An undesirable consequence of endorsing liberty and freedom of speech is that we increase the risk and likelihood of bad things happening. If somebody with pernicious or narcissistic tendencies gains power (by what-ever means) then things can go from bad to really ugly. Understanding history and being sure of our facts are both pivotal for us to make informed choices. It gets complicated as decent folk are mis-informed, make an error in their judgement, and are compelled to stick with their mis-informed decisions. Conversely, by collaborating through well-informed free speech, when we’re kind, considerate,  mindful of our environment, then we move to a good place. We’ve seen all of these scenarios playing out on the global stage this month; the good, the bad and the ugly.

On the first day of the month, we awoke to breaking news of a military coup taking place in Myanmar. The army had detained senior officials of the country’s elected government including the political leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

I have been looking into the context of this latest coup d’état in Myanmar. The situation too is complicated to discuss in my monthly journal. I believe the situation is connected to wider geopolitical changes that are happening around the world right now, heavily factored by what’s happened since the late middle ages (in particular over the past 500 years) with ethnicity and religious influences also being major contributing factors. See my earlier post titled ‘Myanmar – Background to the coup d’état ‘  which outlines my findings and provides additional links to sources for further reading.

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Domestic news for the blog this month:

There has been incredible progress made in the fight against coronavirus this month. Following that frighting mid-January peak in the UK we’ve seen a rapid decline in the daily number of new COVID cases and daily COVID deaths. The graphs below reveal just how quickly the COVID-19 statistics have turned-around. The reduction in new daily cases has been extraordinary and must have been come as a huge relief for everyone working in front line services.

Reading that 144 people lost their lives to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours is a dreadful fact to contemplate and will be awful for the bereaved.  A year ago this news would have been profoundly shocking to the entire nation, and it still should be. When we look at the peak of COVID-19 daily deaths in January the graph is now calling out another story. With this new perspective we see a new narrative of hope and trust in our science, our medical profession and front-line health workers.

I believe that the combined effects of the extended lock-down and incredible effectiveness of the mass vaccination programme have, at last, kicked-in  and with far better greater impact than most people had anticipated.

When the vaccine roll-out began in December (and from initial government targets and predictions) I worked out that I would likely be vaccinated in some-time in late-summer /  autumn.  NHS COVID-19 Vaccination Statistics published last week confirmed that 15,441,149 doses had been administered by CoB on 21st Feb.

By the end of the month over 20 million UK citizens had received a COVID vaccine, and 815,816 had also received their second vaccination.  What great results can be achieved by listening truthful sources and collaborating towards a common good cause.

Other stand-out domestic items for this month:

Sign of the times is the online retailer ASOS completed its purchase of  high street brands Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge for  the bargain price of £330 Million earlier in the month.

Many students have delayed returning to Uni, opting to stay locked down at home instead of being crammed into the overpriced and under-equipped halls of residence. With all learning remaining online and little prospect of the lock-down being lifted early, there has been little benefit in returning to campus so far this term.

We are all hoping to receive some decent rebates next term at least for the  unused accommodation.  There is also talk of reduced tuition fees as the university education services being delivered  at the moment are more comparable to an Open University course , yet we are paying three times more for the course.

On the evening of February 18, 2021 at 830pm,  I sat down with my family in the comfort of our living room, to watch events unfolding at the ‘Mission Control’ of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.  The NASA team were broadcasting a very significant live event over the internet and we were following it via the live stream, straight onto the telly.  We were watching the NASA’s Mars 2020 mission complete its final manoeuvres in space and land on the surface of the Red Planet

Time has flow by since the mission blasted-off from Cape Canaveral in July (mentioned his link).  One of the main objectives of the mission is to search for signs of microbial live. Another  key objective to ‘characterize’ the geology of Mars , this will help pave the way for human exploration of the planet. There is even a helicopter on board. The mission will be collecting rocks into a container for a future mission to retrieve and bring back to Earth for analysis.

We followed the final 30 minute approach of the spacecraft,  as it approached and entered the thin Martian atmosphere.  We were updated as the parachute was deployed to slow the landing module down and we were talked through the entire descent,  to touch-down, with some excellent graphics, simulations and commentary from NASA.

The control room erupted in jubilation the instant they received confirmation that it was safely on the surface. I love this stuff.  It’s at the outer edges of human ingenuity. What a great moment!

This image  (published as few days later by NASA) was taken from a video clip and shows the moment of touch-down. The hovering spacecraft had successfully used a pulley system to lower this robotic vehicle (the size of a small 4×4 / SUV car) onto the surface of Mars. It is a truly awesome achievement. This was a pivotal moment on a project that was announced by NASA in 2012 (and I suspect that preliminary work was kicked off around that time).  This massive project, involving hundreds of people around the world, is now moving into its next phase, on the surface of the Red Planet.

The picture below show the first images being received by the team at NASA from the rover within a few seconds of landing.   The images on the screens were being streamed out around the world, live.   It was an amazing moment and I’m looking forward to following progress of this mission.