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SpaceX astronauts reveal the surprising details of their historic trip to space

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Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken landed on the International Space Station (ISS), over two hours after docking with the orbiting laboratory. They had to run pressure and leak tests before exiting the Crew Dragon capsule.

They met American astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian space station residents Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, as they left their spacecraft.

Both are currently official affiliates of the Expedition 63 crew.

Speaking to the men from mission control in Houston, Texas, Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “The whole world saw this mission and we are so, so proud of everything you’ve done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world.”

Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken’s 19-hour itinerary on SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket started in Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday evening.

Despite only being 300 miles above the planet, the space station took almost a day to reach.

A number of manoeuvres had to be performed to raise its orbit to get close enough to hook up to the space station.

The assignment, dubbed Demo-2, is the first mission Nasa where has launched astronauts from the US in nine years.

SpaceX also became the first private firm to launch humans into orbit in a historic event.

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The mission aims to prove SpaceX’s ability to send astronauts into the space station and bring them back safely.

It is the last major procedure for SpaceX’s astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get authorised by Nasa’s Commercial Crew Programme for long-term manned missions to space.

Mr Hurley and Mr Behnken have entitled their Dragon capsule Endeavour as a tribute to Space Shuttle Endeavour, a retired orbiter from Nasa’s Space Shuttle programme.

He added: “Endeavour is going to get a lot of checkout over the next week or two here and hopefully we will be able to declare her operational.

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“Doug and I will be able to take some burden off Chris and his crew mates Ivan and Anatoli, so that we can keep the space station operating at a peak possibility.

“So we are looking forward to contributing any way that we can and, like I said, trying to keep (the) space station as productive as possible.”

The mission is expected to last anything between one and four months.

Speaking of their sleeping patterns, Mr Behnken said: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so of opportunity for sleep and I did succeed at sleep and Doug did as well.”The first night is always a bit of a challenge but the Dragon was a sleek vehicle and we had good airflow. So we had an excellent evening.”

He added that he was “excited to be back in low-Earth orbit again.”

Mr Behnken said while they are on the space station, they hope to put the Dragon capsule, which they called Endeavour, through its paces and aiding other members of the crew in different other exercises.

He added: “Endeavour is going to get a lot of checkout over the next week or two here and hopefully we will be able to declare her operational.

“Doug and I will be able to take some burden of Chris and his crew mates Ivan and Anatoli so that we can keep the space station operating at a peak possibility.

“So we are looking forward to contributing any way that we can and like I said trying to keep (the) space station as productive as possible.”

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China PANICS: Warning Beijing is lashing out and risking war because it fears IRRELEVANCE

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Chris Patten said Chinese President Xi Jinping is so nervous about the position of the Communist Party that he is risking a new Cold War and imperiling Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s preeminent financial hub. Lord Patten said Xi’s “thuggish” crackdown in Hong Kong could trigger an outflow of capital and people from the city which funnels the bulk of foreign direct investment into mainland China.

“What does it mean? It means serious question marks not just about Hong Kong’s future as a free society but also about Hong Kong’s ability to continue as probably the premier international financial hub in Asia,” Lord Patten said in an interview.

“A lot of people will try to leave Hong Kong,” Lord Patten said, adding he feared capital would also flow out of the territory which Britain handed back to China in 1997.

The West, he said, should stop being naive about Xi.

“We have long since passed the stage where, without wanting another Cold War, we have to react to the fact Xi seems to want one himself, seems to want to be able to bully his way to whatever he thinks China wants,” Patten said.

Patten, now 76, watched as the British flag was lowered over Hong Kong when the colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War.

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In some of his toughest rhetoric yet, this week US President Donald Trump said Beijing had broken its word over Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy by proposing new national security legislation and the territory no longer warranted US economic privileges.

“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” Mr Trump said, adding that Washington would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for “smothering – absolutely smothering – Hong Kong’s freedom.”

Mr Trump told reporters at the White House that China’s move on Hong Kong was a tragedy for the world, but he gave no timetable for the moves, leaving Hong Kong residents, businesses and officials to ponder just how far his administration will go.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said Saturday marked “a sad day” for China’s freest city.

“This is an emotional moment for Americans in Hong Kong and it will take companies and families a while to digest the ramifications,” AmCham President Tara Joseph said in a statement.

“Many of us … have deep ties to this city and with Hong Kong people. We love Hong Kong and it’s a sad day,” she said, adding the chamber would continue to work with its members to maintain Hong Kong’s status as a vital business centre.

China’s parliament this week approved a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. 

Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time, with critics saying these moves put the city’s extensive freedoms at risk.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong insist the legislation will target only a small number of “troublemakers” who threaten China’s national security. 

They say such action is urgently needed after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests rocked the city last year.

Protests are simmering again as Hong Kong emerges from its coronavirus shutdown, with demonstrators expected to take to the streets on Sunday.

Trump did not name any sanctions targets but said the announcement would “affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong”, including the US-Hong Kong extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies and more “with few exceptions”.

China’s Global Times, published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said Trump’s decision was a “recklessly arbitrary” step.

The Hong Kong government has had a long history of working ties with US counterparts, distinct from Beijing, with cooperation on counter-terrorism, trade and money laundering.

More than 1,300 US firms have offices in Hong Kong and provide about 100,000 jobs. 

In the past decade, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, totalling $297 billion from 2009 to 2018.

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EU crisis: Support for bloc plummets as Europeans attack Brussels for coronavirus response

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A survey carried out in France, Italy and Germany found a strong majority of respondents were critical about the European Union’s approach to the crisis. It also revealed citizens believed the pandemic has “weakened” the arguments in favour of the bloc. Respondents disregarded the EU’s cherished free movement and said the coronavirus outbreak has shown that national borders are crucial for the security of a country.

The survey, carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies on behalf of Euronews, found that 70 percent of Italians, 60 percent of Germans and 59 percent of French citizens think the EU has not helped their country during the crisis.

On the questions of the importance of national borders, 61 percent of Germans, 66 percent of Italians and 69 percent of people in France said they “agreed or strongly agreed” with the statement.

And 61 percent of respondents in Italy, 47 percent in France and 40 percent in Germany said the pandemic had “weakened” arguments in favour of the political project.

On the day Ursula von der Leyen announced her Brussels-driven rescue fund, less than 20 percent of respondents in the three countries said coronavirus had “strengthened” the bloc’s purpose.

The online survey was carried out between May 22-25 with a sample of eligible voters in France, 1,500 in Italy and 1,500 in Germany.

Earlier today, the European Commission set out plans for a €750 billion bailout fund that involves eurocrats borrowing vast sums on cash on international markets.

In a new tax and spend, Mrs von der Leyen, the Commission president, set out a new power grab that would turn the Brussels-based executive into a de facto EU finance ministry.

Her blueprint is likely to cause immense friction with member states wanting to retain national tax sovereignty.

Leaders will discuss the recovery fund at a European summit on June 19, likely to be a frantic affair.

The plans, which are based on a Franco-German proposal put forward by Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, require the unanimous support of all 27 EU capitals before they can be implemented.

The Dutch, Austrian, Danish and Swedish governments have all voiced their opposition for the creation of the creation of mutualised EU debt.

A joint diplomatic paper put forward by the so-called “Frugal Four” said the four countries “cannot agree” to any “instruments or measures leading to debt mutualisation nor significant increases in the EU budget”.

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The fiscally conservative member states want grants issued to Spain and Italy to be linked to the introduction of austerity politics.

A Dutch diplomat said: “Our position is well known: The starting point is that the Netherlands is willing to help and wants to cooperate on a European level to fight the crisis. We want to do this in a way that strengthens member states and the EU as a whole.”

“The positions are far apart and this is a unanimity file; so negotiations will take time. It’s difficult to imagine this proposal will be the end state of those negotiations,” they added.

According to internal documents, seen by Express.co.uk, Italy is in line for grants worth almost €82 billion, Spain would receive some €77 billion and France around €38 billion.

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This would leave poorer EU countries who have avoided the worst of the pandemic will be left to shoulder the financial burden of some of the bloc’s biggest economies.

The likes of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Czech Republic would feel the pinch as a result.

Hungarian MEP Eniko Gyori said the plan would lead to a “moral hazard” by encouraging countries to rack up huge bills.

She said: “It cannot happen that poorer member states finance the wealthier ones.”

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‘We are doomed!’ Biblical plague of locust engulfs city in horrifying footage -VIDEO

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Hordes of locusts have overrun areas in India and Pakistan over recent weeks with the latest footage showing large groups of the pests descend on Indian city Jaipur. The influx of the pests and the havoc of the coronavirus disease has sparked fears of the end of the world. On Monday, the swarms of locusts descended on Jaipur, a city of an estimated three million people, with many documenting the unbelievable footage and posting it to social media.

One stunned local posted a video of the swarm with the hashtag: “LocustAttack in Jaipur.

She added: “We are doomed, food shortage incoming.”

Another added: “Locust attack in Jaipur.

“That’s it, 2020 is the last year for humankind.”

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Others drew a comparison between this plague and that of the bible.

The Twitter user sarcastically wrote: “A swarm of locusts was one of the biblical plagues right?

“So we are in the apocalypse, right now?”

While another simply added: “This is the beginning of the end.”

The rapid infestation of locusts has lead many to fear for their food security.

Senior locust forecasting officer at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation warned the impact there could be long term complications from the swarms across the globe.

He said: “The current locust outbreak is the biggest in 25 years in Ethiopia and Somalia, 26 years in India and 70 years in Kenya.”

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Climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology also explained how climate change played a key role in the severity of the swarms.

He said: “The outbreak started after heavy amounts of rains over east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

“Heavy rain triggers the growth of vegetation in arid areas where desert locusts can then grow and breed.

“On top of that, the rising temperature due to global warming made the Western Indian Ocean particularly warm.”

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Hundreds take to the streets demanding Spanish PM resign over poor handling of coronavirus

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On Thursday, demonstrators carrying Spain’s national flag walked for more than an hour on Calle Larios, in Malaga, chanting slogans against the government. Spain allowed the protest to continue as they ease lockdown restrictions.

Signs calling for Mr Sanchez and his entire government to resign were the most popular slogans heard throughout the demonstration.

Francisca Torres, who attended the protest with friends, told ABCandalucia: “It is a shame the situation to which this government has led us.

“They have not managed this crisis properly.”

The peaceful protest saw numerous members of the National Police and a group of them in the Plaza de la Constitución receiving a huge ovation from participants.

José Gutierrez said: “I work in the hospitality industry and the situation is unbearable, especially here in Malaga, where tourism is key.”

Malaga isn’t the only region in Spain that has seen anti-government protests after demonstrators convened in Madrid earlier this week and other Spanish cities to protest the government’s handling of COVID-19.

The protestors also demanded the resignation of Mr Sánchez, with some claiming the country has turned into a dictatorship.

The demonstrators objected to the government’s growing powers to tackle the coronavirus, which they claim has resulted in a “government by decree”.

At 9pm each night protestors have taken to banging pots and pans to signal their disapproval of the lockdown and the Socialist-led government that imposed it.

The protests have also spilt out into the streets of many Spanish cities, including Madrid, Galapagar and Valencia.

The police have steadily increased their presence to prevent confrontations and stop the protestors from blocking streets – as they did in the first few days of the demonstrations.

Protestors also started targeting the homes of government ministers, such as Pablo Iglesias, the government’s second Vice President, and the country’s transport minister José Luis Ábalos.

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Much of Spain is now in Phase One, which allows some degree of social interaction and the reopening of some businesses, but Madrid still remains in Phase Zero – and has had few restrictions eased.

Mr Sanchez has also won the vote to extend lockdown until June 7 according to local Spanish media.

“The alarm state and the de-escalation plan did work. It will not last a day longer than necessary,” said Mr Sánchez.

“No one has the right to waste what we have achieved among all.”

Minister Adriana Lastra added: “We still have many uncertainties, but also many certainties.

“We know that without our responsibility, all that sacrifice will not be enough.

“We have already seen outbreaks in some territories.”

The two-week lockdown extension will run until June 7.

This week, Spain’s daily death toll fell to 48, marking the first time it has dipped below 50 since March.

The overall death toll was 27,940 while the number of confirmed cases rose by 482 to a total of 233,037, the ministry said.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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Mysterious new coronavirus outbreak hits China – 108 MILLION now back into lockdown

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Chinese officials have imposed quarantine restrictions on two cities in the province of Jilin located in north east China.

Jilin is part of a wider province located in the Dongbei region – which is home to more than 100 million residents.

The threat level in the area has been raised to “high-risk” by health authorities.

Health officials have identified two emergency hospitals to treat the suspected spike in COVID-19 infections.

This is a developing news story, more to follow. 

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‘Real reason’ Ivanka and Jared backed Donald Trump for President – it’s not family loyalty

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Before entering the White House, Ivanka and Jared both played key roles in the 2016 Trump campaign. However, according to the 2019 book ‘Kushner Inc’, many of the couple’s friends and business associates thought they did not actually believe in the populist agenda of the campaign. Instead, they put their support down to it being a networking opportunity.

One associate told author Vicky Ward: “The two of them see this as a networking opportunity.”

It is unclear whether this is genuinely what they think, however, or whether it is what they have told themselves because the idea their friends may actually agree with the divisive rhetoric is too terrible to consider.

Most of Ivanka and Jared’s social circle is in the New York Jewish community, who were reportedly “aghast” at the Trump campaign.

They were particularly disturbed by his declaring that a wall must be built on the US-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants, as well as the so-called ‘Muslim ban’.

One guest at Jared’s 35th birthday party said: “We’re Jews…

“It’s just as easy to say the Muslims can’t come to the US because they’re oging to blow you up and the Mexicans are gonna rape you [as it is to say] the Jews are gonna steal all your money.

“And so, we’re not on the side of this craziness, because always the ones being blamed for everything.”

Jared is descended from Holocaust survivors who went to the US as refugees, and he grew up in an Orthodox Jewish community, while Ivanka converted in order to marry him in 2009.

Many in their social circle still remembered Mr Trump’s “reluctance” to accept Ivanka’s conversion.

Ms Ward said “no one thought [Jared] or Ivanka believed in Trump’s populist platform”, instead they thought the couple were interested in the networking.

Indeed, Ivanka and Jared have secured incredible networking opportunities in their roles, rubbing shoulders with all sorts of world leaders and business people.

That said, Ivanka has also been very convincing in her defence of her father’s words and actions, which seems to contradict the idea that she does not share his views.

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Ivanka ‒ dubbed the First Daughter ‒ has backed him on even his most outrageous policies and incendiary rhetoric, albeit often playing down how dramatic or aggressive it is.

Despite being a calmer, more gentle version of her father on the outside, those who had dealt with her in business claim she can be just as tough.

One told Ms Ward that Ivanka’s voice went “cold and menacing” during certain tough negotiations.

Jared, too, was described as “just as sinister as Donald Trump” by a former business associate.

He apparently lost his temper on a number of occasions, yelling down the phone, and displayed a sense of entitlement.

One claimed Jared has “zero awareness that he was born on third base”, an American phrase meaning someone who is born with a silver spoon in their mouth but believes their success is entirely their own doing.

Ivanka has claimed she disagrees with her father “frequently”, but that when this occurs she voices them privately rather than publicly.

She told ABC in 2018: “He’s my father and he’s my boss and one of the reasons that I have such a good relationship with him is that I am incredibly candid with him.”

Occasionally, Ivanka will disagree with him publicly, for example she admitted that she does not agree that the press are the “enemy of the people” ‒ perhaps because her husband owns a newspaper.

However, Ivanka’s former friend Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has criticised the First Daughter for standing by the Trump administration in the face of what she called “a collision of cruelty and incompetence”.

She said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2018: “I think anyone that works for the President certainly should expect to be scrutinised, not only the decisions she or he is making, but also the decisions that White House is making on any given day.

Chelsea added: “It is clear that she has supported policies and decisions that I don’t agree with and I have been very vocal in my opposition to Donald Trump.”

In an interview with The Guardian the same year, she reiterated that Ivanka was an adult and responsible for what she did and said.

She added: “In 2008, I was really proud to support my mum, but I disagreed with her fundamentally on a few things, particularly her then-opposition to equal marriage for LGBTQ Americans.

“I never defended that position, because it wasn’t what I believe was the right thing to do.”

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‘Coronavirus is Europe’s fault!’ Expert reveals outrageous lies China is spreading

Professor Steve Tsang – an expert on Chinese politics and history – highlights how Beijing’s state media is blaming Europe for the coronavirus crisis and its subsequent economic and social damage. He reveals how the narrative is the country is being dictated by President Xi Jinping and his allies in the press and government. According to Professor Tsang, a wide range of conspiracy theories have successfully influenced many in China to blame Europe and the US for worsening or even starting the crisis.

Professor Tsang told Express.co.uk: “Above everything else as a priority for the Communist Party is the party’s control over the narrative of COVID-19.

“Because of this, they have been able to control the narrative effectively, especially after Europe and the US have ended up handling the crisis very, very badly.

“They are using this very xenophobic, anti-foreign narrative in China which has essentially persuaded a lot of people in the country that coronavirus is not China’s failure.

“To show that the Communist Party has done better, China’s government is using conspiracy theories that the virus was started by the US Army or Italy – a lot of people in China believe this now.”

The expert highlights how the US Army has provided a particularly useful scapegoat for the Chinese regime.

While not everyone in the country will have accepted the Communist Party’s version of events, Professor Tsang argues that given the country’s admiration for the US Army’s technology, it makes an effective story.

He added: “They believe that coronavirus came from outside of China and it is the Communist Party that saved them.

“Not every Chinese person will believe in this, but many will.

“Making the US Army the scapegoat is so clever, because the Chinese are anti-American but they also admire its army and think it is capable of anything.

“So it isn’t difficult for Chinese people to believe that the US Army could have developed biological weapons.”

Despite Beijing’s initial secrecy, followed by the dissemination of conspiracy theories, Professor Tsang rubbishes the idea that the UK can place all the blame on China for failures on British shores.

He continued: “The criticism can be both justified and a deliberate attempt to deflect from the failings of the British government.

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“It is true that the Chinese government was not transparent, nor did they give timely information that could have given us time to prepare.

“However, I do have a problem with the assumption we will have used that warning and time effectively and responsibly.

“Even if the Chinese government had been open to begin with, we had senior ministers talking about the need for ‘herd immunity’.

“So they weren’t taking this thing seriously anyway.”

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Fears as social distancing rules IGNORED – Italy eases lockdown amid coronavirus pandemic

After nine weeks, Italians were able to leave their homes as the country started to ease lockdown restrictions after recording the lowest coronavirus death and transmission figures since March. The government said each region is responsible for ensuring social distancing but pictures suggest people are ignoring the advice.

Hundreds of people were photographed in St Mark’s Square in Venice where, just two months ago, it was deserted after it was announced people were allowed to leave their homes for less urgent reasons.

While more than four million people are expected to return to work at factories and construction sites across Milan but those taking public transport must stay 3ft away from each other.

However, people have been photographed pouring out a train at Cadorna station in Milan despite regional authorities enforcing social distancing.

Under the government orders, people travelling on public transport must wear protective masks, and although Italians are abiding by that rule, it seems the 3ft social distancing rules have been ignored as these people leave a train station ion Naples.

Hundreds of commuters were photographed waiting at the Termini Central train station with social distancing rules not being followed.

On Sunday, Italy recorded the lowest figure of deaths, with just 174, since the lockdown went into effect back in March.

However, the drop came after a spike of 473 deaths the day before.

The number of cases was also the lowest since March with 1,389, taking the total to 210,717.

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With Italy’s R rate – the number of people that each person infects – has fallen below one, the country is now moving into ‘phase two’ of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a staggered reopening with various regions moving at different speeds.

Under ‘phase two’, bars and restaurants can resume takeaway services while building sites and factories can continue production.

People are able to visit family relatives but not friends and only those that live in the region they are in.

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Masks must be worn on public transport and parks have reopened but people are enquired to observe the 3ft ‘spacing’ guidelines.

A maximum of 15 people are now allowed to attend funerals.

Italian health minister Roberto Speranza called for the public to keep abiding the rules.

He said: “This game is not won by decree and individual responsibility is fundamental for this second phase.

“That is, a much more difficult period comes, because there will be many more people around and therefore respecting the rules becomes even more decisive, but I think the country will live up to it.”

During the lockdown, almost everything except pharmacies and grocery stores were closed.

On March 22, Conte closed all non-essential factories.

Five days after, Italy saw its highest toll of 919 in a day.

Although the country is easing lockdown restrictions, the economy is expected to shrink more than in any year since the Great Depression.

Elsewhere in Europe, restrictions are slowly lifting with Germany reopening schools to give priority for older children as they prepare for summer exams.

Spain is also allowing customers to visit shops such as hair salons, but only by appointment.

Portugal has also lifted its state of emergency and allowed small shops to reopen including hair salons but will issue €350 fines for anyone not wearing a mask.

The country declared a state of emergency on March 19 and has recorded more than 25,000 coronavirus cases including more than a thousand deaths.

Both Spain and Portugal have banned groups of more than 10 people in public places and in homes.

Greece is also gradually reopening and will start allowing people to leave their homes but not the wider regions they live.

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EU crisis: Member states panic as factories face ‘breathtaking collapse’

Production rates have been slashed and new export orders dwindling as the world’s economic activity slips into recession. Economists hope for a speedy recovery after the lockdown is lifted. But their hopes have been dashed as experts predict there will be period lockdowns and tight restrictions on the movement of people until a vaccine can be discovered to cure the deadly pathogen.

Eurozone manufacturing purchasing manager’s index, or PMI, fell below the recession line for two months running.

In March it was below the 50 point level that indicates a contraction.

It sat at 44.5 in March, but in April the index slipped again to 33.4.

Economists fear that social distancing and weak demand even after the present conditions are relaxed will put further pressure on an already taxed industry.

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Chris Williamson, an economist at the IHS Markit, told the Daily Telegraph: “The rate of decline will now likely start to moderate.”

Although he warned: “The recovery will be frustratingly slow.”

The economist then added: “Steps needed to keep workers safe will mean even businesses that are able to restart production will generally be running at low capacity, and most will be operating in an environment of greatly reduced demand.

“The future for Spanish, German and Austrian factories looks extremely downbeat”.

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A recent Sentix’s confidence survey for the eurozone pointed described a “breathtaking crash” in the production rates of the bloc.

The ongoing pandemic is testing the concept of European solidarity.

Last month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it the biggest test the EU has ever faced.

Many national health systems in the European Union have been stretched to the brink of collapse by the coronavirus, and the bloc’s economy could see one of its sharpest declines in history.

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London-based research firm Capital Economics said the disease could result in a record-breaking 15 percent quarterly drop of eurozone gross domestic product in the second quarter.

The previous record drop was 3.2 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

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