Insights

This Week in Space and other Tech News

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by Jill Cassidy

Things that Happened in Hawthorne

Late Thursday evening Cali time, SpaceX webcasted the unveiling of its Dragon V2 “space taxi.”  V2 is the manned (aka, can carry astronauts) version of SpaceX’s commercial Dragon spaceship.  Clean design, reusable and lands like a helicopter.  This move sets in motion an effort that CEO Elon Musk hopes will soon restore America’s capability to launch U.S. astronauts to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station by 2017.  (In case you haven’t been paying attention, Mr. Musk really doesn’t like the fact that we’re using Russian rockets and capsules to trampoline our astronauts into space.)  I don’t think we’re ready to call checkmate yet, but well played, Elon.

Quote of the Week

“This year we’re going full-force into tropical cyclone research.” – NASA’s Scott Braun, on the agency’s commitment to double down on studying the inner workings of those pesky hurricanes

Things that happened in Mountain View

Google unveiled its self-driving car prototype on Tuesday.  The Cozy Coupes have no steering wheel and no pedals or other controls (apart from a stop/go button) “because they don’t need them.”  The car’s design has been described as “friendly,” and its front end is made out of a foam-like material, which will really come in handy when you’re going up against a semi.  It will seat two people, be electric powered and can reach blazing speeds of up to 25mph, making it the most adorable bike you’ve ever seen.

Things that happened in Redmond

On Tuesday, “The House That Gates Built” announced a real-time language translation feature called Skype Translate.  Although still in beta mode, this technology has “the potential to smash through the language barriers that have hindered human communication for thousands of years.”  Bullish Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is aiming for real-time interpretation of voice calls within two years.  There’s still fine tuning left to do, though, as the translator’s speech recognition technology isn’t quite yet up to speed with twerking.

Things you should know

Expedition 40 launched a new trio to the International Space Station on Wednesday.

The Italian Space Agency appointed a new president.

A is for Apogee.

NASA and Khan Academy are partnering to teach kids about astronomy and space exploration.

MIT is setting up to make the case for wireless broadband reaching Mars via telescopes and lasers.

Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring back the show.  We all know you remember every word of that theme song, so go help the guy out.

The FAA granted environmental approval to SpaceX for their proposed commercial spaceport launch site on Boca Chica Beach.  Here’s what the South Texas spaceport might look like.

Remember the deactivated spacecraft we talked about last week?  The crowdfunders announced on Thursday that their team has established communication with ISEE-3.  Mazel.

(Always give credit where credit is due. I owe everything I know about writing to theSkimm. If you’re not a subscriber, you’re missing out.)

Image courtesy NASA Flickr

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