation. It creates a platform for the heroes and experts who got us where we are today in space to inspire new ideas and concepts in the minds of those who will disrupt today’s conception of what tomorrow can be.

More information:  New Worlds 2015.

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NASA is launching a 4K TV channel

NASA is partnering with Harmonic, a worldwide leader in video delivery infrastructure, to launch NASA TV UHD, the first ever non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel in North America.

The channel will stream on the Internet, which will require at least 13 MBps access connectivity to receive the signal and enjoy the UHD experience. Harmonic currently is in discussions with pay TV operators to carry the channel on the satellite, cable and optical networks for consumer access. The new UHD channel is expected to launch on Nov. 1, following preliminary tests.

Using an end-to-end UHD video delivery system from Harmonic, NASA Television will have the capability to deliver linear 2160p60 video content, allowing viewers to enjoy footage on a wide range of television and internet-connected devices. The partnership is the result of a Space Act Agreement between Harmonic and the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Partnering with Harmonic gives NASA an outlet for its UHD content, which has four times the resolution of HD and is the next iteration of digital television,” said Robert Jacobs, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Communications at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

Leveraging the 8-megapixel resolution of UHD, the channel will showcase the breathtaking beauty and grandeur of space. NASA TV UHD video will be sourced from high-resolution images and video generated on the International Space Station and other current NASA missions, as well as re-mastered footage from historical missions.

“As NASA reaches new heights and reveals the unknown, the NASA TV UHD channel can bring that journey to life in every home. And as organizations at the forefront of innovation, together we are leading the adoption of this exciting technology,” said Peter Alexander, chief marketing officer at Harmonic. “As the leader in UHD development, Harmonic provides a complete solution for Ultra HD video production and delivery, enabling content and service providers to offer better video quality at a low total cost of ownership.”

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin talks to “Face the Nation” about Mars this Sunday September 6th

In CBS’ first interview with the Apollo 11 astronauts on Face the Nation in 1969 (5-minute segment shown below), Buzz Aldrin discussed future goals for space exploration. Aldrin will be back on Face the Nation this Sunday September 6, 46 years later, to talk about his vision for Mars. Check local listings for times.

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National Space Society Welcomes Janet Ivey as New NSS Governor

Janet Ivey of Janet’s Planet is NOW IN ORBIT as a member of the Board of Governors of the National Space Society

Janet IveyJanet Ivey, a 12-time Emmy and 5-time Gracie Award winning educational TV host and founder of Janet’s Planet, seen on more than 140 PBS stations across the USA and on multiple online sites like BatteryPop, Club Jelly Telly, HighBrow, Ameba TV, and YouTube was recently named to the National Space Society’s Board of Governors.

The National Space Society Board of Governors is composed of outstanding individuals in the fields of science, engineering, the arts, government, the press, business, law, medicine, and other professions and occupations, and individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the society or its goals. The appointment was made official at the May 2015 National Space Society Board of Directors meeting in Toronto at the International Space Development Conference.

Janet is thrilled to be among such an elite group of space enthusiasts and pioneers. Among Janet’s duties of promoting the National Space Society and its goals, a primary initiative will be to be a spokesperson for the NSS Enterprise in Space (EIS) project, along with Geoff Notkin of Meteorite Men fame.

The mission of Enterprise In Space is to build, launch, operate, and later return to Earth an orbiter containing student experiments as a tribute to the many great visionaries of science and science fiction. EIS goals include:

  • Demonstrate and pioneer new technologies
  • Inspire and encourage space enterprise
  • Develop educational curricula for students contributing to related future endeavors in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) education
  • The Enterprise In Space mission will cover everything from 3D printing in space, to laser-based communications, to improvements in heat shields and thermal protection systems.

Janet Ivey is committed to enriching the lives of children via education and TV and online programming. She is a Buzz Aldrin ShareScience Ambassador, and has won a STEMFLORIDA award for Janet’s Planet.

Janet presents two live shows, Tour of the Solar System and Exploring Microgravity. These shows are 21st century theater that encourage scientific literacy via the use of humor, theatrical antics, visual illusions, enticing graphic elements, and experiential opportunities to join Janet on stage so that students are fully engaged in the experience.

The mission for Janet and Janet’s Planet is to encourage young people to stand in their magnificence and to inspire future generations to use their innate intelligence and creativity to create a better future via science and space exploration. Janet Ivey is a tireless advocate for children and has mentored countless young people all over the world. Janet’s mission has and always will be to enrich the lives of children via art and science, multi-media education, and intelligent, informative AWE (Art, Wonder, and Experiential) infused programming that focuses on space exploration.

For more information about Janet’s Planet visit and, or contact Janet Ivey at or 615-415-9785.

Facebook: Janet’s Planet
Twitter: Janet’s Planet
YouTube: JanetsPlanetOfficial
Instagram: JanetsPlanetOfficial

And to learn more about the National Space Society or to become a member visit

To learn more and participate in the NSS Enterprise In Space visit

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National Space Society Welcomes Geoff Notkin as New NSS Governor

Geoff NotkinGeoff Notkin, host of Meteorite Men, was recently named to the National Space Society’s Board of Governors. “NSS is proud to have Geoff on our board to help promote our vision of a spacefaring civilization,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS chief operating officer.

The NSS Board of Governors provides recommendations and guidance to the Board of Directors with respect to the broad, overall policies, objectives, and goals of the Society. The board is composed of prestigious leaders in their respective fields who have made outstanding contributions to the Society or its goals. Geoff Notkin’s appointment was made official at the May 2015 National Space Society Board of Directors meeting in Toronto at the International Space Development Conference.

Geoff Notkin is a world renowned meteorite specialist, science writer, photographer, adventure traveler, and owner of Aerolite Meteorites, Inc., a company providing meteorite specimens to collectors and institutions worldwide.  An Emmy-winning television host, Notkin starred in three seasons of the Science Channel series Meteorite Men and hosted the educational series STEM Journals for two seasons on Cox Media.

Along with hosting his own television series, Notkin has been featured on documentaries for National Geographic, Discovery, PBS, the BBC, The History Channel, A&E, and The Travel Channel.  He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY show, the nationally syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM, and has been interviewed by The Washington PostThe Huffington Post,, Universe Today and many other leading sites and publications. An in-demand public speaker and science popularizer, Notkin is a frequent guest at space and science conferences around the world.

The search for rare and valuable space rocks has taken Notkin to 45 countries and some of our planet’s most remote areas, including northern Siberia, Chile’s Atacama Desert, the Australian Outback, and he has three times crossed the Arctic Circle. He is currently filming a new adventure series, Meteorite Hunters Unlimited, with longtime expedition partner Steve Arnold.

Geoff Notkin is also an award-winning author and has written hundreds of published articles on meteoritics, paleontology, astronomy, adventure travel, history, and the arts, with his work appearing in Astronomy, Astronomy Now, Sky & Telescope, USA Today, Wired, Reader’s Digest, American Digger, and many other national and international publications. He is the author of the books Meteorite Hunting: How To Find Treasure From Space and Rock Star: Adventures Of A Meteorite Man (featuring an original introduction by Geoff’s lifelong friend Neil Gaiman), and a science and arts blog, The Logical Lizard, at

Notkin has worked with many of the world’s major institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Natural History Museum, London; and the Center for Meteorite Studies at ASU in Tempe, Arizona. He is a member of The Explorer’s Club and serves on the Board of Directors of the Astrosociology Research Institute and the Board of Advisors of Deep Space Industries.

The minor planet 132904, discovered at Mount Palomar, was named “Notkin” in recognition of Geoff’s contributions to science, the arts, exploration, and education.

Geoff Notkin will be working with luminaries such as Buzz Aldrin, Norman Augustine, Ben Bova, Freeman Dyson, Don Fuqua, John Glenn, Jeff Greason, Janet Ivey, James Lovell, Nichelle Nichols, Harrison Schmitt, Michael Simpson, Gordon Woodcock and Pete Worden on the NSS Board of Governors, chaired by Hugh Downs.

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The National Space Society Pays Tribute to Dr. Kalam — One of Our Leading Lights Has Joined the Stars

On 27 July 2015, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, eleventh President of India and a friend and inspiration to the National Space Society (NSS), passed away. “NSS would like to convey our condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Kalam, and to all of India. His death is a great loss not only to India, but to the whole of humanity,” said Mark Hopkins, chair of the NSS Executive Committee. “In his honor, a permanent part of the online NSS library will be dedicated to his visionary space legacy.”

Dr. Kalam shared the National Space Society’s vision of the future of space solar power, exploration, and human development. He was a true friend to NSS — making time to meet with our members, attending and addressing the 2013 International Space Development Conference, taking part in our society’s press conferences, and giving his name to our shared Kalam-NSS Space-based Solar Power Initiative.

In alignment with NSS, Dr. Kalam’s vision encompassed the mining of asteroids and the use of the Moon as an industrial base and source of energy. Looking into the future, he saw an extra-terrestrial habitat on Mars as a fail-safe mechanism for problems on Earth. He hoped to see these activities blossom into a mature regime of space security, with Space Traffic Control, Space Debris Management, and an International Space Force for defense against asteroids.

Born in 1931, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was an aerospace engineer, a true rocket scientist who significantly advanced rocketry and spacefaring in India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and in the Indian Space Research Organization. Heir to the vision of Professor Vikram Sarabhai, who set India on a course of a socio-economically oriented space program, Dr. Kalam was the man who raised India’s eyes to the stars, and led India to join the community of spacefaring nations. One of the true statesmen of our generation, Dr. Kalam served as the 11th President of the world’s largest democracy, and was regarded as one of the greatest minds, visionaries, and peacemakers of the early 21st century. He died at age 83, articulating his visions to a new generation.

In a stirring eulogy entitled “India has lost its Jewel,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Kalamji saw poetry in a tree and energy that could be harvested in water, wind, and sun. We should learn to look at the world through his eyes, and with the same missionary zeal.” He further stated, “his memory is best honored by the creation of new institutions that nurture science and technology, and enable us to find a beneficial equation with the awesome power of nature.”

We at NSS could not agree more. At the heart of Dr. Kalam’s vision was an international initiative to harvest the power of the sun and transmit it to Earth, what he called a “Global Energy Technology Initiative for Harvesting Energy from Space.” Dr. Kalam asked what vision could be “greater than any other vision so far envisioned by humanity?  … Clean energy from space solar power for 24×7.” NSS will pick up the torch and carry on his vision.

Dr. Kalam believed that space solar power was the key to a livable planet and to the elimination of man-made green house gasses. The scale of his vision for the benefit of humanity was vast — he believed that by 2052, India alone could have 108 satellites delivering 544 gigawatts of green power, doubling India’s per-capita GDP and avoiding 66 million tonnes of carbon emissions. To that end, Dr. Kalam proposed that the US, India, and other spacefaring nations invest $4 billion dollars in the next five years for a feasibility study and for development of the necessary technology to realize economical space solar power.

Dr. Kalam was a towering spacefaring advocate. His passing is a deep loss to NSS. Loved and admired by the masses of India, he was loved and admired by us as well. The legacy of Dr. Kalam’s writings will form a permanent part of the online NSS library. We were honored to work with him and to present him with our 2013 Wernher von Braun Memorial Award for leading India into space and for being a global leader in space development. He will be missed terribly by all around the world who share a common vision of humanity’s future in space.

Ad Astra, Dr. Kalam.

Dr. Kalam receives Wernher von Braun Memorial Award from Mark Hopkins at ISDC 2013.

Kalam Dream

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