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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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NASA launches first space probe to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

NASA launched a first-of-its kind mission on Saturday to study Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, two large clusters of space rocks that scientists believe are remnants of primordial material that formed the solar system’s outer planets, Reuters reported.

The space probe, dubbed Lucy and packed inside a special cargo capsule, lifted off on schedule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:34 a.m. EDT (0934 GMT), NASA said. It was carried aloft by an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (UAL), a joint venture of Boeing Co (BA.N) and Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N).

Lucy’s mission is a 12-year expedition to study a record number of asteroids. It will be the first to explore the Trojans, thousands of rocky objects orbiting the sun in two swarms – one ahead of the path of giant gas planet Jupiter and one behind it.

According to the report the largest known Trojan asteroids, named for the warriors of Greek mythology, are believed to measure as much as 225 kilometers (140 miles) in diameter.

Scientists hope Lucy’s close-up fly-by of seven Trojans will yield new clues to how the solar system’s planets came to be formed some 4.5 billion years ago and what shaped their present configuration.

Believed to be rich in carbon compounds, the asteroids may even provide new insights into the origin of organic materials and life on Earth, NASA said.

“The Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our solar system, effectively the fossils of planet formation,” principal mission investigator Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, was quoted by NASA as saying.

No other single science mission has been designed to visit as many different objects independently orbiting the sun in the history of space exploration, NASA said.

As well as the Trojans, Lucy will do a fly-by of an asteroid in the solar system’s main asteroid belt, called DonaldJohanson in honor of the lead discoverer of the fossilized human ancestor known as Lucy, from which the NASA mission takes its name. The Lucy fossil, unearthed in Ethiopia in 1974, was in turn named for the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Lucy the asteroid probe will make spaceflight history in another way. Following a route that circles back to Earth three times for gravitational assists, it will be the first spacecraft ever to return to Earth’s vicinity from the outer solar system, according to NASA.

The probe will use rocket thrusters to maneuver in space and two rounded solar arrays, each the width of a school bus, to recharge batteries that will power the instruments contained in the much smaller central body of the spacecraft, Reuters reported.

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Changing Facebook’s name will not deter scrutiny: Experts

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

Renaming Facebook Inc (FB.O) is unlikely to enable the tech giant to distance itself from regulatory and public scrutiny around the potential harms caused by its social media apps, marketing and branding experts told Reuters.

Tech publication The Verge reported on Tuesday that the firm is planning to change its corporate branding to reflect that as well as owning the social media platform that made it a global household name, it also now includes other thriving businesses like Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus.

The company declined to comment regarding the report on the possible rebranding. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

Facebook is battling intense scrutiny after a whistleblower leaked thousands of internal documents that showed it contributed to increased polarization online when it made changes to its content algorithm, failed to take steps to reduce vaccine hesitancy, and was aware that popular social media app Instagram harmed the mental health of teenage girls.

The U.S. Senate held a hearing earlier this month into the effect of Instagram on young users.

“Legislators and politicians are sufficiently smart to not be fooled by a rebranding,” said James Cordwell, an internet analyst at Atlantic Equities, Reuters reported.

Renaming can be an effective strategy to allow subsidiary brands to maintain their own reputations, said Marisa Mulvihill, head of brand and activation at Prophet, a branding and marketing consultancy. But the media and regulators “are not going to stop investigating or creating reforms just because you rebranded,” she added.

The new parent company name could reflect Facebook’s focus on building the ‘metaverse,’ The Verge reported, referring to a proposed digital world where people can use different devices to move and communicate in a virtual environment.

It could also prevent a possible negative perception around the Facebook name from affecting WhatsApp, the messaging app used by nearly 2 billion people globally, and Oculus, its virtual reality brand, experts said.

Facebook will continue to confront the same pressures even after a rebrand, the experts said.

“I don’t think it’s going to help Facebook mitigate regulators’ scrutiny or the general public’s skepticism, if not distrust,” said Natasha Jen, a partner at Pentagram, a design studio that does advertising and communication work. “Trust is something you need to earn.”

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Apple unveils two new MacBooks, AirPods and a $5 music streaming service

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

Apple on Monday launched two new MacBook Pro models powered by new in-house Apple Silicon chips as well as a new generation of its AirPods wireless earbuds and a $5-per-month music subscription service.

The new MacBook Pro laptops with 14-inch and 16-inch displays are powered by the new chips. The models eliminated the “Touch Bar” that Apple’s fans had groused about and restored several connectors – including the company’s “MagSafe” power connector – that had disappeared in recent years, angering some of the company’s users, Reuters reported.

Apple said the 14-inch model will start at $1,999 and the 16-inch model will start at $2,499. Both computers will start shipping next week, Apple said.

Apple’s two new high-powered chips are called the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. The chips are meant to have better performance than the company’s previous M1 chips, but do so while using less power than rival chips from firms like Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc .

Johny Srouji, Apple’s chip chief, said the M1 Max chip uses up to 100 watts less power than other high-end laptop chips, which translates to better battery life.

“It’s the most powerful chip we’ve ever built,” Srouji said of the M1 Max.

Before Monday, Apple’s most powerful laptops relied on chips from Intel. The company has already placed a first-generation in-house-designed M1 chip into some MacBooks as well as its Mac Mini and iMac desktop machines, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Apple’s new AirPods are sweat- and water-resistant for use with workouts and will have some sound features previously found in the higher-end AirPods Pro, Apple said during the launch event. Apple said the new AirPods will cost $179 and start shipping next week.

Apple’s new AirPods are available to order online in the United States and more than 26 other countries and regions starting on Monday. The earphones will be available in stores beginning Oct. 26.

Add-on devices like AirPods tend to be large sellers during holiday shopping seasons and have become one of Apple’s fastest-growing categories, with its home and accessories segment growing 25% to $30.6 billion in Apple’s fiscal 2020.

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