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The Spill: Battle of Puebla Day

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Mexicans Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, which translates to the fifth of May, is not, as some think, the celebration of Mexico’s independence – the country had won that 50 years prior to the battle that made the day famous. In fact, the holiday is not celebrated nearly as much in Mexico as it is in the United States. In its native country, the day is also known as Battle of Puebla Day, to commemorate when the Mexican army claimed victory over France on May 5, 1862.

In 1861, Benito Juarez became president of Mexico. Unfortunately, the country had a lot of debt and defaulted on many payments to European countries. Britain, France, and Spain sent their naval forces to Veracruz, Mexico, to recoup some of that money. Britain and Spain were able to reach an agreement with Mexico, but France decided it was a ripe opportunity to try and claim the territory for itself.

Later that year, a French fleet brought a force of troops to the area, which forced President Juarez to retreat. Although outnumbered and lacking in supplies, the Mexican troops fortified the town and were able to resist the French invasion. The battle only lasted for one day.

In Mexico, the festival might include military parades and reenactments of the Battle of Puebla, but for most citizens, it is an ordinary day. It’s not considered a federal holiday, so it’s business as usual throughout most of the country.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is more about celebrating Mexican heritage and culture rather than a battle. Activists first brought the holiday to attention in the 1960s, and since then, May 5 has grown in popularity. Today, people across the nation celebrate with get-togethers, many of which feature Mariachi bands, parades, and traditional foods.

Chinese Students Use Hats to Social Distance

Students in China have headed back to school this month, and with the Coronavirus still a threat and social distancing in place, young children at one school have used fun creativity and a history lesson to keep a safe distance from each other.

In a city called Hangzhou in Eastern China, children at Yangzheng Elementary School designed hats that have extensions on the sides. The “wings” span about 3.2 feet across and were decorated in many different designs. The students were very inventive, using various items to decorate the hats, such as balloons, birds, rainbows, and leaves. One funny student added googly eyes to their creation while another decided to be decked out as royalty with a crown on top of the cap.

The hats are designed to remind the kids to keep a distance from each other during school hours. “We’re advocating students to wear a one-meter hat and maintain one meter’s distance,” said the school’s principal, Hong Feng.

The hats are a throwback to the Song Dynasty, who were the rulers of China between 960 and 1279. The founder of the dynasty, Emperor Taizu of Song, didn’t like the idea of people whispering when they got together, afraid they were plotting against him. He added wide prongs onto the sides of headwear, making the hats a great tool to prevent quiet conversations. As Eileen Chengyin, a Duke University professor of Asian and Middle Eastern studies, said, “The long horizontal plumes on Song Dynasty toppers were supposedly to prevent officials from conspiring sotto voce with one another while at court – so social distancing was in fact their original function.”

The original hats were not as cutesy, and probably not as comfortable since they were made out of metal and bamboo, but in both cases, they produced the social distancing results desired … although the elementary students probably enjoy wearing theirs a lot more than the ancients did.

NASA Teams Up With SpaceX for Mission

American astronauts are once again going to make a trek into space. This mission is the first time NASA will send astronauts to space from U.S. soil since 2011, and everyone is pretty excited about the adventure. Lift off will occur on May 27 of this year in Florida, from the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island.

The travelers will be riding in a Crew Dragon spacecraft and thrust into the orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket. Since these designs were created by SpaceX, a company founded by Elon Musk in 2002, this will be the first time a private company is responsible for sending astronauts into space. The purpose of the public-private partnership is to create a system to transport American astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “This is a high-priority mission for the United States of America. We as a nation have not had our own access to the International Space Station for nine years. At the same time, we’ve had American astronauts on the [International Space Station] for 20 years in a row.”

The Space Station is the biggest object in Earth’s orbit that was created by mankind. It is 357 feet long and supports crews stationed there who conduct experiments in the low gravity environment. Former President Richard Nixon started the space station program in 1972 by approving the first reusable spacecraft. From 1981 to 2011, American-made shuttles took astronauts into orbit, but on July 21, 2011, the final mission ended with the Atlantis orbiter’s return. Then, Americans depended on Russian Soyuz rockets to take them into orbit.

For nearly a decade, these were the only rockets that were able to transport people to the International Space Station. As of April this year, the Russians charged a whopping $86 million to foreign astronauts wanting a ride on missions.

The goal of this new NASA/SpaceX mission is to test how well a crew will be able to function in the Crew Dragon craft. A test was conducted in March 2019 with an Earth-shaped plush toy and a dummy named “Ripley” as its only passengers – no humans. The mission was successful, and the Crew Dragon landed in the Atlantic Ocean just off Florida’s eastern coastline.

“Dragon will be fully autonomous,” SpaceX crew mission director Benjamin Reed said. “The expectation is [that] it can carry the crew safely to the station and bring them home without direct intervention.” The travelers will wear special suits designed by SpaceX that will provide oxygen while maintaining pressure and appropriate temperatures. NASA Deputy Manager Steve Stich said, “The suits also have an integrated communications system so that the crew can communicate through their helmets,” and when the wearer chooses to sit down, the one-piece spacesuits will plug into the Crew Dragon’s chairs.

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