NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter dropped on Mars’ surface ahead of flight

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter extends vertically into place after being rotated outward from its horizontal position on the belly of the Perseverance rover on March 29, 2021. (NASA/JPL-CALTECH/AFP)
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Updated 04 April 2021

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter dropped on Mars’ surface ahead of flight

  • The ultra-light aircraft had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18

WASHINGTON: NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped on the surface of Mars in preparation for its first flight, the US space agency said.
The ultra-light aircraft had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18.
“MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed!” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted Saturday.
“Its 293 million mile (471 million kilometer) journey aboard @NASAPersevere ended with the final drop of 4 inches (10 centimeter) from the rover’s belly to the surface of Mars today. Next milestone? Survive the night.”
A photograph accompanying the tweet showed Perseverance had driven clear of the helicopter and its “airfield” after dropping to the surface.
Ingenuity had been feeding off the Perseverance’s power system but will now have to use its own battery to run a vital heater to protect its unshielded electrical components from freezing and cracking during the bitter Martian night.
“This heater keeps the interior at about 45 degrees F (7 degrees Celsius) through the bitter cold of the Martian night, where temperatures can drop to as low as -130F (-90 degrees Celsius),” Bob Balaram, Mars Helicopter Project chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote in an update on Friday.
“That comfortably protects key components such as the battery and some of the sensitive electronics from harm at very cold temperatures.”
Over the next couple of days, the Ingenuity team will check that the helicopter’s solar panels are working properly and recharging its battery before testing its motors and sensors ahead of its first flight, Balaram said.
Ingenuity is expected to make its first flight attempt no earlier than April 11, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted.
Ingenuity will be attempting to fly in an atmosphere that is one percent the density of Earth’s, which makes achieving lift harder — but will be assisted by gravity that is one-third of our planet’s.
The first flight will involve climbing at a rate of about three feet (one meter) per second to a height of 10 feet (three meters), hovering there for 30 seconds, then descending back to the surface.
Ingenuity will be taking high-resolution photography as it flies.
Up to five flights of gradual difficulty are planned over the month.
The 1.8-kilogram rotorcraft cost NASA around $85 million to develop and is considered a proof of concept that could revolutionize space exploration.
Future aircraft could cover ground much quicker than rovers, and explore more rugged terrain.


China launches three astronauts to space station

Updated 05 June 2022

China launches three astronauts to space station

  • Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong and his team will work on the space station for 6 months
  • They will be returning to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew

BEIJING: China launched a spacecraft on Sunday carrying three astronauts to the Chinese space station, due to be completed by the end of the year, as construction entered a pivotal stage.
A Long March-2F rocket transporting the Shenzhou-14, or “Divine Vessel” in Chinese, blasted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:44 a.m. (0244 GMT), a live broadcast by state television showed.
Construction of the space station began last year with the launch of the first and largest of its three modules — Tianhe — the living quarters of visiting astronauts. The modules Wentian and Mengtian are to be launched in July and October, respectively, docking with Tianhe to form a T-shaped structure.
Shenzhou-14 mission commander Chen Dong, 43, and team mates Liu Yang, 43, and Cai Xuzhe, 46, all from China’s second cohort of astronauts, will live and work on the space station for six months before returning to Earth in December with the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crew.
Former air force pilot Chen with Liu, who became China’s first female astronaut in space a decade ago, and space mission debutant Cai, will oversee the rendezvous, docking and integration of Wentian and Mengtian with the core module.
They will also install equipment inside and outside the space station and carry out a range of scientific research.
“The Shenzhou-14 mission is a pivotal battle in the construction stage of China’s space station,” Chen told a news conference in Jiuquan on Saturday. “The task will be tougher, there will be more problems and the challenges will be greater.”
The space station is designed for a lifespan of at least a decade. (Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and William Mallard)


From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

Updated 30 May 2022

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

  • Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry

SINGAPORE: After struggling to find staff during the pandemic, businesses in Singapore have increasingly turned to deploying robots to help carry out a range of tasks, from surveying construction sites to scanning library bookshelves.
The city-state relies on foreign workers, but their number fell by 235,700 between December 2019 and September 2021, according to the manpower ministry, which notes how COVID-19 curbs have sped up “the pace of technology adoption and automation” by companies.
At a Singapore construction site, a four-legged robot called “Spot,” built by US company Boston Dynamics, scans sections of mud and gravel to check on work progress, with data fed back to construction company Gammon’s control room.
Gammon’s general manager, Michael O’Connell, said using Spot required only one human employee instead of the two previously needed to do the job manually.
“Replacing the need for manpower on-site with autonomous solutions is gaining real traction,” said O’Connell, who believes industry labor shortages made worse by the pandemic are here to stay.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Library has introduced two shelf-reading robots that can scan labels on 100,000 books, or about 30 percent of its collection, per day.
“Staff need not read the call numbers one by one on the shelf, and this reduces the routine and labor-intensive aspects,” said Lee Yee Fuang, assistant director at the National Library Board.
Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, the second-highest number globally, after South Korea’s 932, according to a 2021 report by the International Federation of Robotics.
Robots are also being used for customer-facing tasks, with more than 30 metro stations set to have robots making coffee for commuters.
Keith Tan, chief executive of Crown Digital, which created the barista robot, said it was helping solve the “biggest pain-point” in food and beverage — finding staff — while also creating well-paid positions to help automate the sector.
However, some people trying the service still yearned for human interaction.
“We always want to have some kind of human touch,” said commuter Ashish Kumar, while sipping on a robot-brewed drink. 


From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

Updated 30 May 2022

From baristas to inspectors: Singapore’s robot workforce plugs labor gaps

SINGAPORE: After struggling to find staff during the pandemic, businesses in Singapore have increasingly turned to deploying robots to help carry out a range of tasks, from surveying construction sites to scanning library bookshelves.
The city-state relies on foreign workers, but their number fell by 235,700 between December 2019 and September 2021, according to the manpower ministry, which notes how COVID-19 curbs have sped up “the pace of technology adoption and automation” by companies.
At a Singapore construction site, a four-legged robot called “Spot,” built by US company Boston Dynamics, scans sections of mud and gravel to check on work progress, with data fed back to construction company Gammon’s control room.
Gammon’s general manager, Michael O’Connell, said using Spot required only one human employee instead of the two previously needed to do the job manually.
“Replacing the need for manpower on-site with autonomous solutions is gaining real traction,” said O’Connell, who believes industry labor shortages made worse by the pandemic are here to stay.
Meanwhile, Singapore’s National Library has introduced two shelf-reading robots that can scan labels on 100,000 books, or about 30 percent of its collection, per day.
“Staff need not read the call numbers one by one on the shelf, and this reduces the routine and labor-intensive aspects,” said Lee Yee Fuang, assistant director at the National Library Board.
Singapore has 605 robots installed per 10,000 employees in the manufacturing industry, the second-highest number globally, after South Korea’s 932, according to a 2021 report by the International Federation of Robotics.
Robots are also being used for customer-facing tasks, with more than 30 metro stations set to have robots making coffee for commuters.
Keith Tan, chief executive of Crown Digital, which created the barista robot, said it was helping solve the “biggest pain-point” in food and beverage — finding staff — while also creating well-paid positions to help automate the sector.
However, some people trying the service still yearned for human interaction.
“We always want to have some kind of human touch,” said commuter Ashish Kumar, while sipping on a robot-brewed drink. 


NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash

Updated 23 May 2022

NFTs losing luster as cryptocurrencies crash

  • Fraud a major reason cited for the downturn, with amounts lost to scams described as "eye-watering"
  • At least 80 percent of NFTs on leading exchanges OpenSea and LooksRare found to be fake

PARIS: A slew of celebrity endorsements helped inflate a multi-billion dollar bubble around digital tokens over the past year, but cryptocurrencies are crashing and some fear NFTs could be next.
NFTs are tokens linked to digital images, “collectable” items, avatars in games or property and objects in the burgeoning virtual world of the metaverse.
The likes of Paris Hilton, Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams have boasted about owning NFTs and many under-30s have been enticed to gamble for the chance of making a quick profit.
But the whole sector is suffering a rout at the moment with all the major cryptocurrencies slumping in value, and the signs for NFTs are mixed at best.
The number of NFTs traded in the first quarter of this year slumped by almost 50 percent compared to the previous quarter, according to analysis firm Non-Fungible.
They reckoned the market was digesting the vast amount of NFTs created last year, with the resale market just getting off the ground.
Monitoring firm CryptoSlam reported a dramatic tail-off in May, with just $31 million spent on art and collectibles in the week to May 15, the lowest figure all year.
A symbol of the struggle is the forlorn attempt to re-sell an NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet.
Dorsey managed to sell the NFT for almost $3 million last year but the new owner cannot find anyone willing to pay more than $20,000.

Molly White, a prominent critic of the crypto sphere, told AFP there were many possible reasons for the downturn.
“It could be a general decrease in hype, it could be fear of scams after so many high-profile ones, or it could be people tightening their belts,” she said.
The reputation of the industry has been hammered for much of the year.
The main exchange, OpenSea, admitted in January that more than 80 percent of the NFTs created with its free tool were fraudulent — many of them copies of other NFTs or famous artworks reproduced without permission.
“There’s a bit of everything on OpenSea,” said Olivier Lerner, co-author of the book “NFT Mine d’Or” (NFT Gold Mine).
“It’s a huge site and it’s not curated, so you really have no idea what you’re buying.”
LooksRare, an NFT exchange that overtook OpenSea for volume of sales this year, got into similar problems as its rival.
As many as 95 percent of the transactions on its platform were found to be fake, according to CryptoSlam.
Users were selling NFTs to themselves because LooksRare was offering tokens with every transaction — no matter what you were buying.
And the amounts lost to scams this year have been eye-watering.
The owners of Axie Infinity, a game played by millions in the Philippines and elsewhere and a key driver of the NFT market, managed to lose more than $500 million in a single swindle.

“As soon as you have a new technology, you immediately have fraudsters circling,” lawyer Eric Barbry told AFP.
He pointed out that the NFT market had no dedicated regulation so law enforcement agencies are left to cobble together a response using existing frameworks.
Molly White said strong regulation could help eliminate the extreme speculation but that could, in turn, rob NFTs of their major appeal — that they can bring quick profits.
“I think less hype would be a good thing — in its current form, NFT trading is enormously risky and probably unwise for the average person,” she said.
NFTs are often likened to the traditional art market because they have no inherent utility and their prices fluctuated wildly depending on trends and hype.
But Olivier Lerner suggested a different comparison.
“It’s like the lottery,” he said of those seeking big profits from NFTs. “You play, but you never win.”

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Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc

Updated 18 January 2022

Major US airline CEOs warn 5G could ground some planes, wreak havoc

  • FAA warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations
  • AT&T and Verizon on Jan. 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks

WASHINGTON: The chief executives of major US passenger and cargo carriers on Monday warned of an impending “catastrophic” aviation crisis in less than 36 hours, when AT&T and Verizon are set to deploy new 5G service.
The airlines warned the new C-Band 5G service set to begin on Wednesday could render a significant number of widebody aircraft unusable, “could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas” and cause “chaos” for US flights.
“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” wrote the chief executives of American Airlines , Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and others in a letter first reported by Reuters.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned that potential interference could affect sensitive airplane instruments such as altimeters and significantly hamper low-visibility operations.
“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancelations, diversions or delays,” the letter https://twitter.com/davidshepardson/status/1483148794690740224?s=20 cautioned.
Airlines late on Monday were considering whether to begin canceling some international flights that are scheduled to arrive in the United States on Wednesday.
“With the proposed restrictions at selected airports, the transportation industry is preparing for some service disruption. We are optimistic that we can work across industries and with government to finalize solutions that safely mitigate as many schedule impacts as possible,” plane maker Boeing said on Monday.

Workers install 5G telecommunications equipment on a T-Mobile tower in Seabrook, Texas,on May 6, 2020. (REUTERS/File Photo)

Action is urgent, the airlines added in the letter also signed by UPS Airlines, Alaska Air, Atlas Air , JetBlue Airways and FedEx Express. “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”
The letter went to White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Airlines for America, the group that organized the letter, declined to comment. The government agencies did not immediately comment.

’Intervention is needed’
AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion auction last year, on Jan. 3 agreed to buffer zones around 50 airports to reduce interference risks and take other steps to cut potential interference for six months. They also agreed to delay deployment for two weeks until Wednesday, temporarily averting an aviation safety standoff, after previously delaying service by 30 days.
Verizon and AT&T declined comment on Monday.
The CEOs of major airlines and Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun held a lengthy call with Buttigieg and Dickson on Sunday to warn of the looming crisis, officials told Reuters.
The airlines ask “that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles (3.2 km) of airport runways” at some key airports.
“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they said.
The airlines added that flight restrictions will not be limited to poor weather operations.
“Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than what we knew... Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded.”
One area of concern is whether some Boeing 777s will be unable to land at some key US airports after 5G service starts, as well as some Boeing cargo planes, airline officials told Reuters. The airlines urged action to ensure “5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.”
The FAA said on Sunday it had cleared an estimated 45 percent of the US commercial airplane fleet to perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed and they expect to issue more approvals before Wednesday. The airlines noted on Monday that the list did not include many large airports.