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Jeff Bezos to go into space on first crewed flight of New Shepard rocket | Jeff Bezos

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Jeff Bezos will no longer be the richest person on Earth on 20 July because the Amazon founder will be blasting off into space on the first crewed flight of his New Shepard rocket ship.

Joining Bezos on the flight will be his younger brother, Mark, a former advertising executive and volunteer firefighter. The third member of the crew is being decided by a charity auction, with the seat currently priced at $2.8m (£2m) five days ahead of the deadline for bids.

“You see the Earth from space, it changes you,” Jeff Bezos said in a video announcing his plan. “It changes your relationship with this planet, with humanity. It’s one Earth. I want to go on this flight because it’s the thing I’ve wanted to do all my life. It’s an adventure. It’s a big deal for me.”

“I wasn’t even expecting him to say that he was going on the first flight,” Mark Bezos added. “And then when he asked me to go along, I was just awestruck. What a remarkable opportunity, not only to have this adventure, but to be able to do it with my best friend.”

The flight will take just minutes from start to finish, with three minutes of weightlessness as the crewed capsule brushes over an altitude of 100km, known as the Kármán line, the formal beginning for space. The booster rocket will land autonomously seven minutes after liftoff, and the crew capsule will float to earth on parachutes three minutes after that, with a planned touchdown in the West Texas desert.

Blue Origin, the spaceflight company Bezos founded in 2000, began testing its New Shepard vehicle in 2015. The system is named after Alan Shepard, the second person, and first American, in space, and the flight is timed to mark the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

With massive windows to give an unparalleled view of Earth and comfortable seating for up to six people, New Shepard is explicitly designed to serve the space tourism market, and after Bezos’s inaugural flight, seats on future trips will be made available to the general public for an undisclosed price.

The system, comprising a single-stage rocket and crewed capsule, has carried out more than a dozen successful uncrewed tests so far, with the most recent April test flight a full dress rehearsal for next month’s launch.

Despite being first to be formally founded, Blue Origin has long sat in the shadow of Elon Musk’s spaceflight company, SpaceX. Both businesses have focused their research efforts on reducing the cost of launches, with their approaches converging on the idea of reusable booster rockets. But where Blue Origin decided to serve the space tourism market first, SpaceX began by offering cargo services to Nasa and other organisations that needed to place satellites in orbit.

Musk’s company made its own first crewed launch in May 2020, sending two Nasa astronauts to orbit on the International Space Station (ISS). That flight, the first crewed launch from American soil since the final space shuttle mission returned in 2011, was also the first private flight to bring astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX has announced plans to bring space tourists into orbit “between late 2021 and mid-2022” in partnership with a company called Space Adventures. A seat on one of those flights is expected to cost slightly less than $50m (£35m).



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France hails victory as Facebook agrees to pay newspapers for content | France

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France has hailed a victory in its long-running quest for fairer action from tech companies after Facebook reached an agreement with a group of national and regional newspapers to pay for content shared by its users.

Facebook on Thursday announced a licensing agreement with the APIG alliance of French national and regional newspapers, which includes Le Parisien and Ouest-France as well as smaller titles. It said this meant “people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected”.

France had been battling for two years to protect the publishing rights and revenue of its press and news agencies against what it termed the domination of powerful tech companies that share news content or show news stories in web searches.

In 2019 France became the first EU country to enact a directive on the publishing rights of media companies and news agencies, called “neighbouring rights”, which required large tech platforms to open talks with publishers seeking remuneration for use of news content. But it has taken long negotiations to reach agreements on paying publishers for content.

No detail was given of the exact amount agreed by Facebook and the APIG.

Pierre Louette, the head of the media group Les Echos-Le Parisien, led the alliance of newspapers who negotiated as a group with Facebook. He said the agreement was “the result of an outspoken and fruitful dialogue between publishers and a leading digital platform”. He said the terms agreed would allow Facebook to implement French law “while generating significant funding” for news publishers, notably the smallest ones.

Other newspapers, such as the national daily Le Monde, have negotiated their own deals in recent months. News agencies have also negotiated separately.

After the 2019 French directive to protect publishers’ rights, a copyright spat raged for more than a year in which French media groups sought to find common ground with international tech firms. Google initially refused to comply, saying media groups already benefited by receiving millions of visits to their websites. News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions complained about not receiving a cut of the millions made from ads displayed alongside news stories, particularly on Google.

But this year Google announced it had reached a draft agreement with the APIG to pay publishers for a selection of content shown in its searches.

Facebook said that besides paying for French content, it would also launch a French news service, Facebook News, in January – a follow-up to similar services in the US and UK – to “give people a dedicated space to access content from trusted and reputable news sources”.

Facebook reached deals with most of Australia’s largest media companies earlier this year. Nine Entertainment, which includes the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, said in its annual report that it was expecting “strong growth in the short-term” from its deals with Facebook and Google.

British newspapers including the Guardian signed up last year to a programme in which Facebook pays to license articles that appear on a dedicated news section on the social media site. Separately, in July Guardian Australia struck a deal with Facebook to license news content.

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Flight Simulator says Windows 11 has been downloaded on Xbox • The Register

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule, designed to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, will not fly until the first half of next year at the earliest, as the manufacturing giant continues to tackle an issue with the spacecraft’s valves.

Things have not gone smoothly for Boeing. Its Starliner program has suffered numerous setbacks and delays. Just in August, a second unmanned test flight was scrapped after 13 of 24 valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system jammed. In a briefing this week, Michelle Parker, chief engineer of space and launch at Boeing, shed more light on the errant components.

Boeing believes the valves malfunctioned due to weather issues, we were told. Florida, home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center where the Starliner is being assembled and tested, is known for hot, humid summers. Parker explained that the chemicals from the spacecraft’s oxidizer reacted with water condensation inside the valves to form nitric acid. The acidity corroded the valves, causing them to stick.

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NUI Galway part of global team that detected giant collision in space

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The joint study between NUI Galway, MIT and Cambridge used the ALMA telescope to provide a ‘window to the composition of young planets’.

An astronomer from NUI Galway is part of an international team that for the first time found evidence of a planet’s atmosphere being stripped away by a giant collision in a nearby star system.

At just 95 light years from Earth, the young star named HD172555 was witness to a massive collision between two newly-formed planets in its planetary system which are estimated to be about the size of Earth.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile, the joint study between NUI Galway, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Cambridge University, studied the collision and unexpectedly detected a ring of carbon monoxide gas in the dust produced.

“This, for the first time, indicates that impacts can release large amounts of gas as well as dust, and that this gas can survive long enough to be detected,” said Dr Luca Matrà, an advisor for the study and lecturer at NUI Galway’s Centre for Astronomy.

Based on the amount of gas detected, the team was able to estimate that the size of the impact was likely massive and dated it to around 200,000 years ago. “This has the potential to revolutionise our understanding and observability of giant impacts,” Matrà added.

‘Window to composition of planets’

Findings of the study were published yesterday (20 October) in the journal Nature. It solves years of mystery around the unusual composition of dust observed by scientists in the region – indicating the aftermath of a planetary impact like the one that led to the formation of the moon.

The ALMA observatory used for the study consists of 66 radio telescopes working in unison. Ireland gained access to it after joining the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in 2018. In July, it was used in a study to understand how moons are formed.

Carbon monoxide gas was found orbiting in large amounts in the outer terrestrial planet region of the solar system. Matrà said that the amount of gas discovered is 10 to 20pc of the mass of Venus’ atmosphere, which “goes on to show the incredible sensitivity of the obersvations”.

“This puts forward gas observations as a viable detection method of terrestrial planet-forming collisions, and as a window to the composition of young planets,” she said.

Lead author Tajana Schneiderman of MIT said that this the first time scientists have detected the phenomenon of protoplanetary atmosphere being stripped away in a giant impact.

“Everyone is interested in observing a giant impact because we expect them to be common, but we don’t have evidence in a lot of systems for it. Now we have additional insight into these dynamics.”

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