Americans Will Head to Space Again

Americans Will Head to Space Again, Without a Russian Taxi

Since the Space Shuttle’s retirement six years ago, NASA has been buying spots aboard Russian Soyuz craft to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. It’s a politically awkward arrangement, to say the least, given more than a decade of strained relations, Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the dented American pride in having to ask in the first place.
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The situation has understandably increased pressure on NASA, which hired Boeing Co. and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to build a new generation of vessels to shuttle U.S. astronauts to the station. Both companies are scheduled to fly two test flights next year for NASA’s commercial crew program, including one each that will carry two crew members—an ambitious schedule that could slip into

On Thursday, NASA and both companies detailed their progress—and a lengthy list of tests that remain—on the new vessels and their launch rockets.

“I think we have a shot at 2018” for the flights with crew, Kathryn Lueders, NASA’s program manager for the commercial crew program, said in an interview at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico. “There’s a lot of things that have to go exactly right,” she said. “I think the big challenge is to make sure that we give them the time that, if everything doesn’t go exactly right, to be able to fix any problems that we have.”

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule.
Source: Boeing Co.

When Americans think of flying into space, “they think of human spaceflight,” said Caleb Weiss, a mission manager with United Launch Alliance, which will boost Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule into orbit aboard an Atlas V rocket. “And so, when America doesn’t have a human spaceflight program, a lot of people feel like we don’t have a space program.”

The program’s first flight is set for April and will see SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule launch without humans, followed by a manned mission in August, according to a recent NASA update. (The first Boeing and Crew Dragon flights had originally been planned for this year, but slipped into 2018.) Boeing’s Starliner is set for August and November.

SpaceX, officially Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is assembling multiple Crew Dragon vessels in parallel to help boost production efficiency, said Benjamin “Benji” Reed, who directs the company’s program for NASA. He said SpaceX also plans a third flight for the capsule, between the two for NASA, to test the in-flight abort system that would eject the crew during an emergency. “The No. 1 priority for the company is safe, reliable crew transportation for NASA,” Reed said during a panel discussion at the symposium.

Beyond NASA’s immediate transport needs, the commercial crew program is among the agency’s earliest and largest efforts to integrate private-sector companies into its operations. In theory, NASA personnel could someday fly with a private citizen that has paid for a ride into space.

Both SpaceX and Boeing have discussed future flights to the ISS with customers from other nations, executives said at the conference. “What you don’t want to do is have an ISS program end—and mirror what happened with the Space Shuttle program,” said John Mulholland, Boeing’s commercial crew manager.

The Starliner’s flight schedule will be determined by Boeing and NASA’s reviews of the program. Data gathered from the initial flight will also weigh heavily on how quickly its first passengers will be able to fly the vehicle, Weiss said. “The biggest question mark … is what your data review’s going to end up being? How much time do you need to go crunch the data?” Weiss said. “If it’s a really clean flight, we can go fly right away.”

The Starliner project has been assisted by the track record of the Atlas V rocket, which has marked 73 successful flights, Weiss said. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Earlier this year, the Government Accountability Office said that safety hazards involving Boeing’s parachute testing plans and SpaceX’s engines would probably slow required certifications and could delay the manned flights to 2019.

NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX the commercial crew contracts in 2014; each company will perform six manned flights to the ISS. Four NASA astronauts are currently training for the test flights. By year’s end, those personnel will be assigned to one of the capsules.

In February, NASA acquired five additional seats on the Soyuz craft for potential use in 2018, via Boeing, which had obtained them through a business deal with a Russian company. The arrangement will allow some cushion in terms of astronaut access to the space station, but it hasn’t affected the pace of work on the commercial crew program, agency officials have said.

“Obviously, we’re buying insurance seats right now to make sure that we’re not hurrying these guys up to fly before they’re ready,” Lueders said. “We don’t want to do that.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-13/americans-will-head-to-space-again-without-a-russian-taxi

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This Spray Can Turn Any Surface Into A Touch Screen

 Electrick Spray and it’s application

Tired of pesky small touch pads? Well, this spray might be your savior, allowing a wide variety of surfaces to become touch sensitive.

The technology, called Electrick, was developed by scientists from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, with the findings published in an open access paper.

The spray consists of an electrically conductive carbon-based material. When applied to an object, it allows it to conduct electricity. By applying electrodes to the object, and then measuring the voltage at different points, the position of a persons finger can be tracked.

Electrick spray

Using Touch Control Electrick Spray on a Steering Wheel

“For the first time, we’ve been able to take a can of spray paint and put a touch screen on almost anything,” said Chris Harrison, assistant professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and head of the Future Interfaces Group at CMU, in a statement.

The spray can be applied to a variety of objects, anything from plastic toys to smartphone cases, and even to Jell-O. In the video below, the team describe the various uses for this technology.

For example, applying the spray or paint to a table, you could have certain locations that are touch sensitive to open apps on your computer. A toy could be made to make noises when you touch its noseor belly. And a brain-shaped piece of Jell-O can be used to teach people about the various regions of the brain.

The effect is known as shunting, where electric current is shunted to the ground when a finger touches a particular location. The electrodes can localize where this shunting is occurring, using a process known as electric field tomography.

In their paper, the researchers note that modern touch screen technology is not suited to large applications, such as a table or desk. Using Electrick,however, things as large as a wall can be made touch sensitive, with a tap of a finger turning a light on or off for example.

The team also said their process is compatible with regular manufacturing methods, such as spray coating or casting, and even 3D printing. This means there is a huge range of objects that can be made touch sensitive, with little additional technology required.

The team also found no wear in any of the objects they made, with some used up to 896 times by participants. They note, however, that theyre not sure how the coating will hold up to elements like rain, and environmental electromagnetic noise from other appliances affected the accuracy. Nonetheless, its agood start for a cool idea.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/this-spray-can-turn-any-surface-into-a-touch-screen/

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Family sues Amazon for $30m claiming hoverboard burned down their house

Family sues Amazon for $30m claiming hoverboard burned down their house

Tennessee family blames an exploding battery a common occurrence that has led to a mass recall for setting their million-dollar home on fire

It has been nearly a year since the self-balancing scooters known as hoverboards were setting sales charts on fire, but the resulting litigation (from the resulting real-world fires) is just getting started.

A family in Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a $30m lawsuit against Amazon, arguing that the online retailer should be held liable for the ill-fated Christmas present that burned their house down. This can be only compared to sueing big pharma companies, e.g. Xarelto® Class Action | Current Lawsuit Settlements.

Megan Fox purchased what she thought was a FITBURO F1 with an original Samsung advanced battery from a company called W-Deals through Amazons website on 3 November 2015, according to the complaint.

The hoverboard remained in a closet until Christmas, when it was given to her 14-year-old son.

On 9 January 2016, the toys battery apparently exploded a common occurrence that led to the recall of more than 500,000 hoverboards by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in July.

Two of the familys children were at home at the time of the fire and had to escape by breaking windows and jumping from the second floor. The million-dollar house and most of the familys belongings went up in flames.

The
The offending hoverboard. Photograph: Nashville Fire Department

Amazon is not generally liable for the behavior of third-party merchants who use its platform to sell their products. But according to the lawsuit, W-Deals was a sham entity selling counterfeit products from China.

The Fox familys attorney told the Tennessean that they spent months trying to track down the actual manufacturer of the faulty hoverboard but came up empty. If no manufacturer can be found, Tennessee product liability law allows a plaintiff to go after the seller instead in this case, the $380bn online retail behemoth.

The suit also alleges that Amazon was negligent in failing to warn customers about safety problems with hoverboards, which it claims should have been known to the company prior to 9 January 2016.

Amazon began pulling some hoverboards from the site in mid-December 2015 over safety concerns.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/01/hoverboard-amazon-lawsuit-burn-down-house-tennessee

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