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Women and children queue up under the scorching heat of the midday sun, distaste and frustration piling up around them as they hope to replenish those empty buckets with proper drinking water at the local handpump. The village is not without its own water supply, mind you, but the muddy, polluted water is scarcely enough to saturate the thirst of an honest worker. Therefore they stand, for hours and hours under the searing heat of the midday sun, keen to help their husbands and fathers to a glass of cold drinking water as they come home from a hard day’s work. As we sit on fluffy couches in our air-conditioned rooms in the urban upstate, it is easy to take for granted the lives we live, the gifts we have. But if there’s one thing my time in India has taught me, it’s how small and inconsequential the life of a humble private citizen can be in the wake of overwhelming corporate and political interests.

It is hard to think about internet access when the very question of healthy drinking water is at stake, after all, we need to get our priorities straight. But if there is one thing the internet does really well, it is to open up opportunities for the rural and urban poor struggling to make a living in a difficult economy. Teach a man to fish, and all that. Either that, or plain old urban glamor, is what motivates the likes of Facebook and SpaceX in their quest to make the internet universally accessible, and they are not unwilling to push the boundaries of conventional wisdom when it comes to making good on their plans.

“The internet is a vast pool of opportunities. Tapping into it can help find employment and a source of earning for many people across the world. It can also foster the cause of globalization and help the international economy prosper as a whole.” - Alex Jasin, X3 Digital

We got a good glimpse of how crucial connectivity is going to be for company’s plans in the next coming years over at Facebook’s F8. Mark Zuckerberg acquainted us with his ambitious plans to roll connectivity solutions to the far and distant corners of the earth that still don’t have internet access, and in doing so, bring the 3 billion people of the world who are yet to have an internet connection, into the mainstream. These plans come in three segments. The first is Project Acquila, that aims to make use of solar-powered drones to beam the internet on to rural and urban areas from the stratosphere. With Aquila, Facebook has already managed to set a record with its millimeter-wave radio technology, which can beam down 36 Gbps of internet connections from a distance of up to ten kilometers. Acquila still has ways to go, however, as its massive unmanned aircraft crashed into a pile of dust and hubris in the Arizona desert, shortly after setting aforementioned record.

While the Aquila drones project is aimed at assuring connectivity to far-off rural areas, Facebook’s Terragraph initiative aims at supplying decent internet connections in dense urban areas. The problems suffered in these two scenarios are very different, as the severe lags suffered in urban area internet connections are mostly due to huge amounts of traffic and so-called dead zones. Terragraph aims at solving these problems by using better quality fibres to eliminate dead zones and improve internet capacity, using the same millimeter radio wave technology that fuels Aquila.

“There are just so many people out there in the real world that deserve mainstream attention and real recognizance for their work. Universalizing the internet can help bring these people into the spotlight.” - Jeff Smith, Infuence.co

The third and final of Facebook’s connectivity initiatives is tether-tenna, which is supposed to help provide temporary internet connectivity during emergency situations. The tether-tenna is a miniature helicopter drone that can be connected to a fibre line and then launched up to a few hundred feet above ground to work as a temporary tower. It will be particularly useful in case of an emergency situation or catastrophe, when immediate access to the internet is required.

While Facebook goes all in on its effort to globalize the internet, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has his own plans of propagating the world wide web. In November 2016, Elon Musk filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission, asking for permission to launch 4,425 satellites that would help beam high-speed internet facilities onto various parts of the world from space. The initiative, which Musk says may cost around $10bn, is said to begin launching its satellites in 2019, with at least one prototype sent into space later this year, according to Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs for SpaceX.

“As a great equalizer, the Internet provide access to communications, information and opportunity. A lot of businesses in the outsourcing sector would not be possible without Internet technologies such as VoIP and eCommerce.” - William Emmanuel Yu, Quora

Elon Musk isn’t the first person on the planet to take a gander at such a satellite internet programs, similar initiatives by the likes of HughesNet and Exede have since long been in play, but he is the first person to be doing it at this scale. As of this moment, there are 4,256 satellites orbiting the earth, only 1,419 of which remain functional. Musk’s plans involve not only setting a record in satellite launches to space, they also aim to wrap the whole world in a mesh of internet connectivity in the process.

While Musk’s plans may seem outlandish, and Zuckerberg’s at least ambitious, we cannot really expect to bring the internet to the whole world without setting some records and breaking some existing ones. The internet opens up a web of opportunities for the rural and urban dwellers of underdeveloped and developing countries, giving them a chance at improving a stagnant economy and raising their own living standards in the process. While the projects are massive and nothing is certain, there is one thing I am confident about. To delegate this much of responsibility on to the hands of corporate giants we know little about, we must really trust Musk and Zuckerberg to keep true to their promises.

Source: This article was published forbes.com By Harold Stark

Categorized in Social

Breaking a 10-year monopoly by United Launch Alliance (ULA), SpaceX will launch a satellite into orbit on a classified mission tomorrow morning (April 30) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the company will attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage again after use.

You can watch the historic launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX. The launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) and closes at 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT). The Falcon 9 rocket will carry a payload from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), designated as NROL-76. SpaceX's webcast will begin about 20 minutes for launch, and also be streamed live: http://www.spacex.com/webcast.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) tweeted this mission patch for its NROL-76 satellite, showing Lewis and Clark setting out to explore the Louisiana Territory.

After the launch, SpaceX's webcast is expected to follow the landing of the rocket's first stage on a nearby designated landing pad about 8 minutes after launch, where it would become the fourth to land successfully at that location. Based on the agency's past requests for similar missions, public announcements of the classified satellite may stop a few minutes after launch.

ULA has launched every dedicated U.S. military and national security satellite for the past 10 years; SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket was certified to launch military satellites in 2015, giving it the ability to bid on military launches. SpaceX and NRO have not revealed the contents of the NROL-76 mission or the precise launch time within the window.

SpaceX's official NROL-76 mission patch.

According to SpaceNews, this might not be the first classified cargo to fly on a SpaceX rocket — a small NRO cubesat flew in 2010 on a Falcon 9 during a demonstration flight — but it is the first dedicated spy-satellite launch. SpaceX has two upcoming launch contracts with the U.S. Air Force to launch GPS-3 satellites into orbit.

The rocket will launch from Pad 39A, the historic launchpad used by several Apollo moon missions and space shuttle flights. The company's first launch from that location, which SpaceX recently leased and refurbished, was a space station resupply mission, which lifted off in February. Also from Pad 39A, in March, SpaceX relaunched a previously used rocket stage for the first time, lofting a communications satellite into orbit.

Author: Sarah Lewin
Source: space.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

As the world looks ahead to 2017, many astronomers and sky gazers are looking up, with a litany of space-related events and missions peppering the months ahead. We've chronicled a handful of the most exciting to circle on your calendar. Let's all hope for clear skies.

Comet 45P/HMP

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, discovered simultaneously in 1948 by Japanese astronomer Minoru Honda and Czechoslovakian astronomers Antonin Mrkos and Ludmila Pajdusakova, is a periodic comet that returns to the inner solar system every five years.While this is the same comet that put on a show to those with telescopes or strong binoculars on New Year's Eve 2016, the real time to catch this sungrazer is on its return trip back through the solar system. On Feb. 11, Comet 45P will make its closest approach to Earth, coming within 7.7 million miles and brightening to a predicted magnitude of +6. This is just on the edge of viewing with the naked eye. Look for it near the constellation Hercules just before dawn.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test

Sometime in the first half of 2017, SpaceX is expected to proceed with the inaugural launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket. Consisting of three Falcon 9 cores, this 27 engine rocket will (if successful) become the most powerful operational booster in the world. In addition to being able to lift more than 119,000 pounds into orbit, the Falcon Heavy is also expected to operate at one-third the cost of the next closest heavy booster.The launch of the Falcon Heavy will also hold special significance for the future of humanity's exploration of deep space, including a potential manned mission to Mars."Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the moon or Mars," the company states on its website.When SpaceX founder Elon Musk does announce the first launch date, you can bet it will quickly become one of the more nail-biting space-related events of 2017.

The Great American Eclipse

Total solar eclipse

On Aug. 21, the first total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous United States in more than three decades will dazzle from sea to shining sea. To see the moon fully pass in front of the sun, however, you'll need to be within a 75-mile wide band that stretches across the U.S. between Oregon and South Carolina. Those outside this special band will still witness quite a shot, as the sun takes on a crescent shape for between one to two minutes.The place to head to if you're really eager to embrace this event? Glendo, Wyoming. Never heard of it? That's not surprising, as the town is home to only 205 people. That population is expected to dramatically increase as Glendo's location is in the bulls-eye of the moon's shadow on Aug. 21. As a result, it will experience the totality of the solar eclipse for just under three minutes."Plan a trip to see this total solar eclipse," writes astronomer Dean Regas. "Call in sick to work. Play hooky from school. If you need an astronomer’s note, I can provide one. A total solar eclipse will be a sight you will never forget."

Saturn's rings on display

Saturn Cassini

For much of 2017, the planet Saturn will shine at its brightest since 2002. This is because its beautiful rings, which contribute greatly to its ability to be seen with the naked eye, will be "wide open," with Saturn's northern hemisphere tipped in our direction. In fact, the planet won't look this good again until at least 2030.The ringed planet will be at its brightest in the evening sky on June 15, when it makes its closest approach to Earth. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to view Saturn's rings and a few of its brightest moons.

China's moon mission

Chang'e 5 lander

In the fall of 2017, China will launch its new Chang’e 5 lander on a mission to land on the moon and return 4.5 pounds of lunar samples back to Earth. If successful, it would mark the first time in more than 40 years that a sample from the moon has been made available for scientific study."We are ready. Every lab is ready," chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan told reporters in October 2016. "Once the samples are back, we can begin our analysis right away."In addition to Chang’e 5, China is also planning a 2018 mission to make the first-ever soft-landing on the far side of the moon. The lander would include a 37-pound rover to explore the moon's surface and relay scientific data, pictures, and video back to China's mission control.

Geminid meteor shower

Campers take in the 2014 Geminids meteor shower.

While the Perseid meteor shower each August offers a fantastic opportunity to witness shooting stars, this year's event will unfortunately be washed out by a waning gibbous moon. Thankfully, with the holiday season in full swing, the Geminid meteor shower on Dec. 14 will pick up the slack. With the moon a waning crescent rising before dawn, the evening will be perfectly tuned to allow skygazers to spot as many as 100 meteors per hour.

Cassini crashes into Saturn

cassini spacecraft

On Sept. 17, the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn will make a dramatic death plunge into the planet. The maneuver, designed to prevent a future fuel-spent Cassini from crashing into (and potentially contaminating) two moons around Saturn thought to harbor life, will record unprecedented data on the ringed world."It’s inspiring, adventurous and romantic — a fitting end to this thrilling story of discovery," NASA writes.The dramatic finale will cap a mission by Cassini spanning more than 20 years in space. Discoveries, some of which we've profiled here, have included everything from landing a probe on the moon of Titan to spotting a giant hurricane spanning more than 1,200 miles in Saturn's atmosphere.

Source:  http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space/blogs/space-skywatching-events-2017

Categorized in Science & Tech

SpaceX has announced plans to launch over four thousand satellites into low-Earth orbit to provide the world with super-fast internet, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Earlier this week, Elon Musk's SpaceX company outlined plans to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create global broadband network by launching 4,425 satellites into space. The first deployment will entail 800 satellites, intended only for connectivity in the US. The global remainder will be launched at a later date. Currently, some 1,400 satellites orbit the Earth, in varying stages of usefulness and repair.

"With deployment of the first 800 satellites, the system will be able to provide US and international broadband connectivity; when fully deployed, the system will add capacity and availability at the equator and poles for truly global coverage," SpaceX said.

The company has not announced a concrete date for its initial launch, but mentioned 2019 as a possibility.

SpaceX broadband satellites will weigh 386 kg each, and be about the size of a small car, making them smaller than existing telecommunications orbital platforms. They will also have a shallower orbit and are expected to have a service life of five to ten years.

"The SpaceX non-geostationary orbit (‘NGSO') satellite system (the ‘SpaceX System') consists of a constellation of 4,425 satellites (plus in-orbit spares) operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km), as well as associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations and end user earth stations," SpaceX wrote in its FCC filing.

The company detailed that the orbiting broadband network will reduce signal latency and dramatically improve bandwidth.

"Once fully optimized through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1Gbps per user), low-latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the US and globally," SpaceX wrote. "Subject to additional development work, SpaceX plans to design and manufacture its own satellites, gateway earth stations, and user terminals." Home internet customers would receive a "low-profile user terminal that is easy to mount and operate on walls or roofs."

If the ambitious SpaceX plan is realized, it would expand high-speed internet coverage globally, and greatly improve internet in rural areas that need it most.

Author:  Tech

Source:  https://sputniknews.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

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