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NASA’s moon rocket on track for Wednesday launch attempt



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA remained on track for Wednesday’s planned liftoff of its new moon rocket, after determining that hurricane damage provided little extra risk to the test flight.

Hurricane Nicole’s high winds caused a 10-foot (3-meter) section of caulking to peel away near the crew capsule at the top of the rocket last Thursday. The material tore away in small pieces, rather than one big strip, said mission manager Mike Sarafin.

“We’re comfortable flying as is,” based on flight experience with this material, Sarafin told reporters Monday night.

Liftoff is scheduled for the early morning hours of Wednesday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, with test dummies rather than astronauts on board. It’s the first test flight for the 322-foot (98-meter) rocket, the most powerful ever built by NASA, and will attempt to send the capsule into lunar orbit.

The nearly monthlong $4 billion mission has been grounded since August by fuel leaks and Hurricane Ian, which forced the rocket back into its hangar for shelter at the end of September. The rocket remained at the pad for Nicole; managers said there wasn’t enough time to move it once it became clear the storm was going to be stronger than anticipated.

Sarafin acknowledged Monday night that there’s “a small likelihood” that more of the pliable, lightweight caulking might come off during liftoff. The most likely place to be hit would be a particularly large and robust section of the rocket, he noted, resulting in minimal damage.

Engineers never determined what caused the dangerous hydrogen fuel leaks during the two late summer launch attempts. But the launch team is confident that slowing the flow rate will put less pressure on the sensitive fuel line seals and keep any leakage within acceptable limits, said Jeremy Parsons, a deputy program manager.

The space agency plans to send astronauts around the moon in 2024 and land a crew on the lunar surface in 2025.

Astronauts last visited the moon in December 1972, closing out the Apollo program.

A microwave oven-size NASA satellite, meanwhile, arrived Sunday in a special lunar orbit following a summer liftoff from New Zealand. This elongated orbit, stretching as much as tens of thousands of miles (kilometers), is where the space agency plans to build a depot for lunar crews. The way station, known as Gateway, will serve astronauts going to and from the lunar surface.

The satellite, called Capstone, will spend six months testing a navigation system in this orbit.

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Central Florida News

State Attorney charged Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy in WaWa Gas Station Explosion



OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla Ninth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Monique H. Worrell has announced that charges have been filed today against an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Deputy involved in a critical incident from last year at an Orange County convenience store.

Osceola County Deputy David Crawford has been charged by Information with one count of Culpable Negligence with Personal Injury following a pursuit that ended with an explosion at a Wawa gas station on Central Florida Parkway in February 2022. The explosion caused significant injuries to the victim Deputy Crawford was attempting to detain.

The attorneys representing the Florida dirt bike rider Jean Bareto, who was caught in an explosive gas station fire after a deputy tasered him while he was pumping gas are demanding the state intervene in cops’ investigation of the incident and reprimand the officer responsible. Credit: NeJame Firm

On February 27th, deputies crossed county lines pursing the victim, who had been accused of violating traffic laws as he “popped wheelies” in traffic while on his dirt bike. Deputies followed the victim into a Wawa gas station where they confronted him at a gas pump. Deputy Crawford tackled the victim while other deputies assisted in apprehending the victim for the traffic violation—a struggle ensued. Deputy Crawford recklessly deployed a taser at the victim who had become soaked in gasoline, and as a result, caused the explosion that injured the victim. The victim in the case has suffered second and third-degree burns across at least 75% of his body, injuries he is still recovering from.

The charge of Culpable Negligence with Personal Injury is a First-Degree Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000.

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Central Florida News

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2023 State of the City



ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer delivered his 2023 State of the City Address on Wednesday, May 24, 2023 at 10:30 a.m. at Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre.

Mayor Dyer reflected on the city’s recent accomplishments and highlighted community partnerships, economic development initiatives and strategies to keep the city moving forward.

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Central Florida News

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer gives annual State of the City address



Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer speaks with media after delivering his 2023 State of the City Address at the Harriett’s Orlando Ballet Centre in Orlando, Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Photo by J Willie David, III / Florida National News

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer delivered his annual State of the City address, highlighting “The Promise of Orlando,” a city where everyone and anyone has the opportunity to thrive.

“It’s an incredible time to be a part of our Orlando community,” said Mayor Dyer. “We have worked together to build one of America’s premier 21st century cities, a modern melting pot where we create unmatched quality of life, where we expand opportunity for everyone, and where we embody the uniquely American ideal that success doesn’t depend on being born into wealth or privilege, what you look like, who you love, or where you worship. It depends on effort, merit and opportunity. That is the promise of our Orlando.”

As part of the speech Mayor Dyer highlighted the stories of Orlando businesses, residents and city employees, all who showcase how the city puts that promise into practice.

“The promise of Orlando is hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of individual stories that are being written in our community every single day,” said Mayor Dyer. “Those stories, our stories, are the best measurement of the state of our city.”

Through these different perspectives, the address emphasized Orlando’s continued commitment to provide an exceptional quality of life, further ensure a safe community, offer opportunity for all and invest in solutions to challenges, like affordable housing and homelessness.

Mayor Dyer noted that the city of Orlando continues to look ahead and has laid the foundation from which the city will continue to embrace differences, rise to meet challenges and further opportunity for all.

“In Orlando, we’re certainly proud of our history and our accomplishments, but we are fully focused on our future,” said Mayor Dyer. “We know that our best days are ahead of us. That’s because we choose collaboration and partnership over partisanship and division, that’s because we welcome everyone to take part in the incredible city we are building together and that’s because of the promise of Orlando. Because of that promise, the state of our city is as strong as it’s ever been.”

Highlights of the speech and “The Promise of Orlando” included:

Decreasing Crime and Increasing Officers

  • Since Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith took over the department in 2022, the city has experienced a 22% decrease in shootings and a 7% overall decrease in violent crime.
  • By restructuring the department, OPD has increased the number of police officers taking calls and patrolling Orlando’s streets by 20%.
  • And this fiscal year, the city will pursue funding for the addition of more than 20 new officers and eight new 911 dispatchers.

Community Response Team

  • Instead of a traditional law enforcement response, this new team is dispatched to give immediate help to nonviolent individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis, along with follow-up support services.
  • In just over two years, the team has responded to 2,000 service calls and helped save more than 2,200 hours of police time.
  • Because of this success, the team was recently expanded by adding an in-house clinician who is able to triage calls directly at the 911 center.

Investing in Parks and Shared Spaces

  • The city continues to invest in parks and neighborhood spaces. This includes Prince Hall Park in the west that includes new a playground and shaded picnic tables that are solar powered and outfitted with a free Wi-Fi hotspot and charging stations. In the southeast, the new Poitras Park will include a splash pad and pickleball courts. In the east, Commander Drive Park will include new fitness stations and a playground for everyone with wheelchair access.
  • These investments also include the larger, signature parks like the newest regional park, The Grove, in the Packing District in partnership with Dr. Phillips Charities that will open later this month. And later this year, renovations to Lake Eola Park will begin.
  • Equally important, the city is focused on improving the built and social environment to equitably enhance the lives of Orlando residents of all ages with the first-ever Age Friendly Livability Plan which will result in the expansion of services for adults aged 55-plus at the Jackson, Grand Avenue, Ivy Lane, Rock Lake and Dover Shores neighborhood centers.

Making Transportation More Efficient and Sustainable

  • In just the last four years, the city has grown its bike trails by close to 70%.
  • In partnership with regional governments, the Northern Expansion of SunRail to Deland just broke ground this week. And the city remains committed to connecting SunRail to the airport, to the convention center and expanding service to weekends.
  • This fall, Brightline will launch service between Orlando International Airport and South Florida. And the city continues to work with regional partners to help develop a Brightline route that will connect Orlando to Tampa.

Investing in Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

  • The city has committed $7.5 million this year to support programs that help businesses start and grow here in Orlando.
  • The city also remains hyper-focused on supporting the growth of minority-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs. This last fiscal year, minority-owned businesses received $30 million in contracts from the city with more than 60% to Black-owned firms, 37% going to Hispanic-owned firms, and 29% to women-owned firms.

Helping Our Homeless

  • Through Accelerate Orlando the city is leveraging $58 million in federal funding to make a once-in-a-generation investment to work with local partner service providers to accelerate efforts to address homelessness. These investments in the Christian Service Center, Salvation Army and Coalition for the Homeless, among others, will help modernize their campuses to better serve those experiencing homelessness.
  • Alongside Accelerate Orlando, the city has made great strides in placing more than 1,600 people in the region into permanent, supportive housing with 97% remaining in those homes.
  • Since 2021, through a partnership with First Step Staffing the city has helped place more than 280 residents in jobs and help them overcome barriers to employment.
  • To further these efforts the city continues to bring resources and partners to the table to develop shared solutions to these shared challenges. The city recently unveiled a Homeless Action Plan that establishes bold goals to reduce the number of unsheltered residents by 50% in the city and ensure that no child sleeps on the streets.

Increasing Housing

  • To help further access for residents to affordable housing, in 2015 the city invested nearly $7 million to purchase seven vacant, foreclosed, uninhabitable properties in the greater Washington Shores and Mercy Drive areas, with a goal to transform these sites into safe and affordable housing. Today that investment resulted in the creation of 600 new housing units and has yielded more than $115 million in private investment or a return of nearly $16 for each dollar invested by the city.
  • In addition to these investments, since 2015 the city has supported and championed the construction or rehabilitation of more than 3,100 housing units either completed, in progress or planned.

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