Friday, December 11, 2020

NASA picks astronauts for new Moon missions

NASA has announced 18 astronauts who will travel to the Moon under the agency’s Artemis program. They include individuals who have already travelled to the International Space Station, as well as new recruits who have never flown in space. The group includes the next man and first woman who will walk on the lunar surface in 2024. The cadre of nine women and nine men were announced by the United States Vice-President at an event in Florida. Stephanie Wilson, who has flown into space three times aboard the space shuttle, Christina Koch, who holds the record for the longest continuous time in space for a woman, and Victor Glover, who recently launched to the ISS aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon, are among those who will fly to the Moon in coming years. Speaking at the eighth National Space Council meeting at Kennedy Space Center, the NASA Administrator said: “This is the first cadre of our Artemis astronauts. I want to be clear, there’s going to be more.” The US space agency plans to send a man and woman to the Moon’s south pole in 2024 for the first crewed landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. But this will be followed by further flights by astronauts travelling in a spacecraft called Orion, which will be launched by a huge rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS). NASA’s Administrator said that the organization wants to establish a sustainable program of lunar exploration, including the construction of a lunar base. (Yahoo News)


Australia has launched an project to help protect Koalas

The $13.4 Million project includes an audit to estimate how many koalas exist in the wild. Previous estimates have varied wildly. In mid-2019, the Australian Koala Foundation said that there were fewer than 80,000 but three years earlier researchers estimated their number at 300,000. On top of that, environmentalists say that 61,000 koalas were killed, injured, or displaced by wildfires last summer. Previous audits relied on counting koalas with the naked eye but the fluffy animals can be hard to spot because they can be high up in trees. This time around, to get a more precise count, researchers will use detection dogs to find Koala droppings, heat-seeking drones, and sound recording devices. (Australian Government)


A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation rocket, the Starship, performed a successful high-altitude test flight, but exploded upon landing

The three Raptor engines of the SN8 prototype propelled the rocket to an altitude of about eight miles. A few minutes into the flight, they began shutting down, one by one, something that SpaceX founder Elon Musk said was intentional. The rocket then began its descent toward the ground and when it was close to land, the Raptors were fired up again to turn the rocket into a vertical position, but it appeared that the rocket did not slow down enough and crashed upon landing. Musk said that “fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high.” SpaceX had previously warned that the chances of a successful flight were low. Although nailing the landing would have been ideal, the purpose was to test the rocket’s technology, including the Raptors, body flaps, and “the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle.” Musk said that SpaceX engineers got “all the data we needed” from the test flight. The company’s strategy is based on developing different prototypes, with each new iteration improving on the last. SpaceX has two other prototypes, the SN9 and SN10, in the works to continue with the tests. The unmanned test above SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, nonetheless cleared a number of important goals, including an aerodynamics test and a “belly flop,” and Elon Musk called it a “successful ascent.” Starship ultimately aims to launch cargo and dozens of people at a time on missions to the moon and Mars. (CNET)


Nicolas Cage will host a Netflix docuseries investigating the history of profane language

The six-episode series, “History of Swear Words,” will tackle the origins of curses including “f*ck,” “sh*t,” “bitch,” and “damn.” Funny or Die and B17 Entertainment will produce the series, with Bellamie Blackstone (“I Love You, America”) serving as showrunner. The quick-hit episodes will run around 20 minutes. Celebrity guests include Joel Kim Booster, Open Mike Eagle, Nikki Glaser, Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, Baron Vaughn, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. The show will also feature actual language and etymological experts, including linguists, cognitive scientists, and lexicographers. This will be the first streaming project featuring Nicolas Cage to debut, though he has a few others, including a scripted series in which he’ll star as “Tiger King” subject Joe Exotic — on the way. “History of Swear Words” will hit Netflix on January 5. (Hollywood Reporter)


FTC and states sue Facebook, could force it to divest Instagram and WhatsApp

The Federal Trade Commission and 48 states and territories filed two separate lawsuits against Facebook for widespread antitrust violations. FTC and state attorneys general have been probing since last year. These probes touched on everything from Facebook’s handling of user data to its competition-squashing acquire-or-copy approach. The lawsuit from the FTC takes aim at Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which could potentially lead to the breakup of the social media conglomerate involving around 2.5 billion people use monthly. And don’t forget, Google is facing a similar antitrust suit from the Department of Justice. (Axios)


Google released its top trending searches of 2020

Some queries that saw high spikes in traffic in the United States over long periods of time:

  • News: 1) Election results 2) coronavirus 3) stimulus checks
  • People: 1) Joe Biden 2) Kim Jong Un 3) Kamala Harris
  • TV shows: 1) Tiger King 2) Cobra Kai 3) Ozark
  • How to make…1) Hand sanitizer 2) a face mask with fabric 3) whipped coffee
  • Why…1) Were chainsaws invented 2) is there a coin shortage 3) was George Floyd arrested
  • Where is…1) My stimulus money 2) my refunds 3) Kansas City
  • How to…1) Cut men’s hair at home 2) plop hair 3) color your hair at home
  • Lyrics: 1) WAP
  • Definitions: 1) WAP



This holiday season: more work

Will people actually unplug from work this holiday season? That doesn’t appear to be the case. A new survey found that 31% of U.S. professionals plan to spend more time working at their primary job than they did this time last year. And even when people aren’t working, 27% said they plan to spend more time than usual checking in with the office. That number is even higher for those in a variety of job functions, such as law (41%) and sales (30%). (LinkedIn)


A planet in an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away may offer a clue to a mystery much closer to home: a hypothesized, distant body in our solar system dubbed “Planet Nine”

Astronomers analyzing Hubble images of the double star, HD 106906, have discovered a planet in a huge 15,000-year-long orbit that sweeps it as far from its stellar duo as Planet Nine would be from our Sun. This is observational evidence that similarly far-flung worlds may exist around other stars. Researchers hypothesize that the planet wound up there in a game of planetary pinball where the gravitational pull of a passing star modified the orbit’s shape. This is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disk. This disk is similar to our Kuiper Belt of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune. To date, astronomers only have circumstantial evidence for Planet Nine. They’ve found a cluster of small celestial bodies beyond Neptune that move in unusual orbits compared with the rest of the solar system. This configuration, some astronomers say, suggests these objects were shepherded together by the gravitational pull of a huge, unseen planet. An alternative theory is that there is not one giant perturbing planet, but instead the imbalance is due to the combined gravitational influence of multiple, much smaller objects. Another theory is that Planet Nine does not exist at all and the clustering of smaller bodies may be just a statistical anomaly. (SciTech Daily)


NASA and Boeing Target New Launch Date for Next Starliner Flight Test

NASA and Boeing now are targeting March 29 for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA. For the OFT-2 mission, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, dock to the International Space Station, and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to fly crew. The OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft is nearing final assembly inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle’s reusable crew module has been powered up and final checkouts of the avionics, power and propulsion systems are nearing completion. The spacecraft’s parachutes, landing airbags, base heat shield, and its back shells are installed signifying the completion of the vehicle build phase. In the coming weeks, teams will load the crew module with cargo, including Rosie the Rocketeer, and weigh the vehicle before mating it to its service module, which is already complete. (Starliner Updates)


Woman sues boyfriend for failing to propose after 8 years of dating

A 26-year-old woman took her 28-year-old boyfriend to court for failing to pop the question after eight years of dating, though the judge ruled that all’s fair in love and war. She got so fed up that her longtime love hadn’t proposed, after previously promising they’d get engaged, that she recently took her man to court. The couple have been dating for nearly a decade, and share a child together. In another shot to the heart, she alleged that he had been texting another woman, too. Making his own case, he argued that his partner never paid attention to him because she lived with her parents, straining their communication. The man claimed he did want to marry his girlfriend, but he wasn’t in the financial position to afford a wedding. Despite the plaintiff’s plea, the judge told her there wasn’t much she could do because she was not legally wed to her beau. The presiding magistrate, instead advised the woman to sue for breach of marriage contract and further advised her that the court could not do anything because there was no marriage, even though a dowry was paid. (Mwebantu)


Supreme Court overturns top military court, rules that rape cases before 2006 can be prosecuted

The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 yesterday (12/10) that the military can prosecute at any time sexual assault cases committed between 1986 and 2006, overturning what had been a loophole of a five-year statute of limitations that existed for military sexual assault before 2006. The case centered on three men in the Air Force whose rape convictions were overturned in 2018, including one whose confession the Air Force recorded, when the top military appeals court affirmed that the five-year statute of limitations existed for military sexual assault before 2006. That decision led to the rape convictions of at least four service members being vacated. Historically, under military law, any crime must be charged within five years. But in 1986, Congress exempted crimes, including rape, that were punishable by the death sentence from the five-year statute of limitations. In 2006, Congress revised the military code again, making clear that rape could be prosecuted “at any time without limitation.” (CNN)


AT&T sells Crunchyroll to Sony for $1.2B amid “streamlining” efforts

In a $1.2 billion business deal, Sony is paying in cash to acquire Crunchyroll from AT&T. Crunchyroll has more than 90 million users around the world, including more than 3 million subscribers to its streaming service, the companies said in a joint press release. It also distributes mobile games, manga, and merchandise and manages events. Sony will eventually be folding Crunchyroll into its existing Funimation anime distribution business. Crunchyroll currently falls under the WarnerMedia division of AT&T, and it’s not a surprise that AT&T is selling it off. The company is losing pay-TV subscribers and trying to sell off the DirecTV division, which paid $49 billion to acquire only five years ago, but recent reports say potential buyers are offering figures closer to $16 billion. (AT&T)


US Jobless Claims Jump To 853,000 Amid Resurgence Of Virus

The number of people applying for unemployment aid jumped last week to 853,000, the most since September, evidence that companies are cutting more jobs as new virus cases spiral higher. The Labor Department said yesterday (12/10) that the number of applications increased from 716,000 the previous week. Before the coronavirus paralyzed the economy in March, weekly jobless claims typically numbered only about 225,000. The latest figures coincide with a surging viral outbreak that appears to be weakening the job market and the economy and threatening to derail any recovery. Consumers thus far haven’t spent as much this holiday shopping season as they have in previous years, according to credit and debit card data. And in November, employers added jobs at the slowest pace since April. Restaurants, bars and retailers all cut jobs last month. The total number of people who are receiving state-provided unemployment aid rose for the first time in three months to 5.8 million, the government said, from 5.5 million. That suggests that some companies have sharply pulled back on hiring. (United States Department of Labor)


Friday Glimmers With:

  • App Day
  • International Mountain Day
  • Kaleidoscope Day
  • Magnum P.I. Day
  • Noodle Ring Day
  • Sobriety Day
  • Official Lost & Found Day (2nd Friday)
  • UNICEF Birthday
  • Salesperson Day (Second Friday in December)

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