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An Ancient Star Reveals Our Galaxy Is Older Than We Thought

Old Kid on the Block

In the outer layers of the Milky Way is an old star, newly discovered by Johns Hopkins University astronomers, that might be one of the oldest in the universe.

New research which will soon be published in The Astrophysical Journal describes a star with the mouthful of a name, 2MASS J18082002-5104378 B. It’s about one-sixth the size of our sun and dates back 13.5 billion years — just 300 million years younger than the entire universe.

Old-School Metal

We know this star is so old because of its metal composition. As stars die and their leftover materials form new stars, the nuclear fusion reactions that power their cores give off heavy metals like gold and platinum. The more heavy metals, the more generations a given star must have been through.

But this star, still dimly twinkling, has such a small heavy metal content that astronomers think it comes from just the second generation of all the stuff in the universe — its celestial predecessor would have been formed in the Big Bang itself. For reference, our sun first emerged many generations after that, a 4.6 billion-year-old youngster compared to 2MASS.

I Wish I Might

This star is far older than anything else found in our galaxy so far, and its discovery opens the doors to finding even older stars.

That means we may soon learn more about how the Big Bang gave rise to the universe — and a better understanding of our own origins.

READ MORE: Johns Hopkins Scientist Finds Elusive Star with Origins Close to Big Bang [Johns Hopkins University]

More on old stars: Scientists Now Know When the First Stars Formed in the Universe

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An Ancient Star Reveals Our Galaxy Is Older Than We Thought

Huge Wind Farms Could Weaken Hurricanes Before They Make Landfall

Breezing Up

The devastation of hurricanes such as Florence and Harvey is a reminder of the terrible power of storms and our apparent helplessness when they strike.

But new research suggests that there might be a way to fight hurricanes before they come ashore and it might even help generate renewable electricity.

Tilting Windmills

According to a paper published this summer in the journal Environmental Research Letters, computer simulations suggest that offshore wind turbines suck the energy out of hurricanes and force them higher into the sky, resulting in decreased rainfall and potentially less destruction when they make landfall.

“Offshore wind farms definitely could be a potential tool to weaken hurricanes and reduce their damage,” author Cristina Archer, a professor at the University of Delaware, told Popular Science. “And they pay for themselves, ultimately, which is why I am excited about this.”

Damage Plan

Today’s wind farms often switch turbines off during high winds, so current wind farms aren’t a good defense mechanism against hurricanes.

But turbines scheduled to hit the market by 2020, Archer said, will be strong enough to withstand hurricane winds — so she’s hopeful they’ll be able to protect coastal communities, and maybe even generate some electricity in the process.

READ MORE: Scientists Want to Put ‘Speed Bumps’ in Hurricane Alley to Slow Down Storms [Popular Science]

More on nanobots: Death Count from Hurricane Maria Was Way Off. That Might Slow Puerto Rico’s Recovery.

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Huge Wind Farms Could Weaken Hurricanes Before They Make Landfall

Unless Governments Get Involved, Plant-Based Meat Won’t Take Off

Meatless Monday

Plant-based meats are finally taking off: animal-free beef is popping up everywhere from high-end burger joints to, uh, biochemical research facilities.

Fine, plant-based and 3D-printed burgers, steaks, and chicken cutlets haven’t quite yet liberated the world’s livestock. But the technology behind these scientific snacks is progressing — with enough support, food researcher Jacy Reese predicts in a new book that we could replace a good chunk of traditional meats in a matter of decades.

Let Them Eat Steak

If we want to prevent catastrophic levels of global climate change, we need to farm and eat less meat. The various startups working on fake meat, perhaps the most famous of which is Impossible Foods, are pursuing an ambitious workaround: bringing cheap, sustainable food to the world without completely making people give up meat.

“In addition to contributing towards decreasing the effect of livestock on climate change, desertification and avoid animals slaughter, the development of these kinds of technological advances should help the populations living in the rural areas of our planet to have better access to healthy food and a varied diet,” Giuseppe Scionti, a biomedical researcher who found a way to 3D print realistic chicken cutlets and steaks, told Futurism.

Hamburger Helper

But major governments need to step in if these plant-based meats are ever going to get out of bougie restaurants and into the hungry mouths of the world.

Without massive structural investments, Fast Company’s reporting corroborated, plant-based meats will be stuck as a fad diet and may never become widespread and inexpensive enough to help the world.

READ MORE: Can we end animal farming by the end of the century? [Fast Company]

More on changing diets: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re all Going to Need to eat Less Meat

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Unless Governments Get Involved, Plant-Based Meat Won’t Take Off

To Fight Climate Change, The Poor Would Spend More Than The Rich

Pale Blue Dot

We’re running out of time to avoid a planetary climate change catastrophe. And while the global poor already face problems caused by rising temperatures and severe weather, political leaders often seem frozen.

A new experiment, published last week in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests that those with the resources to change the world are hesitant to do their part. That’s a bummer: If the world is going to make it, we’ll all need to do what we can to slow climate change.

Going Dutch

In the study, researchers gave groups of people different amounts of money that they could choose to keep or donate towards a common goal that would specifically help fight climate change. Those who were given a larger share of the pot were less likely to contribute, while those who were given less money offered most of their donations.

Of course, the study had limitations. Researchers only gave the participants between 20 and 60 euros each, which is chump change compared to the sums involved in the global climate. Still, the finding was a gloomy reflection of the fact that the wealthy cause far more harm to the environment than the poor and do less to clean it up.

Storm the Castle

Perhaps it’s not time to grab a pitchfork and form an angry mob quite yet, but it’s easy to see this new study as a reflection of the many ways that climate change is already hurting the most vulnerable among us — and how the richest seem content to let it happen.

Of course, this is one limited experiment, and the number of participants involved is way too small to extrapolate these results to global politics. All the same, it revealed an unfortunate glimpse into what happens when some get far more money than they need.

READ MORE: Wealthier people do less in the struggle against climate change [Universitat Rovira i Virgili]

More on billionaires: Disrupting the Reaper: Tech Titans’ Quest for Immortality Rages Forward

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To Fight Climate Change, The Poor Would Spend More Than The Rich

China Can Now Identify a Citizen Based on Their Walk

Big Brother

China’s latest weapon in its war against citizen privacy: gait recognition software.

According to a new story by the Associated Press, police in Beijing and Shanghai are using a gait recognition system developed by artificial intelligence company Watrix to identify Chinese citizens — even when their faces aren’t visible.

Walk This Way

Watrix claims its system can identify a person from up to 165 feet away even if their back is to a camera or their face turned away. It doesn’t require any special cameras, either — it can analyze existing surveillance footage to ID an individual with 94 percent accuracy.

“You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity,” Watrix CEO Huang Yongzhen told the AP. “Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet, or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

However, the software doesn’t yet work in real time. It needs roughly 10 minutes to analyze about an hour’s worth of video, during which time it extracts a person’s silhouette and then creates a model of their individual gait.

Eyes Everywhere

It’s easy to see how this technology could be useful on a smaller scale. A company could produce a database of all its employees’ gaits and then use that database to ensure unauthorized individuals aren’t in restricted areas.

It’s harder to imagine how China could make use of the technology on a nationwide scale, though.

Facial recognition tech is easy to implement because the faces of most citizens are already in government databases. Would the nation need to produce a similar database of citizen gaits? Or would the tech work retroactively — arrest someone for a crime, have them walk for you, and then compare their gait to that of the criminal caught on camera?

Whatever the case may be, police in Beijing and Shanghai are making use of this tech somehow, which means it might just be a matter of time before anyone on the move in China will find themselves under the watchful eye of the nation’s government.

READ MORE: Chinese ‘Gait Recognition’ Tech IDs People by How They Walk [Associated Press]

More on Chinese surveillance: If You Jaywalk in China, Facial Recognition Means You’ll Walk Away With a Fine

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China Can Now Identify a Citizen Based on Their Walk

Human spaceflight – Wikipedia

Inside a space suit on the Canadarm, 1993

Human spaceflight (also referred to as crewed spaceflight or manned spaceflight) is space travel with a crew or passengers aboard the spacecraft. Spacecraft carrying people may be operated directly, by human crew, or it may be either remotely operated from ground stations on Earth or be autonomous, able to carry out a specific mission with no human involvement.

The first human spaceflight was launched by the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961 as a part of the Vostok program, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard. Humans have been continuously present in space for 18years and 3days on the International Space Station. All early human spaceflight was crewed, where at least some of the passengers acted to carry out tasks of piloting or operating the spacecraft. After 2015, several human-capable spacecraft are being explicitly designed with the ability to operate autonomously.

Since the retirement of the US Space Shuttle in 2011, only Russia and China have maintained human spaceflight capability with the Soyuz program and Shenzhou program. Currently, all expeditions to the International Space Station use Soyuz vehicles, which remain attached to the station to allow quick return if needed. The United States is developing commercial crew transportation to facilitate domestic access to ISS and low Earth orbit, as well as the Orion vehicle for beyond-low Earth orbit applications.

While spaceflight has typically been a government-directed activity, commercial spaceflight has gradually been taking on a greater role. The first private human spaceflight took place on 21 June 2004, when SpaceShipOne conducted a suborbital flight, and a number of non-governmental companies have been working to develop a space tourism industry. NASA has also played a role to stimulate private spaceflight through programs such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) and Commercial Crew Development (CCDev). With its 2011 budget proposals released in 2010,[1] the Obama administration moved towards a model where commercial companies would supply NASA with transportation services of both people and cargo transport to low Earth orbit. The vehicles used for these services could then serve both NASA and potential commercial customers. Commercial resupply of ISS began two years after the retirement of the Shuttle, and commercial crew launches could begin by 2018.[2]

Human spaceflight capability was first developed during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR), which developed the first intercontinental ballistic missile rockets to deliver nuclear weapons. These rockets were large enough to be adapted to carry the first artificial satellites into low Earth orbit. After the first satellites were launched in 1957 and 1958, the US worked on Project Mercury to launch men singly into orbit, while the USSR secretly pursued the Vostok program to accomplish the same thing. The USSR launched the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, into a single orbit in Vostok 1 on a Vostok 3KA rocket, on 12 April 1961. The US launched its first astronaut, Alan Shepard, on a suborbital flight aboard Freedom 7 on a Mercury-Redstone rocket, on 5 May 1961. Unlike Gagarin, Shepard manually controlled his spacecraft’s attitude, and landed inside it. The first American in orbit was John Glenn aboard Friendship 7, launched 20 February 1962 on a Mercury-Atlas rocket. The USSR launched five more cosmonauts in Vostok capsules, including the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova aboard Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963. The US launched a total of two astronauts in suborbital flight and four into orbit through 1963.

US President John F. Kennedy raised the stakes of the Space Race by setting the goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely by the end of the 1960s.[3] The US started the three-man Apollo program in 1961 to accomplish this, launched by the Saturn family of launch vehicles, and the interim two-man Project Gemini in 1962, which flew 10 missions launched by Titan II rockets in 1965 and 1966. Gemini’s objective was to support Apollo by developing American orbital spaceflight experience and techniques to be used in the Moon mission.[4]

Meanwhile, the USSR remained silent about their intentions to send humans to the Moon, and proceeded to stretch the limits of their single-pilot Vostok capsule into a two- or three-person Voskhod capsule to compete with Gemini. They were able to launch two orbital flights in 1964 and 1965 and achieved the first spacewalk, made by Alexei Leonov on Voskhod 2 on 8 March 1965. But Voskhod did not have Gemini’s capability to maneuver in orbit, and the program was terminated. The US Gemini flights did not accomplish the first spacewalk, but overcame the early Soviet lead by performing several spacewalks and solving the problem of astronaut fatigue caused by overcoming the lack of gravity, demonstrating up to two weeks endurance in a human spaceflight, and the first space rendezvous and dockings of spacecraft.

The US succeeded in developing the Saturn V rocket necessary to send the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon, and sent Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders into 10 orbits around the Moon in Apollo 8 in December 1968. In July 1969, Apollo 11 accomplished Kennedy’s goal by landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon 21 July and returning them safely on 24 July along with Command Module pilot Michael Collins. A total of six Apollo missions landed 12 men to walk on the Moon through 1972, half of which drove electric powered vehicles on the surface. The crew of Apollo 13, Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise, survived a catastrophic in-flight spacecraft failure and returned to Earth safely without landing on the Moon.

Meanwhile, the USSR secretly pursued human lunar orbiting and landing programs. They successfully developed the three-person Soyuz spacecraft for use in the lunar programs, but failed to develop the N1 rocket necessary for a human landing, and discontinued the lunar programs in 1974.[5] On losing the Moon race, they concentrated on the development of space stations, using the Soyuz as a ferry to take cosmonauts to and from the stations. They started with a series of Salyut sortie stations from 1971 to 1986.

After the Apollo program, the US launched the Skylab sortie space station in 1973, manning it for 171 days with three crews aboard Apollo spacecraft. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev negotiated an easing of relations known as dtente, an easing of Cold War tensions. As part of this, they negotiated the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, in which an Apollo spacecraft carrying a special docking adapter module rendezvoused and docked with Soyuz 19 in 1975. The American and Russian crews shook hands in space, but the purpose of the flight was purely diplomatic and symbolic.

Nixon appointed his Vice President Spiro Agnew to head a Space Task Group in 1969 to recommend follow-on human spaceflight programs after Apollo. The group proposed an ambitious Space Transportation System based on a reusable Space Shuttle which consisted of a winged, internally fueled orbiter stage burning liquid hydrogen, launched by a similar, but larger kerosene-fueled booster stage, each equipped with airbreathing jet engines for powered return to a runway at the Kennedy Space Center launch site. Other components of the system included a permanent modular space station, reusable space tug and nuclear interplanetary ferry, leading to a human expedition to Mars as early as 1986, or as late as 2000, depending on the level of funding allocated. However, Nixon knew the American political climate would not support Congressional funding for such an ambition, and killed proposals for all but the Shuttle, possibly to be followed by the space station. Plans for the Shuttle were scaled back to reduce development risk, cost, and time, replacing the piloted flyback booster with two reusable solid rocket boosters, and the smaller orbiter would use an expendable external propellant tank to feed its hydrogen-fueled main engines. The orbiter would have to make unpowered landings.

The two nations continued to compete rather than cooperate in space, as the US turned to developing the Space Shuttle and planning the space station, dubbed Freedom. The USSR launched three Almaz military sortie stations from 1973 to 1977, disguised as Salyuts. They followed Salyut with the development of Mir, the first modular, semi-permanent space station, the construction of which took place from 1986 to 1996. Mir orbited at an altitude of 354 kilometers (191 nautical miles), at a 51.6 inclination. It was occupied for 4,592 days, and made a controlled reentry in 2001.

The Space Shuttle started flying in 1981, but the US Congress failed to approve sufficient funds to make Freedom a reality. A fleet of four shuttles was built: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis. A fifth shuttle, Endeavour, was built to replace Challenger, which was destroyed in an accident during launch that killed 7 astronauts on 28 January 1986. Twenty-two Shuttle flights carried a European Space Agency sortie space station called Spacelab in the payload bay from 1983 to 1998.[6]

The USSR copied the reusable Space Shuttle orbiter, which it called Buran. It was designed to be launched into orbit by the expendable Energia rocket, and capable of robotic orbital flight and landing. Unlike the US Shuttle, Buran had no main rocket engines, but like the Shuttle used its orbital maneuvering engines to perform its final orbital insertion. A single unmanned orbital test flight was successfully made in November 1988. A second test flight was planned by 1993, but the program was cancelled due to lack of funding and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Two more orbiters were never completed, and the first one was destroyed in a hangar roof collapse in May 2002.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 brought an end to the Cold War and opened the door to true cooperation between the US and Russia. The Soviet Soyuz and Mir programs were taken over by the Russian Federal Space Agency, now known as the Roscosmos State Corporation. The Shuttle-Mir Program included American Space Shuttles visiting the Mir space station, Russian cosmonauts flying on the Shuttle, and an American astronaut flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft for long-duration expeditions aboard Mir.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton secured Russia’s cooperation in converting the planned Space Station Freedom into the International Space Station (ISS). Construction of the station began in 1998. The station orbits at an altitude of 409 kilometers (221nmi) and an inclination of 51.65.

The Space Shuttle was retired in 2011 after 135 orbital flights, several of which helped assemble, supply, and crew the ISS. Columbia was destroyed in another accident during reentry, which killed 7 astronauts on 1 February 2003.

After Russia’s launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, Chairman Mao Zedong intended to place a Chinese satellite in orbit by 1959 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC),[7] However, China did not successfully launch its first satellite until 24 April 1970. Mao and Premier Zhou Enlai decided on 14 July 1967, that the PRC should not be left behind, and started China’s own human spaceflight program.[8] The first attempt, the Shuguang spacecraft copied from the US Gemini, was cancelled on 13 May 1972.

China later designed the Shenzhou spacecraft resembling the Russian Soyuz, and became the third nation to achieve independent human spaceflight capability by launching Yang Liwei on a 21-hour flight aboard Shenzhou 5 on 15 October 2003. China launched the Tiangong-1 space station on 29 September 2011, and two sortie missions to it: Shenzhou 9 1629 June 2012, with China’s first female astronaut Liu Yang; and Shenzhou 10, 1326 June 2013. The station was retired on 21 March 2016 and remains in a 363-kilometer (196-nautical-mile), 42.77 inclination orbit.

The European Space Agency began development in 1987 of the Hermes spaceplane, to be launched on the Ariane 5 expendable launch vehicle. The project was cancelled in 1992, when it became clear that neither cost nor performance goals could be achieved. No Hermes shuttles were ever built.

Japan began development in the 1980s of the HOPE-X experimental spaceplane, to be launched on its H-IIA expendable launch vehicle. A string of failures in 1998 led to funding reduction, and the project’s cancellation in 2003.

Under the Bush administration, the Constellation Program included plans for retiring the Shuttle program and replacing it with the capability for spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. In the 2011 United States federal budget, the Obama administration cancelled Constellation for being over budget and behind schedule while not innovating and investing in critical new technologies.[9] For beyond low Earth orbit human spaceflight NASA is developing the Orion spacecraft to be launched by the Space Launch System. Under the Commercial Crew Development plan, NASA will rely on transportation services provided by the private sector to reach low Earth orbit, such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon V2, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser, or Boeing’s CST-100. The period between the retirement of the shuttle in 2011 and the initial operational capability of new systems in 2017, similar to the gap between the end of Apollo in 1975 and the first space shuttle flight in 1981, is referred to by a presidential Blue Ribbon Committee as the U.S. human spaceflight gap.[10]

Since the early 2000s, a variety of private spaceflight ventures have been undertaken. Several of the companies, including Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Sierra Nevada have explicit plans to advance human spaceflight. As of 2016[update], all four of those companies have development programs underway to fly commercial passengers.

A commercial suborbital spacecraft aimed at the space tourism market is being developed by Virgin Galactic called SpaceshipTwo, and could reach space around 2018.[11]Blue Origin has begun a multi-year test program of their New Shepard vehicle and carried out six successful uncrewed test flights in 20152016. Blue Origin plan to fly “test passengers” in Q2 2017, and initiate commercial flights in 2018.[12][13]

SpaceX and Boeing are both developing passenger-capable orbital space capsules as of 2015, planning to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2018. SpaceX will be carrying passengers on Dragon 2 launched on a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Boeing will be doing it with their CST-100 launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle.[14]Development funding for these orbital-capable technologies has been provided by a mix of government and private funds, with SpaceX providing a greater portion of total development funding for this human-carrying capability from private investment.[15][16]There have been no public announcements of commercial offerings for orbital flights from either company, although both companies are planning some flights with their own private, not NASA, astronauts on board.

Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth on April 12, 1961.

Alan Shepard became the first American to reach space on Mercury-Redstone 3 on May 5, 1961.

John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962.

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to orbit the Earth on June 16, 1963.

Joseph A. Walker became the first human to pilot a spaceplane, the X-15 Flight 90, into space on July 19, 1963.

Alexey Leonov became the first human to leave a spacecraft in orbit on March 18, 1965.

Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) Dec 2127, 1968, when the Apollo 8 mission took them to 10 orbits around the Moon and back.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Svetlana Savitskaya became the first woman to walk in space on July 25, 1984.

Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. Eileen Collins was the first female shuttle pilot, and with shuttle mission STS-93 in 1999 she became the first woman to command a U.S. spacecraft.

The longest single human spaceflight is that of Valeri Polyakov, who left Earth on 8 January 1994, and did not return until 22 March 1995 (a total of 437 days 17 h 58 min 16 s). Sergei Krikalyov has spent the most time of anyone in space, 803 days, 9 hours, and 39 minutes altogether. The longest period of continuous human presence in space is 18years and 3days on the International Space Station, exceeding the previous record of almost 10 years (or 3,634 days) held by Mir, spanning the launch of Soyuz TM-8 on 5 September 1989 to the landing of Soyuz TM-29 on 28 August 1999.

Yang Liwei became the first human to orbit the Earth as part of the Chinese manned space program on October 15, 2003.

For many years, only the USSR (later Russia) and the United States had their own astronauts. Citizens of other nations flew in space, beginning with the flight of Vladimir Remek, a Czech, on a Soviet spacecraft on 2 March 1978, in the Interkosmos programme. As of 2010[update], citizens from 38 nations (including space tourists) have flown in space aboard Soviet, American, Russian, and Chinese spacecraft.

Human spaceflight programs have been conducted by the former Soviet Union and current Russian Federation, the United States, the People’s Republic of China and by private spaceflight company Scaled Composites.

Currently have human spaceflight programs.

Confirmed and dated plans for human spaceflight programs.

Plans for human spaceflight on the simplest form (suborbital spaceflight, etc.).

Plans for human spaceflight on the extreme form (space stations, etc.).

Once had official plans for human spaceflight programs, but have since been abandoned.

Space vehicles are spacecraft used for transportation between the Earth’s surface and outer space, or between locations in outer space. The following space vehicles and spaceports are currently used for launching human spaceflights:

The following space stations are currently maintained in Earth orbit for human occupation:

Numerous private companies attempted human spaceflight programs in an effort to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The first private human spaceflight took place on 21 June 2004, when SpaceShipOne conducted a suborbital flight. SpaceShipOne captured the prize on 4 October 2004, when it accomplished two consecutive flights within one week. SpaceShipTwo, launching from the carrier aircraft White Knight Two, is planned to conduct regular suborbital space tourism.[17]

Most of the time, the only humans in space are those aboard the ISS, whose crew of six spends up to six months at a time in low Earth orbit.

NASA and ESA use the term “human spaceflight” to refer to their programs of launching people into space. These endeavors have also been referred to as “manned space missions,” though because of gender specificity this is no longer official parlance according to NASA style guides.[18]

India has declared it will send humans to space on its orbital vehicle Gaganyaan by 2022. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) began work on this project in 2006.[19] The objective is to carry a crew of two to low Earth orbit (LEO) and return them safely for a water-landing at a predefined landing zone. The program is proposed to be implemented in defined phases. Currently, the activities are progressing with a focus on the development of critical technologies for subsystems such as the Crew Module (CM), Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), Crew Escape System, etc. The department has initiated activities to study technical and managerial issues related to crewed missions. The program envisages the development of a fully autonomous orbital vehicle carrying 2 or 3 crew members to about 300km low Earth orbit and their safe return.

NASA is developing a plan to land humans on Mars by the 2030s. The first step in this mission begins sometime during 2020, when NASA plans to send an uncrewed craft into deep space to retrieve an asteroid.[20] The asteroid will be pushed into the moons orbit, and studied by astronauts aboard Orion, NASAs first human spacecraft in a generation.[21] Orions crew will return to Earth with samples of the asteroid and their collected data. In addition to broadening Americas space capabilities, this mission will test newly developed technology, such as solar electric propulsion, which uses solar arrays for energy and requires ten times less propellant than the conventional chemical counterpart used for powering space shuttles to orbit.[22]

Several other countries and space agencies have announced and begun human spaceflight programs by their own technology, Japan (JAXA), Iran (ISA) and Malaysia (MNSA).

A number of spacecraft have been proposed over the decades that might facilitate spaceliner passenger travel. Somewhat analogous to travel by airliner after the middle of the 20th century, these vehicles are proposed to transport a large number of passengers to destinations in space, or to destinations on Earth which travel through space. To date, none of these concepts have been built, although a few vehicles that carry fewer than 10 persons are currently in the flight testing phase of their development process.

One large spaceliner concept currently in early development is the SpaceX BFR which, in addition to replacing the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles in the legacy Earth-orbit market after 2020, has been proposed by SpaceX for long-distance commercial travel on Earth. This is to transport people on point-to-point suborbital flights between two points on Earth in under one hour, also known as “Earth-to-Earth,” and carrying 100+ passengers.[23][24][25]

Small spaceplane or small capsule suborbital spacecraft have been under development for the past decade or so and, as of 2017[update], at least one of each type are under development. Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are in active development, with the SpaceShipTwo spaceplane and the New Shepard capsule, respectively. Both would carry approximately a half-dozen passengers up to space for a brief time of zero gravity before returning to the same location from where the trip began. XCOR Aerospace had been developing the Lynx single-passenger spaceplane since the 2000s[26][27][28] but development was halted in 2017.[29]

There are two main sources of hazard in space flight: those due to the environment of space which make it hostile to the human body, and the potential for mechanical malfunctions of the equipment required to accomplish space flight.

Planners of human spaceflight missions face a number of safety concerns.

The immediate needs for breathable air and drinkable water are addressed by the life support system of the spacecraft.

Medical consequences such as possible blindness and bone loss have been associated with human space flight.[41][42]

On 31 December 2012, a NASA-supported study reported that spaceflight may harm the brain of astronauts and accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.[43][44][45]

In October 2015, the NASA Office of Inspector General issued a health hazards report related to space exploration, including a human mission to Mars.[46][47]

On 2 November 2017, scientists reported that significant changes in the position and structure of the brain have been found in astronauts who have taken trips in space, based on MRI studies. Astronauts who took longer space trips were associated with greater brain changes.[48][49]

Medical data from astronauts in low Earth orbits for long periods, dating back to the 1970s, show several adverse effects of a microgravity environment: loss of bone density, decreased muscle strength and endurance, postural instability, and reductions in aerobic capacity. Over time these deconditioning effects can impair astronauts performance or increase their risk of injury.[50]

In a weightless environment, astronauts put almost no weight on the back muscles or leg muscles used for standing up, which causes them to weaken and get smaller. Astronauts can lose up to twenty per cent of their muscle mass on spaceflights lasting five to eleven days. The consequent loss of strength could be a serious problem in case of a landing emergency.[51] Upon return to Earth from long-duration flights, astronauts are considerably weakened, and are not allowed to drive a car for twenty-one days.[52]

Astronauts experiencing weightlessness will often lose their orientation, get motion sickness, and lose their sense of direction as their bodies try to get used to a weightless environment. When they get back to Earth, or any other mass with gravity, they have to readjust to the gravity and may have problems standing up, focusing their gaze, walking and turning. Importantly, those body motor disturbances after changing from different gravities only get worse the longer the exposure to little gravity.[53] These changes will affect operational activities including approach and landing, docking, remote manipulation, and emergencies that may happen while landing. This can be a major roadblock to mission success.[citation needed]

In addition, after long space flight missions, male astronauts may experience severe eyesight problems.[54][55][56][57][58] Such eyesight problems may be a major concern for future deep space flight missions, including a crewed mission to the planet Mars.[54][55][56][57][59]

Without proper shielding, the crews of missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) might be at risk from high-energy protons emitted by solar flares. Lawrence Townsend of the University of Tennessee and others have studied the most powerful solar flare ever recorded. That flare was seen by the British astronomer Richard Carrington in September 1859. Radiation doses astronauts would receive from a Carrington-type flare could cause acute radiation sickness and possibly even death.[61]

Another type of radiation, galactic cosmic rays, presents further challenges to human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit.[62]

There is also some scientific concern that extended spaceflight might slow down the bodys ability to protect itself against diseases.[63] Some of the problems are a weakened immune system and the activation of dormant viruses in the body. Radiation can cause both short and long term consequences to the bone marrow stem cells which create the blood and immune systems. Because the interior of a spacecraft is so small, a weakened immune system and more active viruses in the body can lead to a fast spread of infection.[citation needed]

During long missions, astronauts are isolated and confined into small spaces. Depression, cabin fever and other psychological problems may impact the crew’s safety and mission success.[64]

Astronauts may not be able to quickly return to Earth or receive medical supplies, equipment or personnel if a medical emergency occurs. The astronauts may have to rely for long periods on their limited existing resources and medical advice from the ground.

Space flight requires much higher velocities than ground or air transportation, which in turn requires the use of high energy density propellants for launch, and the dissipation of large amounts of energy, usually as heat, for safe reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere.

Since rockets carry the potential for fire or explosive destruction, space capsules generally employ some sort of launch escape system, consisting either of a tower-mounted solid fuel rocket to quickly carry the capsule away from the launch vehicle (employed on Mercury, Apollo, and Soyuz), or else ejection seats (employed on Vostok and Gemini) to carry astronauts out of the capsule and away for individual parachute landing. The escape tower is discarded at some point before the launch is complete, at a point where an abort can be performed using the spacecraft’s engines.

Such a system is not always practical for multiple crew member vehicles (particularly spaceplanes), depending on location of egress hatch(es). When the single-hatch Vostok capsule was modified to become the 2 or 3-person Voskhod, the single-cosmonaut ejection seat could not be used, and no escape tower system was added. The two Voskhod flights in 1964 and 1965 avoided launch mishaps. The Space Shuttle carried ejection seats and escape hatches for its pilot and copilot in early flights, but these could not be used for passengers who sat below the flight deck on later flights, and so were discontinued.

There have only been two in-flight launch aborts of a crewed flight. The first occurred on Soyuz 18a on 5 April 1975. The abort occurred after the launch escape system had been jettisoned, when the launch vehicle’s spent second stage failed to separate before the third stage ignited. The vehicle strayed off course, and the crew separated the spacecraft and fired its engines to pull it away from the errant rocket. Both cosmonauts landed safely. The second occurred on 11 October 2018 with the launch of Soyuz MS-10. Again, both crew members survived.

In the only use of a launch escape system on a crewed flight, the planned Soyuz T-10a launch on 26 September 1983 was aborted by a launch vehicle fire 90 seconds before liftoff. Both cosmonauts aboard landed safely.

The only crew fatality during launch occurred on 28 January 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff, due to failure of a solid rocket booster seal which caused separation of the booster and failure of the external fuel tank, resulting in explosion of the fuel. All seven crew members were killed.

The single pilot of Soyuz 1, Vladimir Komarov was killed when his capsule’s parachutes failed during an emergency landing on 24 April 1967, causing the capsule to crash.

The crew of seven aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia were killed on reentry after completing a successful mission in space on 1 February 2003. A wing leading edge reinforced carbon-carbon heat shield had been damaged by a piece of frozen external tank foam insulation which broke off and struck the wing during launch. Hot reentry gasses entered and destroyed the wing structure, leading to breakup of the orbiter vehicle.

There are two basic choices for an artificial atmosphere: either an Earth-like mixture of oxygen in an inert gas such as nitrogen or helium, or pure oxygen, which can be used at lower than standard atmospheric pressure. A nitrogen-oxygen mixture is used in the International Space Station and Soyuz spacecraft, while low-pressure pure oxygen is commonly used in space suits for extravehicular activity.

Use of a gas mixture carries risk of decompression sickness (commonly known as “the bends”) when transitioning to or from the pure oxygen space suit environment. There have also been instances of injury and fatalities caused by suffocation in the presence of too much nitrogen and not enough oxygen.

A pure oxygen atmosphere carries risk of fire. The original design of the Apollo spacecraft used pure oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure prior to launch. An electrical fire started in the cabin of Apollo 1 during a ground test at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station Launch Complex 34 on 27 January 1967, and spread rapidly. The high pressure (increased even higher by the fire) prevented removal of the plug door hatch cover in time to rescue the crew. All three, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, were killed.[68] This led NASA to use a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere before launch, and low pressure pure oxygen only in space.

The March 1966 Gemini 8 mission was aborted in orbit when an attitude control system thruster stuck in the on position, sending the craft into a dangerous spin which threatened the lives of Neil Armstrong and David Scott. Armstrong had to shut the control system off and use the reentry control system to stop the spin. The craft made an emergency reentry and the astronauts landed safely. The most probable cause was determined to be an electrical short due to a static electricity discharge, which caused the thruster to remain powered even when switched off. The control system was modified to put each thruster on its own isolated circuit.

The third lunar landing expedition Apollo 13 in April 1970, was aborted and the lives of the crew, James Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise, were threatened by failure of a cryogenic liquid oxygen tank en route to the Moon. The tank burst when electrical power was applied to internal stirring fans in the tank, causing the immediate loss of all of its contents, and also damaging the second tank, causing the loss of its remaining oxygen in a span of 130 minutes. This in turn caused loss of electrical power provided by fuel cells to the command spacecraft. The crew managed to return to Earth safely by using the lunar landing craft as a “life boat”. The tank failure was determined to be caused by two mistakes. The tank’s drain fitting had been damaged when it was dropped during factory testing. This necessitated use of its internal heaters to boil out the oxygen after a pre-launch test, which in turn damaged the fan wiring’s electrical insulation, because the thermostats on the heaters did not meet the required voltage rating due to a vendor miscommunication.

The crew of Soyuz 11 were killed on June 30, 1971 by a combination of mechanical malfunctions: they were asphyxiated due to cabin decompression following separation of their descent capsule from the service module. A cabin ventilation valve had been jolted open at an altitude of 168 kilometres (551,000ft) by the stronger than expected shock of explosive separation bolts which were designed to fire sequentially, but in fact had fired simultaneously. The loss of pressure became fatal within about 30 seconds.[69]

As of December2015[update], 22 crew members have died in accidents aboard spacecraft. Over 100 others have died in accidents during activity directly related to spaceflight or testing.

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Human spaceflight – Wikipedia

Launch Schedule Spaceflight Now

A regularly updated listing of planned orbital missions from spaceports around the globe. Dates and times are given in Greenwich Mean Time. NET stands for no earlier than. TBD means to be determined. Recent updates appear in red type. Please send any corrections, additions or updates by e-mailto:sclark@spaceflightnow.com.

See ourLaunch Logfor a listing of completed space missions since 2004.

Nov. 1: Pegasus XL/ICON delayed; Soyuz/Progress 71P moved forward; Soyuz/Progress 72P delayedOct. 31: Adding approximate time for Long March 3B/Beidou; Adding date for Pegasus XL/ICON; Adding date and window for Electron/Its Business Time; Adding date for GSLV Mk.3/GSAT 29; Adding date and time for Falcon 9/SpaceX CRS 16Oct. 26: Adding time for Falcon 9/Eshail 2; Falcon 9/SpaceX CRS 16 delayedOct. 25: Adding Zhuque 1/Weilai 1; Adding date and time for Long March 2C/CFOSAT; Soyuz/Progress 71P delayed; Adding date for Long March 3B/Beidou; Adding date for Soyuz/Glonass; Adding Long March/Beidou; Adding time for Falcon 9/Spaceflight SSO-A; Soyuz/EgyptSat-A delayed; Adding Long March 2D/SaudiSat 5A & 5B; Long March 5/Shijian 20 delayed; Vega/PRISMA delayed; Adding approximate date for Long March 3B/Change 4; Soyuz/CSG 1 & CHEOPS delayed; Adding Soyuz/CSO 1; Soyuz 57S moved forward; Adding Proton/Blagovest No. 13L; Soyuz/Kanopus-V 5 & 6 moved forward; GSLV Mk.3/Chandrayaan 2 delayed; Adding month for Atlas 5/AEHF 5Oct. 23: Pegasus XL/ICON delayed

Nov. 3Soyuz Glonass M

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch a Glonass M navigation satellite. The rocket will fly in the Soyuz-2.1b configuration with a Fregat upper stage. [Oct. 25]

Nov. 6/7Soyuz MetOp C

Launch time: 0047:27 GMT on 7th (7:47:27 p.m. EST on 6th)Launch site: ELS, Sinnamary, French Guiana

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket, designated VS19, will launch on a mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America. The Soyuz will carry the MetOp C polar-orbiting weather satellite for the European Space Agency and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, or Eumetsat. The Soyuz 2-1b (Soyuz ST-B) rocket will use a Fregat upper stage. Delayed from Sept. 18. [July 3]

NET Nov. 7Pegasus XL ICON

Launch window: 0800-0930 GMT (3:00-4:30 a.m. EST)Launch site: L-1011, Skid Strip, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

An air-launched Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket will deploy NASAs Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) satellite into orbit. ICON will study the ionosphere, a region of Earths upper atmosphere where terrestrial weather meets space weather. Disturbances in the ionosphere triggered by solar storms or weather activity in the lower atmosphere can cause disturbances in GPS navigation and radio transmissions. The missions staging point was changed from Kwajalein Atoll to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in mid-2018. Delayed from June 15, Nov. 14, and Dec. 8, 2017. Delayed from June 14, Sept. 24, Oct. 6, Oct. 26 and Nov. 3. [Nov. 1]

Nov. 10/11Electron Its Business Time

Launch window: 0300-0700 GMT on 11th (10 p.m.-2 a.m. EST on 10th/11th)Launch site: Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket will launch on its third flight, which Rocket Lab calls Its Business Time, from a facility on the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealands North Island. Two commercial CubeSats for Spire Globals weather and ship tracking constellation, and one small satellite for GeoOptics commercial remote sensing network will be aboard the rocket. A Curie upper stage will place the satellites into the proper orbit. Delayed from April 20. Scrubbed on June 23 and June 26. [Oct. 31]

TBDLong March 3B Beidou

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Xichang, China

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket with a Yuanzheng upper stage will launch two satellites for the countrys Beidou navigation network into Medium Earth Orbit. [Oct. 25]

Nov. 14GSLV Mk.3 GSAT 29

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India

Indias Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. 3 (GSLV Mk.3), designated GSLV Mk.3-D2, will launch the GSAT 29 communications satellite carrying Ka-band, Ku-band and optical communications payloads. Delayed from July and October. [Oct. 31]

Nov. 14Falcon 9 Eshail 2

Launch window: 2046-2227 GMT (3:46-5:27 p.m. EST)Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Eshail 2 communications satellite. Built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and owned by Qatars national satellite communications company EshailSat, Eshail 2 will provide television broadcasts, broadband connectivity and government services to Qatar and neighboring parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Eshail 2 also carries the first amateur radio payload to fly in geostationary orbit. Delayed from August. [Oct. 18]

Nov. 15Antares NG-10

Launch time: 0949 GMT (4:49 a.m. EST)Launch site: Pad 0A, Wallops Island, Virginia

A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket will launch the 11th Cygnus cargo freighter on the 10th operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station. The mission is known as NG-10. The rocket will fly in the Antares 230 configuration, with two RD-181 first stage engines and a Castor 30XL second stage. Delayed from March and Nov. 10. Moved forward from Nov. 17. [Oct. 14]

Nov. 16Soyuz Progress 71P

Launch time: 1814 GMT (1:14 p.m. EST)Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the 71st Progress cargo delivery ship to the International Space Station. Delayed from Oct. 31. [Nov. 1]

Nov. 19Falcon 9 Spaceflight SSO-A

Launch time: 1832 GMT (1:32 p.m. EST; 10:32 a.m. PST)Launch site: SLC-4E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch with Spaceflights SSO-A rideshare mission, a stack of satellites heading into sun-synchronous polar orbit. Numerous small payloads will be launched on this mission for nearly 50 government and commercial organizations from 16 countries, including the United States, Australia, Finland, Germany, Singapore and Thailand. Delayed from July. [Oct. 25]

NovemberPSLV HySIS

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India

Indias Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, flying on the PSLV-C43 mission, will launch Indias Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite, or HySIS. A collection of small international secondary payloads will accompany HySIS on this launch. Delayed from October. [Oct. 14]

Nov. 29Delta 4-Heavy NROL-71

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: SLC-6, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

A United Launch Alliance Delta 4-Heavy rocket will launch a classified spy satellite cargo for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The largest of the Delta 4 family, the Heavy version features three Common Booster Cores mounted together to form a triple-body rocket. Delayed from Sept. 26. Moved forward from Dec. 3. [Oct. 18]

Late 2018Long March 2D SaudiSat 5A & 5B

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Jiuquan, China

A Chinese Long March 2D rocket will launch the SaudiSat 5A and 5B Earth observation satellites for Saudi Arabias King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 3Soyuz ISS 57S

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the crewed Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station with members of the next Expedition crew. The capsule will remain at the station for about six months, providing an escape pod for the residents. Delayed from Nov. 6 and Nov. 15. Moved forward from Dec. 20 after Soyuz MS-10 launch abort. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 4Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS 16

Launch time: 1838 GMT (1:38 p.m. EST)Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 18th Dragon spacecraft mission on its 16th operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station. The flight is being conducted under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Delayed from Nov. 16. Moved forward from Nov. 29. Delayed from Nov. 27. [Oct. 31]

Dec. 4Ariane 5 GSAT 11 & GEO-Kompsat 2A

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: ELA-3, Kourou, French Guiana

Arianespace will use an Ariane 5 ECA rocket, designated VA246, to launch the GSAT 11 communications satellite and the GEO-Kompsat 2A weather satellite. GSAT 11 is owned by the Indian Space Research Organization and is based on a new Indian satellite bus. The spacecraft, fitted with Ku-band and Ka-band transponders, will be Indias heaviest communications satellite. GSAT 11 was originally scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 mission in May 2018, but ISRO recalled the satellite from the launch base in French Guiana back to India for additional inspections after the in-orbit failure of another spacecraft. The GEO-Kompsat 2A satellite is South Koreas first homemade geostationary weather satellite. Built in South Korea, the meteorological observatory will track storm systems in the Asia-Pacific region and monitor the space weather environment. [Oct. 25]

Approx. Dec. 8Long March 3B Change 4

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Xichang, China

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket will launch the Change 4 mission to attempt the first robotic landing on the far side of the moon. Change 4 consists of a stationary lander and a mobile rover. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 15Falcon 9 GPS 3-01

Launch time: 1408 GMT (9:08 a.m. EST)Launch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the U.S. Air Forces first third-generation navigation satellite for the Global Positioning System. Delayed from May 3 and late 2017. Switched from a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket. The second GPS 3-series satellite will now launch on a Delta 4. Delayed from September and October. [Sept. 21]

Dec. 18Soyuz CSO 1

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: ELS, Sinnamary, French Guiana

An Arianespace Soyuz rocket, designated VS20, will launch on a mission from the Guiana Space Center in South America. The Soyuz will carry into polar orbit the first Composante Spatiale Optique military reconnaissance satellite for CNES and DGA, the French defense procurement agency. The CSO 1 satellite is the first of three new-generation high-resolution optical imaging satellites for the French military, replacing the Helios 2 spy satellite series. The Soyuz 2-1b (Soyuz ST-B) rocket will use a Fregat upper stage. [Oct. 25]

DecemberElectron VCLS 1

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: Launch Complex 1, Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket will launch on its fourth flight from a facility on the Mahia Peninsula on New Zealands North Island. The mission will be conducted under contract to NASAs Venture Class Launch Services Program, carrying 10 CubeSats to orbit for NASA field centers and U.S. educational institutions. Delayed from 3rd Quarter. [Aug. 9]

Dec. 25Proton Blagovest No. 13L

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

A Russian government Proton rocket and Breeze M upper stage will launch the Blagovest No. 13L communications satellite to cover Russian territory and provide high-speed Internet, television and radio broadcast, and voice and video conferencing services for Russian domestic and military users. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 25Soyuz Kanopus-V 5 & 6

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the Kanopus-V 5 and 6 Earth observation satellites. The two spacecraft will assist the Russian government in disaster response, mapping and forest fire detection. Multiple secondary payloads from international companies and institutions will also launch on the Soyuz rocket. The Soyuz 2-1a rocket will use a Fregat upper stage. Moved forward from Dec. 26. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 27Soyuz EgyptSat-A

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the EgyptSat-A Earth observation satellite. EgyptSat-A was built by RSC Energia for Egypts National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences. Delayed from Nov. 22. [Oct. 25]

Dec. 30Falcon 9 Iridium Next 66-75

Launch time: 1638 GMT (11:38 a.m. EDT; 8:38 a.m. PST)Launch site: SLC-4E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch 10 satellites for the Iridium next mobile communications fleet. Delayed from October and November. [Oct. 18]

JanuaryLong March 5 Shijian 20

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Wenchang, China

A Chinese Long March 5 rocket will launch the Shijian 20 communications satellite. Shijian 20 is the first spacecraft based on the new DFH-5 communications satellite platform, a heavier, higher-power next-generation design, replacing the Shijian 18 satellite lost on a launch failure in 2017. Delayed from November. [Oct. 25]

JanuaryFalcon 9 Crew Dragon Demo 1

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station under the auspices of NASAs commercial crew program. Delayed from December 2016, May 2017, July 2017, August 2017, November 2017, February 2018, April 2018, August 2018, November 2018 and December 2018. [Oct. 14]

Early 2019Falcon Heavy Arabsat 6A

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch the Arabsat 6A communications satellite for Arabsat of Saudi Arabia. Arabsat 6A will provide Ku-band and Ka-band communications coverage over the Middle East and North Africa regions, as well as a footprint in South Africa. Delayed from first half of 2018 and late 2018. [Oct. 14]

Jan. 23Delta 4 WGS 10

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: SLC-37B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

A United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket will launch the 10th Wideband Global SATCOM spacecraft, formerly known as the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite. Built by Boeing, this geostationary communications spacecraft will serve U.S. military forces. The rocket will fly in the Medium+ (5,4) configuration with four solid rocket boosters. Delayed from Nov. 1 and Dec. 13. [Sept. 6]

Jan. 30GSLV Mk.3 Chandrayaan 2

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India

Indias Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk. 3 (GSLV Mk.3) will launch the Chandrayaan 2 mission, Indias second mission to the moon. Chandrayaan 2 will consist of an orbiter, the Vikram lander and rover launched together into a high Earth orbit. The orbiter is designed to use on-board propulsion to reach the moon, then release the lander and rover. Chandrayaan 2 was originally slated to launch on a GSLV Mk.2 vehicle, but Indian officials decided to switch to a larger GSLV Mk.3 vehicle in 2018. Delayed from March, April and October 2018. Delayed from Jan. 3. [Oct. 25]

TBDVega PRISMA

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: ZLV, Kourou, French Guiana

An Arianespace Vega rocket, designated VV14, will launch with the PRISMA satellite for the Italian space agency ASI. PRISMA is an Earth observation satellite fitted with an innovative electro-optical instrument, combining a hyperspectral sensor with a medium-resolution panchromatic camera. The mission will support environmental monitoring and security applications. Delayed from November and December 2018. [Oct. 25]

Feb. 8Soyuz Progress 72P

Launch time: TBDLaunch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

A Russian government Soyuz rocket will launch the 72nd Progress cargo delivery ship to the International Space Station. Delayed from Feb. 7. [Nov. 1]

Feb. 17Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS 17

Launch window: TBDLaunch site: Cape Canaveral, Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch the 19th Dragon spacecraft mission on its 17th operational cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station. The flight is being conducted under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Delayed from Nov. 16 and Feb. 1. [Sept. 6]

NET Feb. 18Falcon 9 Radarsat Constellation Mission

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Launch Schedule Spaceflight Now

Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Space Elevator

It takes a lot of energy to put stuff in space. That’s why one longtime futurist dream is a “space elevator” — a long cable strung between a geostationary satellite and the Earth that astronauts could use like a dumbwaiter to haul stuff up into orbit.

The problem is that such a system would require an extraordinarily light, strong cable. Now, researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University say they’ve developed a carbon nanotube fiber so sturdy and lightweight that it could be used to build an actual space elevator.

Going Up

The researchers published their paper in May, but it’s now garnering the attention of their peers. Some believe the Tsinghua team’s material really could lead to the creation of an elevator that would make it cheaper to move astronauts and materials into space.

“This is a breakthrough,” colleague Wang Changqing, who studies space elevators at Northwestern Polytechnical University, told the South China Morning Post.

Huge If True

There are still countless galling technical problems that need to be overcome before a space elevator would start to look plausible. Wang pointed out that it’d require tens of thousands of kilometers of the new material, for instance, as well as a shield to protect it from space debris.

But the research brings us one step closer to what could be a true game changer: a vastly less expensive way to move people and spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity.

READ MORE: China Has Strongest Fibre That Can Haul 160 Elephants – and a Space Elevator? [South China Morning Post]

More on space elevators: Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel

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Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Quake Rate

Earlier this year, I interviewed U.S. Geological Survey geologist Annemarie Baltay for a story about why it’s incredibly difficult to predict earthquakes.

“We don’t use that ‘p word’ — ‘predict’ — at all,” she told me. “Earthquakes are chaotic. We don’t know when or where they’ll occur.”

Neural Earthwork

That could finally be starting to change, according to a fascinating feature in The New York Times.

By feeding seismic data into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence that learns to recognize patterns by scrutinizing examples — researchers say they can now predict moments after a quake strikes how far its aftershocks will travel.

And eventually, some believe, they’ll be able to listen to signals from fault lines and predict when an earthquake will strike in the first place.

Future Vision

But like Baltay, some researchers aren’t convinced we’ll ever be able to predict earthquakes.University of Tokyo seismologist Robert Geller told the Times that until an algorithm actually predicts an upcoming quake, he’ll remain skeptical.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “If you cannot predict the future, then your hypothesis is wrong.”

READ MORE: A.I. Is Helping Scientist Predict When and Where the Next Big Earthquake Will Be [The New York Times]

More on earthquake AI: A New AI Detected 17 Times More Earthquakes Than Traditional Methods

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Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

Stand Up Guy

For 10 years, Roy Palmer had no feeling in his lower extremities. Two days after receiving a stem cell transplant, he cried tears of joy because he could feel a cramp in his leg.

The technical term for the procedure the British man underwent is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). And while risky, it’s offering new hope to people like Palmer, who found himself wheelchair-bound after multiple sclerosis (MS) caused his immune system to attack his nerves’ protective coverings.

Biological Reboot

Ever hear the IT troubleshooting go-to of turning a system off and on again to fix it? The HSCT process is similar, but instead of a computer, doctors attempt to reboot a patient’s immune system.

To do this, they first remove stem cells from the patient’s body. Then the patient undergoes chemotherapy, which kills the rest of their immune system. After that, the doctors use the extracted stem cells to reboot the patient’s immune system.

It took just two days for the treatment to restore some of the feeling in Palmer’s legs. Eventually, he was able to walk on his own and even dance. He told the BBC in a recent interview that he now feels like he has a second chance at life.

“We went on holiday, not so long ago, to Turkey. I walked on the beach,” said Palmer. “Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.”

Risk / Reward

Still, HSCT isn’t some miracle cure for MS. Though it worked for Palmer, that’s not always the case, and HSCT can also cause infections and infertility. The National MS Society still considers HSCT to be an experimental treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the therapy in the U.S.

However, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, and if a stem cell transplant can help even some of those folks the way it helped Palmer, it’s a therapy worth exploring.

READ MORE: Walking Again After Ten Years With MS [BBC]

More on HCST: New Breakthrough Treatment Could “Reverse Disability” for MS Patients

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A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Nightmare Fuel

Someone programmed an AI to dream up Halloween masks, and the results are absolute nightmare fuel. Seriously, just look at some of these things.

“What’s so scary or unsettling about it is that it’s not so detailed that it shows you everything,” said Matt Reed, the creator of the masks, in an interview with New Scientist. “It leaves just enough open for your imagination to connect the dots.”

A selection of masks featured on Reed’s twitter. Credit: Matt Reed/Twitter

Creative Horror

To create the masks, Reed — whose day job is as a technologist at a creative agency called redpepper — fed an open source AI tool 5,000 pictures of Halloween masks he sourced from Google Images. He then instructed the tool to generate its own masks.

The fun and spooky project is yet another sign that AI is coming into its own as a creative tool. Just yesterday, a portrait generated by a similar system fetched more than $400,000 at a prominent British auction house.

And Reed’s masks are evocative. Here at the Byte, if we looked through the peephole and saw one of these on a trick or treater, we might not open our door.

READ MORE: AI Designed These Halloween Masks and They Are Absolutely Terrifying [New Scientist]

More on AI-generated art: Generated Art Will Go on Sale Alongside Human-Made Works This Fall

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AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

Over and Over

“The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding.”

That’s what Olympic attendees will hear ad nauseam when they step onto the platforms of Tokyo’s train stations in 2020. The source: Perseusbot, a robot security guard Japanese developers unveiled to the press on Thursday.

Observe and Report

According to reporting by Kyodo News, the purpose of the AI-powered Perseusbot is to lower the burden on the stations’ staff when visitors flood Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.

The robot is roughly 5.5 feet tall and equipped with security cameras that allow it to note suspicious behaviors, such as signs of violence breaking out or unattended packages, as it autonomous patrols the area. It can then alert security staff to the issues by sending notifications directly to their smart phones.

Prior Prepration

Just like the athletes who will head to Tokyo in 2020, Perseusbot already has a training program in the works — it’ll patrol Tokyo’s Seibu Shinjuku Station from November 26 to 30. This dry run should give the bot’s developers a chance to work out any kinks before 2020.

If all goes as hoped, the bot will be ready to annoy attendees with its incessant chant before the Olympic torch is lit. And, you know, keep everyone safe, too.

READ MORE: Robot Station Security Guard Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics [Kyodo News]

More robot security guards: Robot Security Guards Are Just the Beginning

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Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Snap Decisions

On first glance, a site that collects people’s opinions about whose life an autonomous car should favor doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. But look closer, and you’ll catch a glimpse of humanity’s dark side.

The Moral Machine is an online survey designed by MIT researchers to gauge how the public would want an autonomous car to behave in a scenario in which someone has to die. It asks questions like: “If an autonomous car has to choose between killing a man or a woman, who should it kill? What if the woman is elderly but the man is young?”

Essentially, it’s a 21st century update on the Trolley Problem, an ethical thought experiment no doubt permanently etched into the mind of anyone who’s seen the second season of “The Good Place.”

Ethical Dilemma

The MIT team launched the Moral Machine in 2016, and more than two million people from 233 countries participated in the survey — quite a significant sample size.

On Wednesday, the researchers published the results of the experiment in the journal Nature, and they really aren’t all that surprising: Respondents value the life of a baby over all others, with a female child, male child, and pregnant woman following closely behind. Yawn.

It’s when you look at the other end of the spectrum — the characters survey respondents were least likely to “save” — that you’ll see something startling: Survey respondents would rather the autonomous car kill a human criminal than a dog.

moral machine
Image Credit: MIT

Ugly Reflection

While the team designed the survey to help shape the future of autonomous vehicles, it’s hard not to focus on this troubling valuing of a dog’s life over that of any human, criminal or not. Does this tell us something important about how society views the criminal class? Reveal that we’re all monsters when hidden behind the internet’s cloak of anonymity? Confirm that we really like dogs?

The MIT team doesn’t address any of these questions in their paper, and really, we wouldn’t expect them to — it’s their job to report the survey results, not extrapolate some deeper meaning from them. But whether the Moral Machine informs the future of autonomous vehicles or not, it’s certainly held up a mirror to humanity’s values, and we do not like the reflection we see.

READ MORE: Driverless Cars Should Spare Young People Over Old in Unavoidable Accidents, Massive Survey Finds [Motherboard]

More on the Moral Machine: MIT’s “Moral Machine” Lets You Decide Who Lives & Dies in Self-Driving Car Crashes

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People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Check Yourself

The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.

According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

Serving Downsized

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry’s overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity’s needs.

Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don’t need any).

Overly Full Plate

The researchers don’t just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.

“For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein,” said Fraser.

A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.

READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]

More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Emissions Enigma

For years, a mystery puzzled environmental scientists. The world had banned the use of many ozone-depleting compounds in 2010. So why were global emission levels still so high?

The picture started to clear up in June. That’s when The New York Times published an investigation into the issue. China, the paper claimed, was to blame for these mystery emissions. Now it turns out the paper was probably right to point a finger.

Accident or Incident

In a paper published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers confirms that eastern China is the source of at least half of the 40,000 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride emissions currently entering the atmosphere each year.

They figured this out using a combination of ground-based and airborne atmospheric concentration data from near the Korean peninsula. They also relied on two models that simulated how the gases would move through the atmosphere.

Though they were able to narrow down the source to China, the researchers weren’t able to say exactly who’s breaking the ban and whether they even know about the damage they’re doing.

Pinpoint

“Our work shows the location of carbon tetrachloride emissions,” said co-author Matt Rigby in a press release. “However, we don’t yet know the processes or industries that are responsible. This is important because we don’t know if it is being produced intentionally or inadvertently.”

If we can pinpoint the source of these emissions, we can start working on stopping them and healing our ozone. And given that we’ve gone nearly a decade with minimal progress on that front, there’s really no time to waste.

READ MORE: Location of Large ‘Mystery’ Source of Banned Ozone Depleting Substance Uncovered [University of Bristol]

More on carbon emissions: China Has (Probably) Been Pumping a Banned Gas Into the Atmosphere

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Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Name Game

There’s a prominent artificial intelligence conference that goes by the suggestive acronym NIPS, which stands for “Neural Information Processing Systems.”

After receiving complaints that the acronym was alienating to women, the conference’s leadership collected suggestions for a new name via an online poll, according to WIRED. But the conference announced Monday that it would be sticking with NIPS all the same.

Knock It Off

It’s convenient to imagine that this acronym just sort of emerged by coincidence, but let’s not indulge in that particular fantasy.

It’s more likely that tech geeks cackled maniacally when they came up with the acronym, and the refusal to do better even when people looking up the conference in good faith are bombarded with porn is a particularly telling failure of the AI research community.

Small Things Matter

This problem goes far beyond a silly name — women are severely underrepresented in technology research and even more so when it comes to artificial intelligence. And if human decency — comforting those who are regularly alienated by the powers that be — isn’t enough of a reason to challenge the sexist culture embedded in tech research, just think about what we miss out on.

True progress in artificial intelligence cannot happen without a broad range of diverse voices — voices that are silenced by “locker room talk” among an old boy’s club. Otherwise, our technological development will become just as stuck in place as our cultural development often seems to be.

READ MORE: AI RESEARCHERS FIGHT OVER FOUR LETTERS: NIPS [WIRED]

More on Silicon Valley sexism: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

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An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Good Luck

On October 10, a Chinese organization called the Tian Fu New Area Science Society revealed plans to replace the streetlights in the city of Chengdu with a satellite designed to reflect sunlight toward the Earth’s surface at night.

But in a new interview with Astronomy, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas at Austin named Ryan Russel argued that based on what he’s read, the artificial moon plan would be impossible to implement.

Promised the Moon

Wu Chunfeng, the head of the Tian Fu New Area Science Society, told China Daily the artificial moon would orbit about 310 miles above Earth, delivering an expected brightness humans would perceive to be about one-fifth that of a typical streetlight.

The plan is to launch one artificial moon in 2020 and then three more in 2022 if the first works as hoped. Together, these satellites could illuminate an area of up to 4,000 square miles, Chunfeng claims.

But Russell is far from convinced.

“Their claim for 1 [low-earth orbit satellite] at [300 miles] must be a typo or misinformed spokesperson,” he told Astronomy. “The article I read implied you could hover a satellite over a particular city, which of course is not possible.”

Overkill Overhead

To keep the satellite in place over Chengdu, it would need to be about 22,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, said Russel, and its reflective surface would need to be massive to reflect sunlight from that distance. At an altitude of just 300 miles, the satellite would quickly zip around the Earth, constantly illuminating new locations.

Even if the city could put the artificial moon plan into action, though, Russell isn’t convinced it should.

“It’s a very complicated solution that affects everyone to a simple problem that affects a few,” he told Astronomy. “It’s light pollution on steroids.”

Maybe Chengdu shouldn’t give up on its streetlights just yet.

READ MORE: Why China’s Artificial Moon Probably Won’t Work [Astronomy]

More on the artificial moon: A Chinese City Plans to Replace Its Streetlights With an Artificial Moon

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There’s No Way China’s Artificial Moon Will Work, Says Expert

Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Gold Nuggets

A company called Ingelia says it’s figured out a way to turn human waste — the solid kind — into a combustible material it’s calling biochar. And if Ingelia’s claims are accurate, biochar can be burned for fuel just like coalexcept with nearzero greenhouse gas emissions, according to Business Insider.

That’s because almost all of the pollutants and more harmful chemicals that would normally be given off while burning solid fuels is siphoned away into treatable liquid waste, leaving a dry, combustible rod of poop fuel.

“Clean Coal

Ingelia, which is currently working to strike a deal with Spanish waste management facilities, hopes to make enough biochar to replace 220 thousand tons of coal per year, corresponding to 500 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

But that’s by 2022, at which point we’ll have even less time to reach the urgent clean energy goals of that doomsday United Nations report. In an ideal world, we would have moved away from coal years ago. At least this gives us a viable alternative as we transition to other, renewable forms of electricity.

So while we can, in part, poop our way to a better world, biochar — and other new sewage-based energy sources — will only be one of many new world-saving sources of clean energy.

READ MORE: This Spanish company found a way to produce a fuel that emits no CO2 — and it’s made of sewage [Business Insider]

More on poop: Edible Tech is Finally Useful, is Here to Help you Poop

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Clean Coal Startup Turns Human Waste Into Earth-Friendly Fuel

Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

Green-Light District

It doesn’t matter how advanced our self-driving cars get — if they aren’t allowed on roads, they aren’t going to save any lives.

The future of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the U.S. depends on how lawmakers in Washington D.C. choose to regulate the vehicles. But until now, AV testing has largely taken place far from the nation’s capital, mostly in California and Arizona.

Ford is about to change that. The company just announced plans to be the first automaker to test its self-driving cars in the Distinct of Columbia — and how lawmakers feel about those vehicles could influence future AV legislation.

Career Day

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, announced the decision to begin testing in D.C. via a blog post last week. According to Marakby, Ford’s politician-friendly focus will be on figuring out how its AVs could promote job creation in the District.

To that end, Ford plans to assess how AVs could increase mobility in D.C., thereby helping residents get to jobs that might otherwise be outside their reach, as well as train residents for future positions as AV technicians or operators.

Up Close and Personal

Marakby notes that D.C. is a particularly suitable location for this testing because the District is usually bustling with activity. The population increases significantly during the day as commuters arrive from the suburbs for work, while millions of people flock to D.C. each year for conferences or tourism.

D.C. is also home to the people responsible for crafting and passing AV legislation. “[I]t’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes as we keep pushing for legislation that governs their safe use across the country,” Marakby wrote.

Ford’s ultimate goal is to launch a commercial AV service in D.C. in 2021. With this testing, the company has the opportunity to directly influence the people who could help it reach that goal — or oppose it.

READ MORE: A Monumental Moment: Our Self-Driving Business Development Expands to Washington, D.C. [Medium]

More on AV legislation: U.S. Senators Reveal the Six Principles They’ll Use to Regulate Self-Driving Vehicles

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Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator


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