Two travel stories arrived in my mailbox overnight. First, China has landed a probe on Mars, becoming the third country in history to do so:
The touchdown makes China the second country in history to deposit a rover on the surface of Mars. After months in orbit around the red planet, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft released the Zhurong rover for a landing in Utopia Planitia, a vast plain that may once have been covered by an ancient Martian ocean. The 529-pound rover survived a perilous descent to the surface, including atmospheric entry, slowing from supersonic speeds with a parachute, and finally using retrorockets to safely alight on the ground.
China will openly share the data from Tianwen-1 and Zhurong the same way it has shared data from its lunar exploration missions, Long says, benefiting planetary scientists around the world.
The mission will also set the stage for China’s next planned voyage to Mars—an audacious sample-return attempt scheduled to launch around 2028. Beyond Mars, the country has plans to launch a Jupiter probe, including a possible landing on the moon Callisto, to collect samples from a near-Earth asteroid, and to send a pair of Voyager-like spacecraft toward the edges of the solar system.
Closer to home, after suspending service last year because of the pandemic, Greyhound Canada announced this week that it has decided to completely end all Canadian services:
The bus company says all of its remaining routes will cease operations as of midnight Thursday.
The iconic bus carrier pulled out of Western Canada in 2018.
It then put its remaining routes in Ontario and Quebec on pause when COVID-19 hit in 2020, but now it is pulling out of domestic Canadian service permanently.
The federal [New Democratic Party] also laid blame on the government. "The loss of all remaining Greyhound bus routes leaves many communities without affordable, safe passenger transportation," Transportation Critic Taylor Bachrach said in a release. "And it disproportionately affects the most marginalized residents, including Indigenous people and seniors."
Rural areas will suffer the most, as since Greyhound's suspension last year left many without any long-distance transportation services.
Spring has gone on spring break this week, so while I find the weather pleasant and enjoyable, it still feels like mid-March. That makes it more palatable to remain indoors for lunch and catch up on these stories:
And finally, via Bruce Schneier, Australia has proposed starting cyber-security training in Kindergartens.
Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.
Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:
And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.
After languishing for four years while former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) refused to govern, Metra's Peterson/Ridge station project...has stalled again:
Crews for Metra were slated to break ground in May on the train station at Peterson and Ravenswood avenues. Due to a permitting issue with the city, work will be delayed by roughly three to five months, said Joe Ott, director of Metra’s construction department.
If the permits take any longer to secure, major construction on the new station could be pushed to spring 2022, he said.
The problem is that the ground beneath the station holds city water mains, and the city’s Department of Water Management was worried about groundwater from the station leaking into the water mains, he said. The city agency said the project’s groundwater system needs revision before a permit will be granted.
It is just the latest setback for a project first announced in 2012.
The project fell by the wayside during the state’s years-long budget impasse. Local officials said in 2017 funding for the project was nearly secured, but a $1 billion fund earmarked for Metra was slashed in half that year.
At least they've cleared the vacant lot connecting where the station will go. Apparently they've also put up a sign. It's a start, I suppose.
In tangential news, Amtrak announced that it will offer tickets up to 50% off to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. I wish my travel plans would allow me to take a long train trip somewhere.
Happy 51st Earth Day! In honor of that, today's first story has nothing to do with Earth:
Finally, it looks like I'll have some really cool news to share about my own software in just a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
The Chicago Transit Authority will demolish my local El station starting May 16th, kicking off a 4-year, $2.1 bn project to rebuild the Red and Purple Lines from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr. Good thing we have an alternative only 400 meters away:
Crews will begin the demolition work on the project’s northern end at Ardmore Avenue and work south, CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase said. The construction zone spans from Ardmore Avenue to Leland Avenue.
The Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr stations will close May 16. Temporary stations at Argyle and Bryn Mawr will open that day, according to the CTA.
Crews will also demolish the northbound Red and Purple line tracks between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr. That will include the demolition of 1.5 miles of embankment wall and 11 bridges that span east-west streets in Uptown and Edgewater.
Demolition and the rebuilding of the eastern portion of the tracks is scheduled to wrap up in late 2022, according to the CTA.
From there, work on the western portion of the tracks will commence. This second stage of work will include the construction of the four new stations, which are slated to be opened in 2024.
It's so nice, now that Bruce Rauner has left Springfield, that public works projects can resume. It even looks like we'll have a new Chicago-bound train station at Ravenswood before too long.
Some stories in the news this week:
Finally, the House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced DC statehood legislation. The full house may even pass the DC Admission Act next week.
Amtrak has big plans—especially for Chicago—if it gets a piece of President Biden's $2-trillon infrastructure bill:
Chicago passenger-rail riders ought to thrilled. A proposed map released by Amtrak shows rail service out of the Windy City absolutely exploding, with enhanced service to Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other locales, plus new service to cities including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Green Bay, Iowa City, Rockford, Cleveland and Louisville.
According to spokesman Marc Magliari, the “vision statement” fact sheet is an idea of what the long financially challenged passenger rail agency could do if Washington fully climbs aboard.
“It’s our vision of what can be ahead, given that the president has set the table,” Magliari said. “We hope to have more details soon.”
Key details about Amtrak's expansion proposal are not yet available. Such as timing – Magliari says the “vision plan” runs 15 years into the future – or whether states would have to at all match capital or operating subsidies.
Amtrak has already made some improvements. After upgrading rights of way in Illinois, the carrier has begun testing 175 km/h service between Chicago and St Louis—a big improvement over today's 145 km/h speeds.
In case you needed proof that the world didn't suddenly become an Enlightenment paradise on January 20th, I give you:
You will be happy to know, however, that Egypt has passed its 400-meter kidney stone.
A 25-meter section of the Pacific Coast Highway slid into the Pacific about 30 km south of Big Sur this week:
Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers said the damage to the highway is called a slip out. "It's where we lose a part of the highway and now we're facing a project to clean and repair that stretch," Shivers said. "This is the only location we're aware of where this happened in the storm. Our maintenance team is patrolling the highway now to look for other damage."
The closure is in Rat Creek between MPM 40 and the San Luis Obispo county line, the California Highway Patrol said.
A common phenomenon called an "atmospheric river" delivered half a meter of rainfall to the region last week. CA-1 has a history of sliding into the ocean; for example, the area just south of Pacifica, Calif., known as "Devil's Slide" collapsed so frequently that that Caltrans bored two 1200-meter tunnels through solid rock from 2005 to 2013 to keep the road open.