With Midnight Splashdown SpaceX Brings 4 Astronauts Home

On Friday, four astronauts were brought home by SpaceX with a midnight splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.

The crew consisted of three U.S. astronauts and one German. Within 24 hours of leaving the International Space Station, they were bogging off the coast of Florida near Tampa. NASA demanded them back in Houston later in the morning.

Before saying their goodbyes to the seven astronauts remaining aboard the station, NASA’s Raja Chari, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, NASA’s Kayla Barron and ESA’s Matthias Maurer embraced each other. Mr Maurer said, “It’s the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on”. Following a charter flight to the station for three businessmen, SpaceX brought up their American and Italian replacements last week.

After decades of resistance, the newly returned astronauts said the three visitors and an ex-astronaut escort who visited the station in April were a highlight of their mission.

Two crew launches and two splashdowns within a month. In less than two years since Musk started ferrying NASA astronauts, his company has launched 26 people into orbit. Among them, eight were space tourists.

There are three Russians, three Americans and one Italian up on the space station.

Biden’s Administration To Spend $3 Billion on EV Battery Manufacturing

On Monday, the US government allocated more than $3 billion in infrastructure funding to finance electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing. The US Department of Energy will allocate these funds from the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that was signed by President Biden last year.

By 2030, Biden wants half of all new vehicles to be electronic, with an aim to boost unionized manufacturing jobs in important election battleground states, fend off Chinese competition in a fast-growing market, and cut climate-changing carbon emissions. Moreover, the administration is positioning the measures as a means to cut the long-term inflation pressures caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

However, these funds will not be used to develop new domestic mines to supply lithium, nickel, cobalt and other high-demand minerals needed for batteries. To support the mining and processing of those minerals, Biden invoked the Cold War-era Defense Production Act in March.

Biden’s national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said, “These resources are about battery supply chain, which includes producing, recycling critical minerals without new extraction or mining”.

These fundings are said to help establish and retrofit battery factories. Additionally, the infrastructure law allocates billions of dollars to purchase electric buses and install chargers for electric vehicles.

Singaporean wins $100k prize in Al model challenge to detect deepfakes

On Friday, a Singaporean Research scientist Wang Weimin wins a $100 k prize in a challenge to develop the best artificial intelligence (AI) model for detecting Deepfakes or digitally altered video clips.

Deepfake technology uses artificial intelligence to simulate the likeness and voice of another person by generating highly realistic images and audio. In addition to creating entertainment content and Internet memes, it has also been used to disseminate misinformation.

In a five-month challenge, Wang’s model was 98.53 per cent accurate and beat 469 other teams around the world. The model could differentiate genuine video clips from those manipulated faces, voices, or both.

During the Trusted Media Challenge organized by AI Singapore, a national AI Programme office under the National Research Foundation, Wang, a graduate of the National University of Singapore, received first place and a prize of $100,000.

Wang, who works for ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok, was also offered a $300,000 grant to commercialize his invention. However, he refused and plans to incorporate his AI model into his company’s BytePlus platform and provide Deepfake detection as a service to its clients.

He said, “Good or bad, Deepfake is an emerging technology that you simply can’t ignore”.

UBC Develops A Silver-Based Coating To Keep Medical Device Implants Free From Bacteria

Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute developed a novel silver-based coating for implants that can reduce infection caused in patients sometimes.

The silver coating can be applied to devices like stents or catheters and is described as a “silver bullet”. The term is used to address the problem of bacteria caused for patients with medical device implants that often complicate conditions.

Professor at UBC’s Department of Pathology and laboratory medicine, Dr Kizhakkedathu said, “This is a highly effective coating that won’t harm human tissues and could potentially eliminate the implant-associated infection. It could be very cost-effective and could also be applicable to many different products”.

According to the study, silver has been proven as an effective antimicrobial and its use in implants and medical devices can be toxic. A study outlining the development was published last week by the journal ACS Central Science in which Dr Kizhakkedathi is also a co-senior author. It was discovered that the coating and its related technology eliminated such issues and honed a new way to prevent bacteria from adhering to devices and killing them.

Four astronauts launched for NASA by SpaceX after a private flight

On Wednesday, four astronauts were launched by SpaceX to the International Space Station from NASA in less than two days of completing a flight chartered by millionaires.

It was expected that astronauts would reach the space station on Wednesday night, 16 hours after the predawn launch from Kennedy Space Center that thrilled spectators.

NASA’s space operations mission chief Kathy Lueders said, “This is one of the most diversified, I think, crews that we’ve had in a really, really long time. Anyone who saw it realized what a beautiful launch it was”.

Jessica Watkins became the first black woman to be part of the first NASA crew comprising equally of men and women in the long-term spaceflight. In two years span, SpaceX has launched five crews for NASA and two private trips.

SpaceX and NASA officials said they’re taking it one step at a time to ensure safety. High winds delayed Monday’s splashdown, however, according to them, the private mission had no major problems.

The company is having busy weeks as it has just finished taking three businessmen to and from the space station as NASA’s first private guests. The three Americans and German will return to Earth in their own SpaceX capsule one week after the new crew arrives. The space station also houses three Russians.

Elon Musk To Acquire Twitter for $44 Billion

On Monday, the social media giant “Twitter” confirmed its sale to the Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk. With the deal to shut on $44 billion to be completed by this year, Twitter will become a privately held company.

Musk Tweeted, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spambots, and authenticating all humans”.

The CEO of Twitter Parag Agrawal said in a tweet that Twitter has a purpose and relevance that impacts the entire world and he is deeply proud of his team and is inspired by the work that has never been more important. Agrawal became Twitter’s new CEO nearly five months after founder and CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down from his post.

It comes nearly three months after Musk began buying Twitter shares, increasing his stake from 5% to more than 9% and signalling that he wanted to control the social media platform. Post announcement on Monday, the Twitters share rose more than 5% in afternoon trading.

Bharti-backed OneWeb Inks Pact With ISRO Commercial Arm For Global Net Connectivity

On Thursday, Bharti Group-backed Satcom company OneWeb inks a pact with ISRO’s commercial arm New Space India Limited (NSIL) to boost satellite-based internet service.

The launch is aimed to build a global network to provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity to “everyone, everywhere”. As a result of the subsequent launches, OneWeb will now have 428 satellites orbiting in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) which is 66% of the planned fleet.

The pact was signed to complete its satellite launch programme to provide global internet connectivity. The first launch with NSIL is scheduled this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb said, “This is yet another historic day for collaboration in space, thanks to the shared ambition and vision of New Space India and OneWeb. This most recent agreement on launch plans adds considerable momentum to the development of OneWeb’s network, as we work together across the space industry towards our common goal of connecting communities globally”.

As per OneWeb, they are remaining on track for developing their satellite constellation network and delivering industry-grade secure connectivity. The company had earlier decided to suspend all launches from Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan scheduled in March.

SpaceX to launch Crew-4 mission to International Space Station on April 23

NASA will launch the Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than April 23. It released a statement, “NASA and SpaceX now are targeting no earlier than 5:26 a.m. EDT [9:26 a.m. GMT] Saturday, April 23, for the launch of the agency’s Crew-4 mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida”.

The crew will consist of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins along with European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. It will head to the ISS on the Falcon 9 rocket bearing the Crew Dragon capsule.

According to the released statement, the date will give agencies time to complete the final preparation before of prelaunch for the Crew-4 mission post-launch of the Axiom Mission 1 to the ISS on April 8.

On Friday, NASA will conduct a review on flight readiness that will focus on the preparation of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, the ISS and its international partners supporting the flight.

In case the launch is delayed, the crew can avail of the option to launch on April 24 and April 25 as well.

The First Private Space Mission Ready For Launch

The International Space Station (ISS) will be busier than usual this week when four new crew from Houston-based startup Axiom Space take to the skies. They will be the first all-private astronaut team to visit the orbiting outpost.

A spokesperson for Axiom said on Monday that SpaceX would have more time to complete prelaunch processing work after the launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday.

Several industry players are hailing the launch as a turning point in the latest expansion of commercial space ventures known collectively as the low-Earth orbit economy, or LEO economy for short.

On Friday, if weather permits, Axion’s four-man team will lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be riding atop a Falcon 9 rocket created by Elon Mush’s commercial space launch venture SpaceX.

As SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule docks at the International Space Station some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, the group led by retired astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria will arrive at the space station about 28 hours later.

Alegria is set to be joined by Larry Connor, a real estate and technology entrepreneur and aerobatics aviator. He is a designated mission pilot from Ohio.

The Artemis I moon mission is launched by NASA

On Thursday, in Kennedy space centre, Florida, the massive 322-foot-tall (98 meters) stack along with NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft rolled out for its debut.

The Artemis I mission moves a step closer to its lunar launch which officially began at 5:47 p.m. On Thursday afternoon, a mobile launcher carrying the integrated stack began a slow climb to launch position.

It took almost 11 hours to cover the 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) from the assembly building to the launchpad on one of the giant NASA crawlers of the Apollo era. On Friday, the stack reached the pad at 4:15 a.m. local time.

Kennedy Space Center director, Janet Petro said, “Every single vehicle that has carried humans beyond the bounds of the low-Earth orbit has undergone integration and testing in that Vehicle Assembly Building, crawled down this roadway and launched right here from the Kennedy Space Center”.

As the stack emerged from the building, it became the first lunar rocket to leave since Apollo 17 in 1972, or 50 years ago and the last time anyone set foot on the moon.