First Space Tourist Hotel Will Be In Orbit By 2030

 The International Space Station may have a wealth of private successors.

Blue Origin, Boeing, Sierra Space and several other partners has announced that they plan to build a commercial off-Earth outpost called Orbital Reef, which is scheduled to be up and running by the late 2020s.

Orbital Reef’s envisioned customers include national governments, private industry and space tourists, project team members said. The outpost will initially complement but eventually take the baton from the International Space Station(ISS), which is expected to be retired in the 2028 to 2030 timeframe.

“For over 60 years, NASA and other space agencies have developed orbital spaceflight and space habitation, setting us up for commercial business to take off in this decade,” Brent Sherwood, senior vice president of advanced development programs for Blue Origin, said in a statement today.

“We will expand access, lower the cost, and provide all the services and amenities needed to normalise spaceflight,” he added. “A vibrant business ecosystem will grow in low Earth orbit, generating new discoveries, new products, new entertainments and global awareness.”

Today’s announcement comes just four days after Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin unveiled plans for their own private station, called Starlab (see below). And Houston company Axiom Space had previously announced its intention to launch modules to the ISS beginning in 2024, then eventually detach them and operate them as a free-flying commercial outpost.

 Ensuring Disabled People Can Become Astronauts

 People with different types of disabilities recently tested their skills and technologies on a zero-gravity research flight with the goal of proving that they can safely go to space.

Eric Ingram typically moves through the world on his wheelchair. The 31-year-old chief executive of SCOUT Inc., a smart satellite components company, was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a rare condition that affects his joints and blocked him from his dream of becoming an astronaut. He applied and was rejected, twice.

But onboard a special airplane flight recently, he spun effortlessly through the air, touching nothing. Moving around, he found, was easier in the simulated zero-gravity environment where he needed so few tools to help.

While simulating lunar gravity on the flight — which is about one-sixth of Earth’s — he discovered something even more surprising: for the first time in his life, he could stand up.

Canadian Teenager Steals $16 Million In Cryptocurrency

 Some $16 million in cryptocurrency was pilfered in an exploit of a decentralized finance (DeFi) protocol last week, and the victims believe they know exactly who did it.

Despite threats from the team, however, the alleged attacker – a Canadian teenage graduate student – is refusing to return the funds, potentially setting the stage for a ground-breaking legal confrontation.

On one side of the conflict is a child math prodigy and an outspoken champion of DeFi’s self-regulating “code is law” ethos. On the other, a pair of DeFi developers and their advisers who felt forced to make an unprecedented series of troubling ethical choices on behalf of a DAO community.

At stake in the fight are a number of thorny issues that have so far been successfully obscured by DeFi’s explosive growth: What is the role of law enforcement in an unregulated $220 billion sector? When, if at all, should the gendarmes be summoned? And, most importantly, is the notion of “code is law” sufficient to grapple with all of DeFi’s ethical complexities?

First Space Private Lab To Be Launched In Six Years

Earth orbit may be a hive of commercial activity a few years from now.

Nanoracks, Voyager Space and Lockheed Martin has announced toda that they plan to get a free-flying private space station up and running in low Earth orbit (LEO) by 2027. The outpost, called Starlab, is envisioned to be a tourist destination as well as a research and manufacturing hub that helps foster the growth of an off-Earth economy.

“To meet U.S. government, international space agency and commercial needs in space, these industry leaders will develop Starlab specifically to enable the growing space economy and meet pent-up customer demand for space services such as materials research, plant growth and astronaut activity,” the three companies said in a press release.

The four-person Starlab station will be lofted in a single launch, which is expected to take place in 2027. The outpost will feature a habitat module with 12,000 cubic feet (340 cubic meters) of internal volume, a power and propulsion element, a laboratory setup and a large external robotic arm to service payloads and cargo, according to Nanoracks’ Starlab page.

For comparison, the International Space Station (ISS) has 32,333 cubic feet (916 cubic meters) of internal volume, which is equivalent to that of a Boeing 747 jet.

Starlab will have some competition for customers, if all goes according to plan. For example, Axiom Space intends to launch one private module to the ISS in 2024 and three more by the end of 2027, representatives of the Houston-based company told via email. That quartet will be capable of separating from the larger mothership and operating as a free-flying commercial space station.

Beyond Irony – Trump Founds Social Network “The Truth”

Former President Donald J. Trump said recently that he had lined up the investment money to create his own publicly traded media company, an attempt to reinsert himself in the public conversation online from which he has largely been absent since Twitter and Facebook banned him after the Jan. 6 insurrection. If finalised, the deal could give the new Trump company access to nearly $300 million in spending money.

In a statement announcing the new venture, Mr. Trump and his investors said that the new company would be called Trump Media & Technology Group and that they would create a new social network called Truth Social. Its purpose, according to the statement, is “to create a rival to the liberal media consortium and fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley.”

Since he left office and became the only American president to be impeached twice, Mr. Trump has had an active presence in conservative media. But he lacks the ability he once had to sway news cycles and dominate the national political debate. He filed a lawsuit this month asking Twitter to reinstate his account.

Tesla Withdraws “Full Self Driving” Autonomous Software A Week After Roll Out

 Tesla’s decision to test its “Full Self Driving” advanced driver assistance software with untrained vehicle owners on public roads has attracted scrutiny and criticism, and that was before this latest release.

Version 10.3 began rolling out on last weekend with a long list of release notes. The list mentions changes starting with introducing driver profiles that can swap between different characteristics for following distance, rolling stops, or exiting passing lanes. It’s supposed to better detect brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights from other vehicles, along with reduced false slowdowns and improved offsetting for pedestrians.

However, on Sunday afternoon Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla is “Seeing some issues with 10.3, so rolling back to 10.2 temporarily.”

(As always, to be clear: this software does not make Tesla’s cars fully autonomous. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has himself even said that he believes the “feature complete” version of the software his company calls “Full Self-Driving” will, at best, only be “likely” to drive someone from their home to work without human intervention and will still require supervision. That does not describe a fully autonomous car.)

While several drivers have already shared videos and impressions of their experience with the release — whether or not that aligns with what Tesla wants participants to share on social media — testers say that the rollback update removes the FSD beta capabilities from their cars entirely.

COP26 Likely To Fail Over Next Few Weeks

Some 200 countries will have representatives attending COP26: the two-week-long UN climate conference in Glasgow, starting October 31. It’s seen by many as the most important climate conference since 2015, with countries expected to set out how they will contribute to the global effort to keep temperature increases to well below two degrees Celsius.

If past COPs are anything to go by, you can expect the negotiations to be a bumpy road. Politicians have valid interests in their countries, including in some cases (though not always) in what they genuinely think is the best course for their citizens.

But some countries roll out the same frustrating tactics and positions year after year, delaying global climate action and putting us all in more danger. The following countries really have been a thorn in the side of progress in one area or another. So keep an ear out for these countries just ahead of mentions of “refuses”, “blocks” or “set a weak pledge” in news articles about COP26.

Nations most likely to hamper a binding solution include China, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Russia and even the USA.

 Brazil Is Deploying Facial Recognition Software – Worrying Regime’s Critics

 Mata de São João is a district in Brazil’s north-eastern state of Bahia. On a crisp winter’s morning in June in Mata de São João, fourth graders hopped off the bus onto the dusty track in front of João Pereira Vasconcelos school. It had been a long two-year break from the classroom due to Covid-19, but as the students filed in through the school’s run-down entrance, they received an unexpected welcome. Their school had become the latest test pilot for facial recognition cameras to control school attendance.

In April, João Gualberto, the district mayor, held an in-person auction letting Brazilian technology companies bid for a contract to supply facial recognition technology for the public school system in Mata de São João.

The 900,000 reais (about $162,000) tender was won by PontoiD, and in July, two public schools — João Pereira Vasconcelos and Celia Goulart de Freitas — began discreetly rolling out the facial recognition system, without informing parents or students in advance.

But critics of the regime are worried abouts the system’s potential for misuse.  Many commentators point out that face recognition systems are currently unreliable on identifying darker skins tones properly and they fear this will lead to many more miscarriages of justice in this strife-ridden nation.

 Loud “Dancing Grannies” Cause Annoyance On China’s Streets

 Across China’s public parks and squares, in the early hours of the morning or late in the afternoon, the grannies gather. The gangs, made up mostly of middle-aged and older women who went through the Cultural Revolution, take to a corner of a local park or sporting ground and dance in unison to Chinese music. Loud music.

The tradition has led to alarming standoffs, with the blaring music frequently blamed for disturbing the peace in often high-density residential areas. But many are too scared to confront the women.

The dilemma of the dancing grannies has prompted some to seek out tech solutions. One went viral online this week: a remote stun gun-style device that claims to be able to disable a speaker from 50 metres away.

London Police Press Ahead With More CCTV To Examine “Cold Cases”

 The UK’s biggest police force is set to significantly expand its facial recognition capabilities before the end of this year. New technology will enable London’s Metropolitan Police to process historic images from CCTV feeds, social media and other sources in a bid to track down suspects. But critics warn the technology has “eye-watering possibilities for abuse” and may entrench discriminatory policing.

In a little-publicised decision made at the end of August, the Mayor of London’s office approved a proposal allowing the Met to boost its surveillance technology. The proposal says that in the coming months the Met will start using Retrospective Facial Recognition (RFR), as part of a £3 million, four-year deal with Japanese tech firm NEC Corporation. The system examines images of people obtained by the police before comparing them against the force’s internal image database to try and find a match.

“Those deploying it can in effect turn back the clock to see who you are, where you’ve been, what you have done and with whom, over many months or even years,” says Ella Jakubowska, policy advisor at European Digital Rights, an advocacy group. Jakubowska says the technology can “suppress people’s free expression, assembly and ability to live without fear”.