Posts Tagged Space

NANASA flinging Portal 2’s Wheatley into space, sort of

Wheatley, the adorably dumb and delightfully devious Space Core in Portal 2, is making a real-life trip to space. Kind of.

An anonymous tech at NASA got away with laser-engraving the above image of Wheatley with the quote “In spaaaaaaace!” on the Japanese HTV-3 resupply craft to the ISS. Wheatley and the craft are set to launch on Friday, July 27, at 10:06 EST. You can watch the launch beginning at 9:15 EST on Friday at the NASA TV website.

“NASA in no way officially endorses secretly laser-engraving characters from Portal onto their spacecraft,” the Portal 2 blog writes. “Believe it or not, they don’t even officially endorse Portal 2, despite the fact that it’s a really excellent game.” But someone (or some robot) at NASA obviously respects quality entertainment.

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SpaceX capsule docks at space station, opens new era

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and guided the privately owned craft into a docking berth on Friday, opening a new chapter in the U.S. space program.

The unmanned capsule was the first commercial spaceship to reach the orbital outpost.

“This really is the beginning of a new era in commercial spaceflight,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, who manages NASA’s commercial space transportation programs.

Using the station’s 58-foot long (17.7-meter) robotic crane, NASA astronaut Don Pettit snared Dragon at 9:56 a.m. EDT as the two spacecraft zoomed 250 miles over northwest Australia at 17,500 miles per hour.

““It looks like we’ve got us a dragon by the tail,” Pettit radioed to NASA Mission Control in Houston.

The capsule, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, is the first of two new commercial freighters NASA will use to ferry cargo to the $100 billion space station following the retirement of its space shuttles last year. Rather than building and flying its own ships to the station, the agency is hiring private companies to do the work.

The Dragon capsule is carrying about 1,200 pounds (544 kg) of food, water, clothing and supplies for the station crew, who were scheduled to open the hatch on Saturday.

The spaceship will be repacked with more than 1,300 pounds (590 kg) of equipment to come back to Earth and depart the station on May 31. It would splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California later that day.

“”As a country we should be very proud,” NASA’s space station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters after the station crew attached Dragon to the Harmony connecting node shortly after noon EDT.

“We’ve taken a capability that this agency has nurtured for many, many years and combined that with a different thought process in the design and development of spacecraft,” Suffredini said.

The United States plans to use a similar process to buy commercial flight services for its astronauts as well, breaking Russia’s monopoly on flying crews to the station.

“I don’t have words enough to express the level of excitement and elation that we feel here at SpaceX,” company founder and chief executive Elon Musk said after the docking.

“There’s just so much that could have gone wrong and it went right. It’s just a fantastic day,” he said.

Musk said he got a congratulatory call from President Barack Obama after Dragon reached orbit on its second and most likely final test flight. “Caller ID was blocked, so at first I thought it was a telemarketer,” Musk quipped in a Twitter message.

LASER GLITCH

The cone-shaped capsule blasted off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday.

After a successful pass by the station on Thursday to test its navigation and communications systems, Dragon proceeded at a snail’s pace on Friday, stopping, starting and occasionally retreating to make sure it could be controlled.

At one point, the SpaceX ground operations team in Hawthorne, California, halted Dragon to adjust the capsule’s laser imaging system, which it uses to see the station.

Sensors were picking up stray reflections from the station’s Japanese module, said NASA mission commentator Josh Byerly.

Dragon ended up using just one of its two laser imaging systems for the final approach to the station, a bit dicey because a failure would have triggered an automatic abort.

But one eye and a pair of thermal imagers was all Dragon needed to position itself 30 feet beneath the station and within arm’s reach of the robotic crane that would haul it up for berthing.

PRIVATE DELIVERIES

Dragon’s successful test flight will clear SpaceX to begin its 12-flight, $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly cargo to and from the station.

A second freighter being developed by Orbital Sciences Corp is expected to debut later this year. Orbital holds a second NASA cargo delivery contract worth $1.9 billion.

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to embrace similar partnership arrangement for commercial space taxis to fly astronauts as well.

Legislators last year halved Obama’s request for space taxi design work to $406 million. Proposed spending plans for the year beginning October 1 would cut the White House’s $830 million request to no more than $525 million.

The Dragon docking marked a major step for the budding role of private enterprise in space travel.

“I think this really is going to be recognized as a significantly historical step forward in space travel, so I hope we’re the first of many to come,” Musk told reporters.

Reuters

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Browser wars flare in mobile space

WASHINGTON: The browser wars are heating up again, but this time the fight is for dominance of the mobile Internet.

Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo! are all in the struggle, along with the Norwegian-made Opera browser and the open source Firefox software from Mozilla.

The motive behind the wars is not just bragging rights. The company that controls the mobile Web can direct users to its websites, and importantly, gather data that can be used in targeted advertising.

“The browsers need to be present on the mobile device for survival,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Opus Research.

“Everyone is trying to manage their strategy in this multiscreen and multiplatform world.”

Research firm StatCounter found that global access from mobile devices, not including tablets, doubled in the year to January to 8.5 percent of all Internet usage.

Google stepped up its effort earlier this year by releasing a full version of its Chrome browser for mobile devices, which will over time replace the unnamed browser on devices powered by Google’s open Android platform.

The Google-Android browser by April had grabbed 21.5 percent of the mobile Web, overtaking Opera, the early leader that had 21.3 percent, according to StatCounter.

“Chrome is definitely the up-and-comer because of Android, and it has a lot of momentum on the PC,” Sterling said.

Running third was Apple’s Safari, the default browser on iPhones, with 20 percent. Nokia, BlackBerry and a few others hold small shares.

When tablets are included, Apple is the dominant player with 63 percent, according to data from Net Applications’ NetMarketShare survey, but Android is gaining with nearly 19 percent.

The push by Google meshes with its strategy of gathering information about users across platforms, so that someone searching on a mobile device might get an ad on a PC, or vice-versa.

And Google just completed its $12.5 billion deal to buy mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility, freeing the California company to build its own handsets that play into the strengths of its software.

“Everybody wants to have that first point of contact with the user to control the experience from that point, capture certain data and direct them to services,” said Al Hilwa of the research firm IDC.

“It’s all about control, about who is further up on the stream of data.”

Meanwhile Microsoft, in its effort to get a share of the mobile space, is pushing its own Internet Explorer browser for devices running Windows, but critics say the software giant is limiting compatibility.

Mozilla’s Harvey Anderson complained in a blog post that Microsoft is limiting the “advanced” capabilities for outside software, effectively shutting out browsers like Firefox.

Anderson said Microsoft in its new Windows 8 devices was signaling “an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices.”

Yahoo! became the latest to boost its effort in the mobile space, introducing its Axis browser designed for mobile devices.

“It is meant to replace Safari,” Yahoo! product management director Ethan Batraski said of Axis. “You will never have to use Safari ever again.”

Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Capital who follows Google, said the Internet search giant will also introduce a version of Chrome for the Apple operating system.

Schachter said in a note to clients that Google benefits from Chrome by reducing the payments from “traffic acquisition costs” and that a Chrome browser for iPhones and iPads could “meaningfully” reduce what Google pays Apple.

But Apple can tweak its strategy without competing head-on against Google, Sterling said. He said Apple’s Siri voice assistant and its new maps software offer a type of search. And as tensions rise with Google, it could change the Safari search engine to Microsoft’s Bing, or another.

Analysts say it remains unclear to what degree device makers will try to block out competing browsers, and if this will trigger a government response. In the 1990s, Microsoft’s efforts to lock out competing browsers prompted actions on both sides of the Atlantic.

The battle for control of the mobile Web raises questions about Facebook, which is groping for a mobile strategy after a troubling response to its massive share offering.

One report said Facebook was eyeing Opera, which could solve some of the perceived problems for the social network giant by offering a platform to get better data on mobile usage for targeted advertising.

“It wouldn’t surprise me” if Facebook were to acquire or tie up with Opera or develop its own browser, Hilwa said.

Another player to watch, said Hilwa, is Amazon, which has developed its own browser for the Kindle Internet device — a move that can also steer users various services, earning cash along the way.

Hilwa said Amazon, like the others, is pursuing a strategy that includes hardware and software, but can also sell goods and services.

“They have content, they sell stuff, they have Web services,” he said. “They have a lot of assets and have been successful. I would watch them.”

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Browser wars flare in mobile space

WASHINGTON: The browser wars are heating up again, but this time the fight is for dominance of the mobile Internet.

Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo! are all in the struggle, along with the Norwegian-made Opera browser and the open source Firefox software from Mozilla.

The motive behind the wars is not just bragging rights. The company that controls the mobile Web can direct users to its websites, and importantly, gather data that can be used in targeted advertising.

“The browsers need to be present on the mobile device for survival,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Opus Research.

“Everyone is trying to manage their strategy in this multiscreen and multiplatform world.”

Research firm StatCounter found that global access from mobile devices, not including tablets, doubled in the year to January to 8.5 percent of all Internet usage.

Google stepped up its effort earlier this year by releasing a full version of its Chrome browser for mobile devices, which will over time replace the unnamed browser on devices powered by Google’s open Android platform.

The Google-Android browser by April had grabbed 21.5 percent of the mobile Web, overtaking Opera, the early leader that had 21.3 percent, according to StatCounter.

“Chrome is definitely the up-and-comer because of Android, and it has a lot of momentum on the PC,” Sterling said.

Running third was Apple’s Safari, the default browser on iPhones, with 20 percent. Nokia, BlackBerry and a few others hold small shares.

When tablets are included, Apple is the dominant player with 63 percent, according to data from Net Applications’ NetMarketShare survey, but Android is gaining with nearly 19 percent.

The push by Google meshes with its strategy of gathering information about users across platforms, so that someone searching on a mobile device might get an ad on a PC, or vice-versa.

And Google just completed its $12.5 billion deal to buy mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility, freeing the California company to build its own handsets that play into the strengths of its software.

“Everybody wants to have that first point of contact with the user to control the experience from that point, capture certain data and direct them to services,” said Al Hilwa of the research firm IDC.

“It’s all about control, about who is further up on the stream of data.”

Meanwhile Microsoft, in its effort to get a share of the mobile space, is pushing its own Internet Explorer browser for devices running Windows, but critics say the software giant is limiting compatibility.

Mozilla’s Harvey Anderson complained in a blog post that Microsoft is limiting the “advanced” capabilities for outside software, effectively shutting out browsers like Firefox.

Anderson said Microsoft in its new Windows 8 devices was signaling “an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices.”

Yahoo! became the latest to boost its effort in the mobile space, introducing its Axis browser designed for mobile devices.

“It is meant to replace Safari,” Yahoo! product management director Ethan Batraski said of Axis. “You will never have to use Safari ever again.”

Ben Schachter, an analyst at Macquarie Capital who follows Google, said the Internet search giant will also introduce a version of Chrome for the Apple operating system.

Schachter said in a note to clients that Google benefits from Chrome by reducing the payments from “traffic acquisition costs” and that a Chrome browser for iPhones and iPads could “meaningfully” reduce what Google pays Apple.

But Apple can tweak its strategy without competing head-on against Google, Sterling said. He said Apple’s Siri voice assistant and its new maps software offer a type of search. And as tensions rise with Google, it could change the Safari search engine to Microsoft’s Bing, or another.

Analysts say it remains unclear to what degree device makers will try to block out competing browsers, and if this will trigger a government response. In the 1990s, Microsoft’s efforts to lock out competing browsers prompted actions on both sides of the Atlantic.

The battle for control of the mobile Web raises questions about Facebook, which is groping for a mobile strategy after a troubling response to its massive share offering.

One report said Facebook was eyeing Opera, which could solve some of the perceived problems for the social network giant by offering a platform to get better data on mobile usage for targeted advertising.

“It wouldn’t surprise me” if Facebook were to acquire or tie up with Opera or develop its own browser, Hilwa said.

Another player to watch, said Hilwa, is Amazon, which has developed its own browser for the Kindle Internet device — a move that can also steer users various services, earning cash along the way.

Hilwa said Amazon, like the others, is pursuing a strategy that includes hardware and software, but can also sell goods and services.

“They have content, they sell stuff, they have Web services,” he said. “They have a lot of assets and have been successful. I would watch them.”

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