High-school student Eleanor Sigrest successfully crowdfunded her way onto a zero-G flight to test her latest Raspberry Pi-powered project. NASA Goddard engineers peer reviewed Eleanor’s experimental design, which detects unwanted movement (or ‘slosh’) in spacecraft fluid tanks.
The apparatus features an accelerometer to precisely determine the moment of zero gravity, along with 13 Raspberry Pis and 12 Raspberry Pi cameras to capture the slosh movement.
What’s wrong with slosh?
The Broadcom Foundation shared a pretty interesting minute-by-minute report on Eleanor’s first hyperbolic flight and how she got everything working. But, in a nutshell…
You don’t want the fluid in your space shuttle tanks sloshing around too much. It’s a mission-ending problem. Slosh occurs on take-off and also in microgravity during manoeuvres, so Eleanor devised this novel approach to managing it in place of the costly, heavy subsystems currently used on board space craft.
Eleanor wanted to prove that the fluid inside tanks treated with superhydrophobic and superhydrophilic coatings settled quicker than in uncoated tanks. And she was right: settling times were reduced by 73% in some cases.
At just 13 years old, Eleanor won the Samueli Prize at the 2016 Broadcom MASTERS for her mastery of STEM principles and team leadership during a rigorous week-long competition. High praise came from Paula Golden, President of Broadcom Foundation, who said: “Eleanor is the epitome of a young woman scientist and engineer. She combines insatiable curiosity with courage: two traits that are essential for a leader in these fields.”
That week-long experience also included a Raspberry Pi Challenge, and Eleanor explained: “During the Raspberry Pi Challenge, I learned that sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. I also learned it’s important to try everyone’s ideas because you never know which one might work the best. Sometimes it’s a compromise of different ideas, or a compromise between complicated and simple. The most important thing is to consider them all.”
Before our beloved SpaceDave left the Raspberry Pi Foundation to join the ranks of the European Space Agency (ESA) — and no, we’re still not jealous *ahem* — he kindly drafted us one final blog post about the Astro Pi upgrades heading to the International Space Station today! So here it is. Enjoy!
We are very excited to announce that Astro Pi upgrades are on their way to the International Space Station! Back in September, we blogged about a small payload being launched to the International Space Station to upgrade the capabilities of our Astro Pi units.
For the longest time, the payload was scheduled to be launched on SpaceX CRS 14 in February. However, the launch was delayed to April and so impacted the flight operations we have planned for running Mission Space Lab student experiments.
To avoid this, ESA had the payload transferred to Russian Soyuz MS-08 (54S), which is launching today to carry crew members Oleg Artemyev, Andrew Feustel, and Ricky Arnold to the ISS.
You can watch coverage of the launch on NASA TV from 4.30pm GMT this afternoon, with the launch scheduled for 5.44pm GMT. Check the NASA TV schedule for updates.
The pictures below show the flight hardware in its final configuration before loading onto the launch vehicle.
With the wireless dongle, the Astro Pi units can be deployed in ISS locations other than the Columbus module, where they don’t have access to an Ethernet switch.
We are also sending some flexible optical filters. These are made from the same material as the blue square which is shipped with the Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera Module.
So that future Astro Pi code will need to command fewer windows to download earth observation imagery to the ground, we’re also including some 32GB micro SD cards to replace the current 8GB cards.
More space in space
Tthe items above are enclosed in a large 8″ ziplock bag that has been designated the “AstroPi Kit”.
It’s ziplock bags all the way down up
Once the Soyuz docks with the ISS, this payload is one of the first which will be unpacked, so that the Astro Pi units can be upgraded and deployed ready to run your experiments!
More Astro Pi
Stay tuned for our next update in April, when student code is set to be run on the Astro Pi units as part of our Mission Space Lab programme. And to find out more about Astro Pi, head to the programme website.
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We had a total of 212 Mission Space Lab entries from 22 countries. Of these, a 114 fantastic projects have been given flight status, and the teams’ project code will run in space!
But they’re not winners yet. In April, the code will be sent to the ISS, and then the teams will receive back their experimental data. Next, to get deeper insight into the process of scientific endeavour, they will need produce a final report analysing their findings. Winners will be chosen based on the merit of their final report, and the winning teams will get exclusive prizes. Check the list below to see if your team got flight status.
Flight status achieved:
Team De Vesten, Campus De Vesten, Antwerpen
Ursa Major, CoderDojo Belgium, West-Vlaanderen
Special operations STEM, Sint-Claracollege, Antwerpen
Flight status achieved:
Let It Grow, Branksome Hall, Toronto
The Dark Side of Light, Branksome Hall, Toronto
Genie On The ISS, Branksome Hall, Toronto
Byte by PIthons, Youth Tech Education Society & Kid Code Jeunesse, Edmonton
The Broadviewnauts, Broadview, Ottawa
Flight status achieved:
BLEK, Střední Odborná Škola Blatná, Strakonice
Flight status achieved:
2y Infotek, Nærum Gymnasium, Nærum
Equation Quotation, Allerød Gymnasium, Lillerød
Team Weather Watchers, Allerød Gymnasium, Allerød
Space Gardners, Nærum Gymnasium, Nærum
Flight status achieved:
Team Aurora, Hyvinkään yhteiskoulun lukio, Hyvinkää
Flight status achieved:
INC2, Lycée Raoul Follereau, Bourgogne
Space Project SP4, Lycée Saint-Paul IV, Reunion Island
Dresseurs2Python, clg Albert CAMUS, essonne
Lazos, Lycée Aux Lazaristes, Rhone
The space nerds, Lycée Saint André Colmar, Alsace
Les Spationautes Valériquais, lycée de la Côte d’Albâtre, Normandie
Right now, 400km above the Earth aboard the International Space Station, are two very special Raspberry Pi computers. They were launched into space on 6 December 2015 and are, most assuredly, the farthest-travelled Raspberry Pi computers in existence. Each year they run experiments that school students create in the European Astro Pi Challenge.
Left: Astro Pi Vis (Ed); right: Astro Pi IR (Izzy). Image credit: ESA.
The European Columbus module
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the European Columbus module. The Columbus module is the European Space Agency’s largest single contribution to the ISS, and it supports research in many scientific disciplines, from astrobiology and solar science to metallurgy and psychology. More than 225 experiments have been carried out inside it during the past decade. It’s also home to our Astro Pi computers.
Here’s a video from 7 February 2008, when Space Shuttle Atlantis went skywards carrying the Columbus module in its cargo bay.
Our Astro Pi computers will be joining in the celebrations by displaying a digital birthday candle that the crew can blow out. It works by detecting an increase in humidity when someone blows on it. The video below demonstrates the concept.
The exact Astro Pi code that will run on the ISS today is available for you to download and run on your own Raspberry Pi and Sense HAT. You’ll notice that the program includes code to make it stop automatically when the date changes to 8 February. This is just to save time for the ground control team.
If you have a Raspberry Pi and a Sense HAT, you can use the terminal commands below to download and run the code yourself:
When you see a blank blue screen with the brightness increasing, the Sense HAT is measuring the baseline humidity. It does this every 15 minutes so it can recalibrate to take account of natural changes in background humidity. A humidity increase of 2% is needed to blow out the candle, so if the background humidity changes by more than 2% in 15 minutes, it’s possible to get a false positive. Press Ctrl + C to quit.
Please tweet pictures of your candles to @astro_pi – we might share yours! And if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the candle on the ISS during the NASA TV event at 16:30 GMT today.
Every school year, we run the European Astro Pi challenge to find the next generation of space scientists who will program two space-hardened Raspberry Pi units, called Astro Pis, living aboard the International Space Station.
Italian ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli with the Astro Pi units. Image credit ESA.
Astro Pi Mission Zero
The 2017–2018 challenge included the brand-new non-competitive Mission Zero, which guaranteed that participants could have their code run on the ISS for 30 seconds, provided they followed the rules. They would also get a certificate showing the exact time period during which their code ran in space.
We asked participants to write a simple Python program to display a personalised message and the air temperature on the Astro Pi screen. No special hardware was needed, since all the code could be written in a web browser using the Sense HAT emulator developed in partnership with Trinket.
Students coding #astropi emulator to scroll a message to astronauts on @Raspberry_Pi in space this summer. Try it here: https://t.co/0KURq11X0L #Rm9Parents #CSforAll #ontariocodes
And now it’s time…
We received over 2500 entries for Mission Zero, and we’re excited to announce that tomorrow all entries with flight status will be run on the ISS…in SPAAACE!
There are 1771 Python programs with flight status, which will run back-to-back on Astro Pi VIS (Ed). The whole process will take about 14 hours. This means that everyone will get a timestamp showing 1 February, so we’re going to call this day Mission Zero Day!
Part of each team’s certificate will be a map, like the one below, showing the exact location of the ISS while the team’s code was running.
The grey line is the ISS orbital path, the red marker shows the ISS’s location when their code was running. Produced using Google Static Maps API.
The programs will be run in the same sequence in which we received them. For operational reasons, we can’t guarantee that they will run while the ISS flies over any particular location. However, if you have submitted an entry to Mission Zero, there is a chance that your code will run while the ISS is right overhead!
Go out and spot the station
Spotting the ISS is a great activity to do by yourself or with your students. The station looks like a very fast-moving star that crosses the sky in just a few minutes. If you know when and where to look, and it’s not cloudy, you literally can’t miss it.
Source Andreas Möller, Wikimedia Commons.
The ISS passes over most ground locations about twice a day. For it to be clearly visible though, you need darkness on the ground with sunlight on the ISS due to its altitude. There are a number of websites which can tell you when these visible passes occur, such as NASA’s Spot the Station. Each of the sites requires you to give your location so it can work out when visible passes will occur near you.
Visible ISS pass star chart from Heavens Above, on which familiar constellations such as the Plough (see label Ursa Major) can be seen.
A personal favourite of mine is Heavens Above. It’s slightly more fiddly to use than other sites, but it produces brilliant star charts that show you precisely where to look in the sky. This is how it works:
Mission Zero certificates will be arriving in participants’ inboxes shortly. We would like to thank everyone who participated in Mission Zero this school year, and we hope that next time you’ll take it one step further and try Mission Space Lab.
Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab are two really exciting programmes that young people of all ages can take part in. If you would like to be notified when the next round of Astro Pi opens for registrations, sign up to our mailing list here.
Tim Rowledge produces and sells wonderful replicas of the cases which our Astro Pis live in aboard the International Space Station. Here is the story of how he came to do this. Over to you, Tim!
When the Astro Pi case was first revealed a couple of years ago, the collective outpouring of ‘Squee!’ it elicited may have been heard on board the ISS itself. People wanted to buy it or build it at home, and someone wanted to know whether it would blend. (There’s always one.)
The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the original Astro Pi flight case — gorgeous, isn’t it?
Replicating the Astro Pi case
Some months later the STL files for printing your own Astro Pi case were released, and people jumped at the chance to use them. Soon reports appeared saying you had to make quite a few attempts before getting a good print — normal for any complex 3D-printing project. A fellow member of my local makerspace successfully made a couple of cases, but it took a lot of time, filament, and post-print finishing work. And of course, a plastic Astro Pi case simply doesn’t look or feel like the original made of machined aluminium — or ‘aluminum’, as they tend to say over here in North America.
A batch of tops designed by Tim
I wanted to build an Astro Pi case which would more closely match the original. Fortunately, someone else at my makerspace happens to have some serious CNC machining equipment at his small manufacturing company. Therefore, I focused on creating a case design that could be produced with his three-axis device. This meant simplifying some parts to avoid expensive, slow, complex multi-fixture work. It took us a while, but we ended up with a design we can efficiently make using his machine.
Tim’s first lasered case
And the resulting case looks really, really like the original — in fact, upon receiving one of the final prototypes, Eben commented:
“I have to say, at first glance they look spectacular: unless you hold them side by side with the originals, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s changed. I’m looking forward to seeing one built up and then seeing them in the wild.”
Inside the Astro Pi case
Making just the bare case is nice, but there are other parts required to recreate a complete Astro Pi unit. Thus I got my local electronics company to design a small HAT to provide much the same support the mezzanine board offers: an RTC and nice, clean connections to the six buttons. We also added well-labelled, grouped pads for all the other GPIO lines, along with space for an ADC. If you’re making your own Astro Pi replica, you might like the Switchboard.
The electronics supply industry just loves to offer *some* of what you need, so that one supplier never has everything: we had to obtain the required stand-offs, screws, spacers, and JST wires from assorted other sources. Jeff at my nearby Industrial Paint & Plastics took on the laser engraving of our cases, leaving out copyrighted logos etcetera.
Lasering the top of a case
Get your own Astro Pi case
Should you like to buy one of our Astro Pi case kits, pop over to www.astropicase.com, and we’ll get it on its way to you pronto. If you’re an institutional or corporate customer, the fully built option might make more sense for you — ordering the Pi and other components, and having a staff member assemble it all, may well be more work than is sensible.
Tim’s first full Astro Pi case replica, complete with shiny APEM buttons
To put the kit together yourself, all you need to do is add a Pi, Sense HAT, Camera Module, and RTC battery, and choose your buttons. An illustrated manual explains the process step by step. Our version of the Astro Pi case uses the same APEM buttons as the units in orbit, and whilst they are expensive, just clicking them is a source of great joy. It comes in a nice travel case too.
This is Tim. Thanks, Tim!
Take part in Astro Pi
If having an Astro Pi replica is not enough for you, this is your chance: the 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge is open! Do you know a teenager who might be keen to design a experiment to run on the Astro Pis in space? Are you one yourself? You have until 29 October to send us your Mission Space Lab entry and become part of the next generation of space scientists? Head over to the Astro Pi website to find out more.
Fancy connecting with Raspberry Pi beyond the four imaginary walls of this blog post? Want to find ways into the conversation among our community of makers, learners, and educators? Here’s how:
Connecting with us on Twitter is your sure-fire way of receiving the latest news and articles from and about the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Code Club, and CoderDojo. Here you’ll experience the fun, often GIF-fuelled banter of the busy Raspberry Pi community, along with tips, project support, and event updates. This is the best place to follow hashtags such as #Picademy, #MakeYourIdeas, and #RJam in real time.
News! Raspberry Pi and @CoderDojo join forces in a merger that will help more young people get creative with tech: https://t.co/37y45ht7li
We create a variety of video content, from Pi Towers fun, to resource videos, to interviews and program updates. We’re constantly adding content to our channel to bring you more interesting, enjoyable videos to watch and share within the community. Want to see what happens when you drill a hole through a Raspberry Pi Zero to make a fidget spinner? Or what Code Club International volunteers got up to when we brought them together in London for a catch-up? Maybe you’d like to try a new skill and need guidance? Our YouTube channel is the place to go!
Learn the basics of how to solder components together, and the safety precautions you need to take. Find a transcript of this video in our accompanying learning resource: raspberrypi.org/learning/getting-started-with-soldering/
Instagram is known as the home of gorgeous projects and even better-looking project photographs. Our Instagram, however, is mainly a collection of random office shenanigans, short video clips, and the occasional behind-the-scenes snap of projects, events, or the mess on my desk. Come join the party!
1,379 Likes, 9 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “When one #AstroPi unit is simply not enough… . Would you like to #3DPrint your own Astro Pi unit?…”
Looking to share information on Raspberry Pi with your social community? Maybe catch a live stream or read back through comments on some of our community projects? Then you’ll want to check out Raspberry Pi Facebook page. It brings the world together via a vast collection of interesting articles, images, videos, and discussions. Here you’ll find information on upcoming events we’re visiting, links to our other social media accounts, and projects our community shares via visitor posts. If you have a moment to spare, you may even find you can answer a community question.
The Raspberry Pi forum is the go-to site for posting questions, getting support, and just having a good old chin wag. Whether you have problems setting up your Pi, need advice on how to build a media centre, or can’t figure out how to utilise Scratch for the classroom, the forum has you covered. Head there for absolutely anything Pi-related, and you’re sure to find help with your query – or better yet, the answer may already be waiting for you!
Our G+ community is an ever-growing mix of makers, educators, industry professionals, and those completely new to Pi and eager to learn more about the Foundation and the product. Here you’ll find project shares, tech questions, and conversation. It’s worth stopping by if you use the platform.
Code Club and CoderDojo
You should also check out the social media accounts of our BFFs Code Club and CoderDojo!
On the CoderDojo website, along with their active forum, you’ll find links to all their accounts at the bottom of the page. For UK-focused Code Club information, head to the Code Club UK Twitter account, and for links to accounts of Code Clubs based in your country, use the search option on the Code Club International website.
Connect with us
However you want to connect with us, make sure to say hi. We love how active and welcoming our online community is and we always enjoy engaging in conversation, seeing your builds and events, and sharing Pi Towers mischief as well as useful Pi-related information and links with you!
If you use any other social platform and miss our presence there, let us know in the comments. And if you run your own Raspberry Pi-related forum, online group, or discussion board, share that as well!
This weekend saw my first anniversary at Raspberry Pi, and this blog marks my 100th post written for the company. It would have been easy to let one milestone or the other slide had they not come along hand in hand, begging for some sort of acknowledgement.
The day Liz decided to keep me
So here it is!
Joining the crew
Prior to my position in the Comms team as Social Media Editor, my employment history was largely made up of retail sales roles and, before that, bit parts in theatrical backstage crews. I never thought I would work for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, despite its firm position on my Top Five Awesome Places I’d Love to Work list. How could I work for a tech company when my knowledge of tech stretched as far as dismantling my Game Boy when I was a kid to see how the insides worked, or being the one friend everyone went to when their phone didn’t do what it was meant to do? I never thought about the other side of the Foundation coin, or how I could find my place within the hidden workings that turned the cogs that brought everything together.
12 Likes, 1 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “… when suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a new job with a dream company. #raspberrypi #positive…”
A little luck, a well-written though humorous resumé, and a meeting with Liz and Helen later, I found myself the newest member of the growing team at Pi Towers.
Ticking items off the Bucket List
I thought it would be fun to point out some of the chances I’ve had over the last twelve months and explain how they fit within the world of Raspberry Pi. After all, we’re about more than just a $35 credit card-sized computer. We’re a charitable Foundation made up of some wonderful and exciting projects, people, and goals.
High altitude ballooning (HAB)
Skycademy offers educators in the UK the chance to come to Pi Towers Cambridge to learn how to plan a balloon launch, build a payload with onboard Raspberry Pi and Camera Module, and provide teachers with the skills needed to take their students on an adventure to near space, with photographic evidence to prove it.
332 Likes, 5 Comments – Raspberry Pi (@raspberrypifoundation) on Instagram: “All the screens you need to hunt balloons. . We have our landing point and are now rushing to…”
I was fortunate enough to join Sky Captain James, along with Dan Fisher, Dave Akerman, and Steve Randell on a test launch back in August last year. Testing out new kit that James had still been tinkering with that morning, we headed to a field in Elsworth, near Cambridge, and provided Facebook Live footage of the process from payload build to launch…to the moment when our balloon landed in an RAF shooting range some hours later.
“Can we have our balloon back, please, mister?”
Having enjoyed watching Blue Peter presenters send up a HAB when I was a child, I marked off the event on my bucket list with a bold tick, and I continue to show off the photographs from our Raspberry Pi as it reached near space.
13 Likes, 2 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “Spend the day launching/chasing a high-altitude balloon. Look how high it went!!! #HAB #ballooning…”
You can find more information on Skycademy here, plus more detail about our test launch day in Dan’s blog post here.
Dear Raspberry Pi Friends…
My desk is slowly filling with stuff: notes, mementoes, and trinkets that find their way to me from members of the community, both established and new to the life of Pi. There are thank you notes, updates, and more from people I’ve chatted to online as they explore their way around the world of Pi.
By plugging myself into social media on a daily basis, I often find hidden treasures that go unnoticed due to the high volume of tags we receive on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on. Kids jumping off chairs in delight as they complete their first Scratch project, newcomers to the Raspberry Pi shedding a tear as they make an LED blink on their kitchen table, and seasoned makers turning their hobby into something positive to aid others.
It’s wonderful to join in the excitement of people discovering a new skill and exploring the community of Raspberry Pi makers: I’ve been known to shed a tear as a result.
Meeting educators at Bett, chatting to teen makers at makerspaces, and sharing a cupcake or three at the birthday party have been incredible opportunities to get to know you all.
You’re all brilliant.
The Queens of Robots, both shoddy and otherwise
Last year we welcomed the Queen of Shoddy Robots, Simone Giertz to Pi Towers, where we chatted about making, charity, and space while wandering the colleges of Cambridge and hanging out with flat Tim Peake.
Ahhhh!!! I still can’t believe I got to hang out and make stuff at the @Raspberry_Pi towers!! Thank you thank you!!
Meeting such wonderful, exciting, and innovative YouTubers was a fantastic inspiration to work on my own projects and to try to do more to help others discover ways to connect with tech through their own interests.
Those ‘wow’ moments
Every Raspberry Pi project I see on a daily basis is awesome. The moment someone takes an idea and does something with it is, in my book, always worthy of awe and appreciation. Whether it be the aforementioned flashing LED, or sending Raspberry Pis to the International Space Station, if you have turned your idea into reality, I applaud you.
Some of my favourite projects over the last twelve months have not only made me say “Wow!”, they’ve also inspired me to want to do more with myself, my time, and my growing maker skill.
Great to meet @alexjrassic today and nerd out about @Raspberry_Pi and weather balloons and @Space_Station and all things #edtech ⛅🛰🤖
Projects such as Museum in a Box, a wonderful hands-on learning aid that brings the world to the hands of children across the globe, honestly made me tear up as I placed a miniaturised 3D-printed Virginia Woolf onto a wooden box and gasped as she started to speak to me.
Jill Ogle’s Let’s Robot project had me in awe as Twitch-controlled Pi robots tackled mazes, attempted to cut birthday cake, or swung to slap Jill in the face over webcam.
19 Likes, 1 Comments – Alex J’rassic (@thealexjrassic) on Instagram: “Made a Gif Cam using a Raspberry Pi, Pi camera, button and a couple LEDs. . When you press the…”
The next twelve months
Despite Eben jokingly firing me near-weekly across Twitter, or Philip giving me the ‘Dad glare’ when I pull wires and buttons out of a box under my desk to start yet another project, I don’t plan on going anywhere. Over the next twelve months, I hope to continue discovering awesome Pi builds, expanding on my own skills, and curating some wonderful projects for you via the Raspberry Pi blog, the Raspberry Pi Weekly newsletter, my submissions to The MagPi Magazine, and the occasional video interview or two.
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for joining me on the ride!
On Saturday, British ESA astronaut Tim Peake returned to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. During his time in orbit, he did a huge amount of work to share the excitement of his trip with young people and support education across the curriculum: as part of this, he used our two Astro Pi computers, Izzy and Ed, to run UK school students’ code and play their music in space. But what lies ahead for the pair now Tim’s mission, Principia, is complete?
As British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s mission comes to an end, what will become of Ed and Izzy, our courageous Astro Pis? Find out more at astro-pi.org/about/mission/ Narration by Fran Scott: franscott.co.uk
Ed and Izzy will remain on the International Space Station until 2022, and they have exciting work ahead of them. Keep an eye on this blog and on our official magazine, The MagPi, for news!
British ESA astronaut Tim Peake has been on board the International Space Station with our Astro Pi units, Izzy and Ed, for exactly six months today. As Tim prepares to return to Earth this Saturday, we bring you the third part of their animated adventures: when our two spacefaring Raspberry Pi computers run into a problem even their hero Robonaut can’t fix, who can help them?
During his time in space, Tim has been using Ed and Izzy to run apps, carry out science experiments and play music designed and coded by UK school students, and he’s taken some great photos of them on the station:
Both computers have also spent some weeks in a flight recorder mode, saving sensor readings to a database every ten seconds, and we’ve made these space data available to everyone to download and analyse. Take a look at our Flight Data Analysis resource to explore what they recorded as they orbited our planet.
Ed and Izzy will say goodbye to Tim when he returns from space this Saturday; you’ll be able to watch him land. Our Astro Pi units will stay on board the ISS until 2022, and we hope we’ll soon be able to share exciting news about what they’ll be doing next. Stay tuned!
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