First Rocket Launch in Iceland in Fifty Years

Iceland had its first rocket launch in fifty years this weekend, RÚV reports. Space Iceland, an organization that seeks to “foster the creation of a National Space Plan” successfully fired off a rocket from Langanes peninsula in Northeast Iceland on Saturday.

The rocket was launched in two parts, or stages, in front of a crowd of onlookers. The first stage launch reached a height of six kilometres, the second, a height of 30 kilometres. Both parts landed in the sea, not far from shore, and were easily retrieved by Search and Rescue volunteers, thanks to GPS equipment inside each piece.

The rocket was manufactured by the Scottish company Skyrora, self-described as the ‘Uber of Space Travel,’ which develops and builds rockets capable of launching satellites into space. Saturday’s launch was a test flight and part of ongoing development efforts.

Project manager Atli Þór Fanndal says the launch’s success is significant. “It’s worked now—we’ve gone through the whole process necessary for launching rockets in Iceland. It’s a really big step because now we can issues rocket-launching licenses. The goal, of course, is space launches.”

Glacial Flood at Grímsvötn Not Imminent, But Expected This Year

GPS measurements taken at Grímsvötn volcano in Southeast Iceland show that the land there is starting to rise again, RÚV reports. Scientists say this means that there will not be a glacial flood in the immediate future, as was thought a possibility only days ago.

See Also: Glacial Flood May Have Begun at Grímsvötn Volcano

Scientists and Civil Defense authorities have been closely monitoring the area around Grímsvötn all weekend. “Our data indicate that a glacial flood isn’t imminent right now, but the water level in Grímsvötn is very high, so we fully expect that there will be a flood this year,” explained Kristín Jónsdóttir, coordinator of the Icelandic Met Office’s Earthquake Hazards team. Glacial meltwater collects in a subglacial lake and caldera in Grímsvötn’s core, both of which are covered by an ice cap. The water level of the lake rises slowly but surely, until finally, it overflows in a glacial flood.

Grímsvötn, located under the Vatnajökull ice cap, is the most active volcano in Iceland and has erupted as many as 100 times since the time of Iceland’s settlement, and 13 times since 1902. It is part of a volcanic system that is over 100 km long and extends down to the Laki craters. Grímsvötn last erupted in 2011—the volcano’s largest eruption in 140 years.

A glacial flood at Grímsvötn can trigger a volcanic eruption. Although these eruptions can be strong, the primary side effect has usually been disruptions to air traffic. If there is an eruption of Grímsvötn in coming year, scientists say it is unlikely to be as big as the one in 2011.

Grímsvötn will continue to be closely monitored, with scientists travelling to the area on Sunday to conduct checks on the equipment there.

One in Twenty LGBTQIA+ Students Have Been Physically Assaulted

Pride Rainbow Reykjavík

One in twenty LGBTQIA+ students has been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual characteristics Vísir reports. This was among the findings of a recent survey conducted by Samtökin 78, the National Queer Association of Iceland, on the wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ youth in schools.

“We need to do a lot better when it comes to LGBTQIA+ young people,” stated Tótla I. Sæmundsdóttir, Educational Director of Samtökin 78. “They endure physical harassment, verbal assault, and physical assault in schools.”

A third of students surveyed reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation. A quarter of respondents said that they skipped school at least once in the previous month and a third avoid locker rooms and physical education classes in general due to feelings of discomfort or unsafety.

Just under 46% of respondents said that school staff never intervene when verbal slurs or degrading terms are directed at LGBTQIA+ students in their presence. It is fellow students, says Tótla, who tend to intervene on the part of their LGBTQIA+ peers. But this inaction on the part of teachers and school staff sends the message that such language and conduct towards LGBTQIA+ students is acceptable within the school environment.

The first step in correcting this state of affairs is, says Tótla, better education. “We want education for students and education for teachers. We want LGBTQIA+ students to be better safeguarded at school.”

“We also want to see educational materials that reflect their realities and society,” concluded Tótla. “[Students] reported in the study that there is little to no course material that reflects LGBTQIA+ people in a positive light.”

New Screening and Quarantine Rules Go Into Effect This Week

COVID-19 tightening restrictions

Starting this week, all persons arriving in Iceland will be required to undergo two COVID-19 screenings. Previously, the five-day quarantine and double testing requirement only applied to residents of Iceland, people visiting the country for an extended period of time, and nonresidents with a strong social network within the country. Now, the quarantine and testing rules apply to everyone, no matter where they are arriving from or how long they will be staying in Iceland. The changes will go into effect on August 19.

The changes in screening policy were announced by Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir at a press conference on Friday and are being made in light of the advancement of COVID-19 both abroad and within Iceland. “The frequency of COVID-19 infection is increasing in neighbouring countries and all over the world,” reads the press release on the government’s website. “We are still grappling with a group infection that has cropped up here in Iceland without knowing how this strain of the virus made its way here.”

“We’re not promising a virus-free society,” Katrín remarked. “We see that no one can make that promise. But we’re trying to minimize the risk here in Iceland such that disruptions are as negligible as possible.”

The first COVID-19 test will be taken at the border; the second will be taken at a local testing centre four to five days after arrival. In the interim, those waiting for their second test will be subject to quarantine, the rules of which have been tightened considerably.

One of the biggest changes in the new screening policy is that no one will be exempt from screening at the border, not even those from countries that were formerly considered “safe.” The reason for this change is that even these countries are seeing a rise in incidences of COVID-19 infection and it has proven difficult for authorities to confirm that travellers arriving from “safe” countries have, in fact, been there for 14 consecutive days before travelling to Iceland.

Rules on pre-registration for travel to Iceland are also being tightened to ensure that authorities and contact tracers have all the information about an individual’s travel plans before they arrive.

See the government’s most recent information about the second COVID-19 test here and a full explanation of quarantine regulations (both in English) here.