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Germany’s car show tries for more climate friendly image

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(Last Updated On: September 6, 2021)

Germany’s biggest motor show, taking place in Munich this week, is no longer just about cars. This year’s IAA show, the first major motor industry event worldwide since the COVID-19 pandemic, wants to be about mobility in general, from bikes to e-scooters to cars.

“Climate-friendly engines, the digital connectivity of transport – that’s what this fair is about,” Hildegard Müller, president of industry association VDA, which organises the bi-annual show, said at a pre-event press conference last week. “The goal of climate protection is guiding us.”

The show, which has shifted this year from Frankfurt to Munich and is themed “Mobility of the Future”, is a far cry from its usual format showcasing the biggest and mightiest cars on the market, Reuters reported.

The pandemic and growing concern over climate change have cast an uncomfortable shadow over the event, already under pressure from waning attendance numbers in previous years – from 930,000 in 2015 to just 560,000 in 2019.

Indeed, many industry stalwarts have decided against showing up: Toyota, Jaguar’s Land Rover, Stellantis – including its German brand Opel – and Ferrari, to name a few.

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SpaceX capsule with world’s first all-civilian orbital crew returns safely

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

The quartet of newly minted citizen astronauts comprising the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission safely splashed down in the Atlantic off Florida’s coast on Saturday, completing a three-day flight of the first all-civilian crew ever sent into Earth orbit.

The successful launch and return of the mission, the latest in a recent string of rocket-powered expeditions bankrolled by their billionaire passengers, marked another milestone in the fledgling industry of commercial astro-tourism, 60 years after the dawn of human spaceflight, Reuters reported.

“Welcome to the second space age,” Todd “Leif” Ericson, mission director for the Inspiration4 venture, told reporters on a conference call after the crew returned.

SpaceX, the private rocketry company founded by Tesla Inc electric automaker CEO Elon Musk, supplied the spacecraft, launched it, controlled its flight and handled the splashdown recovery operation.

The three-day mission ended as the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, dubbed Resilience, parachuted into calm seas shortly before sunset, following an automated reentry descent, as shown during a live SpaceX webcast on its YouTube channel.

Within an hour the four smiling crew members were seen emerging one by one from the capsule’s side hatch after the vehicle, visibly scorched on its exterior, was hoisted from the ocean to the deck of a SpaceX recovery vessel.

First out was Hayely Arceneaux, 29, a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Center in Tennessee, a childhood bone cancer survivor herself who became the youngest person ever to reach Earth orbit on the Inspiration4 mission.

She was followed in rapid succession by geoscientist and former NASA astronaut candidate Sian Proctor, 51, aerospace data engineer and Air Force veteran Chris Sembroski, 42, and finally the crew’s billionaire benefactor and “mission commander” Jared Isaacman, 38.

“That was a heck of a ride for us,” Isaacman, chief executive of the e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments Inc, radioed from inside the capsule moments after splashdown. “We’re just getting started.”

He had paid an undisclosed sum – put by Time magazine at roughly $200 million – to fellow billionaire Musk for all four seats aboard the Crew Dragon.

The Inspiration4 team blasted off on Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral atop one of SpaceX’s two-stage reusable Falcon 9 rockets.

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Apple expected to unveil new iPhones as part of 5G push

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(Last Updated On: September 14, 2021)

Apple Inc on Tuesday is expected to show new iPhone and Apple Watch models with slight upgrades, and analysts expect that wireless carriers will play an outsized role in the annual show as they try to entice consumers into 5G plans.

Apple last year introduced its iPhone 12, which featured a new look and its first devices with 5G connectivity. This year, analysts expect modest hardware upgrades and a deeper focus on 5Gm, Reuters reported.

“There seems to be way more (5G network capacity) than was in place even six months ago,” Bajarin said. “They want people upgrading. They’re going to be really aggressive.”

The iPhone 13, as analysts expect the new phone to be called, likely will not look much different on the outside from the iPhone 12. But analysts expect it to have a faster wi-fi and processor chips, and Bloomberg has reported that the top model is likely to focus on display and camera enhancements such as a “Portrait Mode” to blur backgrounds when shooting videos.

Analysts also believe Apple will continue the steady updates to its Apple Watch, which has become a cornerstone of its $30.6 billion accessories segment, which was up 25% in Apple’s most recent fiscal year even as its iPhone revenue declined slightly.

Apple is likely focus on more fitness features with the watch, which is paired tightly with Apple Fitness+, a paid service offering guided workouts with Apple instructors.

“It’s the one service they offer where you literally have to have this product or you can’t use this service,” Bajarin said.

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SpaceX gets ready to launch first all-civilian crew to orbit

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(Last Updated On: September 12, 2021)

Yet another billionaire entrepreneur is set to ride into space this week, strapped inside the capsule of a SpaceX rocketship, as part of an Astro-tourist team, poised to make history as the first all-civilian crew launched into Earth orbit.

Jared Isaacman, the American founder and chief executive of e-commerce firm Shift4 Payments, will lead three fellow spaceflight novices on a trip expected to last three days from blastoff at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to splashdown in the Atlantic.

The 38-year-old tech mogul has plunked down an unspecified but presumably exorbitant sum to fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner Elon Musk to fly Isaacman and three specially selected travel mates into orbit aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The crew vehicle is set for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop one of Musk’s reusable Falcon 9 rockets, with a 24-hour targeted launch window that opens at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) on Wednesday. That window will be narrowed or possibly altered a few days before, depending on the weather.

Dubbed Inspiration4, the orbital outing was conceived by Isaacman primarily to raise awareness and support for one of his favorite causes, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading pediatric cancer center. He has pledged $100 million personally to the institute.

But a successful mission would also help usher in a new era of commercial space tourism, with several companies vying for wealthy customers willing to pay a small fortune to experience the exhilaration of supersonic flight, weightlessness and the visual spectacle of space.

Setting acceptable levels of consumer risk in the inherently dangerous endeavor of rocket travel is also key and raises a pointed question.

“Do you have to be both rich and brave to get on these flights right now?” said Sridhar Tayur, a professor of operations management and new business models at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, in an interview with Reuters on Friday (September 10).

Inspiration4 officials stress that the mission is more than a joyride. Once in orbit, the crew will perform medical experiments with “potential applications for human health on Earth and during future spaceflights,” the group said in its press materials.

“There is a certain amount of frivolousness and ego in it. But I also believe that we have moved in our understanding of science and our capability and technologies because people have taken these kinds of extraordinary risks. I mean, that is the human endeavor to push the limits,” Tayur said.

The SpaceX flight is designed to carry its four passengers where no all-civilian crew has gone before – into Earth orbit.

There, they will circle the globe once every 90 minutes at more than 17,000 miles per hour, or roughly 22 times the speed of sound. The target altitude is 575 kilometers, or nearly 360 miles high, beyond the orbits of the International Space Station or even the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Inspiration4 crew will have no part to play in operating their spacecraft, despite some largely honorary titles, though two members – Isaacman and geoscientist Sian Proctor – are licensed pilots.

Rounding out the crew are “chief medical officer” Hayley Arceneaux, 29, a bone cancer survivor turned St. Jude physicians’ assistant, and mission “specialist” Chris Sembroski, 42, a U.S. Air Force veteran and aerospace data engineer.

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