NASA’s 47-year-old Voyager 1 probe is back in action after months of technical issues

NASA engineers have managed to get the long-running Voyager 1 space probe fully back in working order after some seven months of technical difficulties. In November 2023, the spacecraft — which is more than 15 billion miles from Earth — started sending back strange, unreadable data, and the team has been working ever since to get to the root of the issue. While Voyager 1 seemed to be receiving and executing commands just fine, none of the science and engineering data it sent home made sense.

In April, the team traced the problem to some corrupted memory in the probe’s flight data subsystem (FDS) computer and was later able to get two of its instruments sending science data again. Now, all four of Voyager 1’s instruments are back to sending readable data, NASA says. Voyager 1 launched in 1977, so the fact that it’s still going in any capacity is incredible. But now, it can resume its duties directly studying interstellar space.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasas-47-year-old-voyager-1-probe-is-back-in-action-after-months-of-technical-issues-192057182.html?src=rss

Boeing’s Starliner overcomes last-second problems to dock with the ISS

Boeing’s Starliner has successfully docked with the ISS — but not without some last-minute problems. The company’s first crewed test flight to the space station linked up at 1:34 PM ET after missing its first shot due to several thrusters malfunctioning. Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams plan to spend the next eight days onboard the ISS before returning to Earth.

The capsule docked with the ISS in an orbit about 260 miles over the Indian Ocean. The pair is now circling the planet at around 17,500 mph.

“Nice to be attached to the big city in the sky,” Wilmore spoke over comms to mission control in Houston after the successful docking. The capsule carries 760 pounds of cargo, including about 300 pounds of food and other supplies requested by the four US astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts onboard.

View from the ISS of the Boeing Starliner capsule approaching. Clouded Earth seen behind it.
NASA TV

Initially scheduled for 12:15 PM ET, the link-up was delayed after five of Starliner’s 28 reaction control thrusters went down. Several were lost due to a helium propulsion leak. NASA and Boeing concluded that the loss didn’t compromise the mission, and Wilmore and Williams restarted three of them, providing enough redundancy to move forward.

On Wednesday, a small helium leak was detected during liftoff and ascent. Later, two more leaks appeared.

The problems are emblematic of Boeing’s struggles to get its capsules certified for regular flights. Various problems and delays, including orbital flight test issues, valve problems, software glitches and a bum parachute system, have plagued Starliner. Boeing's rival, SpaceX, reached the ISS for the first time in 2020, approximately when this Starliner mission was originally slated to launch.

Boeing is seeking NASA certification to join SpaceX as a regular ride to the ISS. The government agency wanted to have multiple private-sector ferries make routine trips to the space station. Despite Boeing’s troubles, it may get there in the end.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/boeings-starliner-overcomes-last-second-problems-to-dock-with-the-iss-194801249.html?src=rss

The Morning After: Humane’s AI pin is hot (not in a good way)

Remember Humane’s AI pin that was hyped as the next big thing right up until people used it? Turns out being an unusable piece of tat wasn’t the only thing wrong with it: Humane has now advised users its charging case may pose a fire risk. There are other less flammable ways to re-juice your unit, with the fault limited to a single component. But, even so, it’s not a good look for a company that already has plenty of eggs on its virtual face.

— Dan Cooper

Panasonic has revealed the followup to the popular Lumix GH6 vlogging camera

HBO’s The Last of Us season two will only be seven episodes long

Ex-Meta engineer sues company, claiming he was fired over handling of Palestine content

Australia ends legal fight for X to remove violent stabbing video

AI workers demand stronger whistleblower protections in open letter

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Image of starliner on the pad.
Boeing

Starliner has successfully completed its first crewed launch on the back of an Atlas V rocket, nearly a month after originally planned. The vessel is now on course to dock with the ISS with two crew members and 760 pounds of cargo, where it will stay for the next eight days. After so many false starts, let’s hope Starliner can finally start delivering on the promises made all those years ago.

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YouTube has altered its policies on weapon-related videos to ban content for users under 18. Similarly, it’s banning clips detailing how to remove safety devices for all ages from June 18. The move comes a full year after a watchdog group found YouTube was recommending gun content to “child” accounts.

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Samsung
Samsung

Robin Williams once said [a certain substance best inhaled through the nose] is God’s way of telling you you’re making too much money. To that list, we can add Samsung’s brand new MicroLED TVs, which start at $110,000 and run all the way to $150,000. Just imagine what your local homeless shelter could do with that sort of money.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-morning-after-humanes-ai-pin-is-hot-not-in-a-good-way-111527573.html?src=rss

Boeing’s first crewed Starliner mission is finally heading to the ISS

Boeing's first Starliner flight with a human crew onboard has successfully blasted off to space on top of United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, almost a month after it was originally scheduled to launch. NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams entered the Starliner capsule and completed necessary checks by 10:08AM ET. Less than 30 minutes after the astronauts entered the capsule, the CEO ULA tweeted that the company was "working an issue with topping valves on the ground side" and that it was running the fix through its Software Integration Lab (SIL) before it's executed. In the end, ULA was able to implement a workaround, and the spacecraft lifted off at 10:52am ET. 

Back on May 6, the companies scrubbed the flight two hours after it was originally scheduled to launch after their ground teams detected "anomalous behavior by the pressure regulation valve in the liquid oxygen tank of the Centaur upper stage of the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle." The valve was replaced and the Starliner teams were ready to make another launch attempt when they encountered another issue: They found a "small helium leak" in the spacecraft's service module. 

NASA and Boeing had to push back Starliner's launch date in order to investigate the leak and figure out how it would affect the flight. They eventually determined that it didn't pose a threat to the mission's safety, so they scheduled a launch attempt for June 1. Last week's launch was also scrubbed last minute due to the "computer ground launch sequencer not loading into the correct operational configuration after proceeding into terminal count."

Aside from the NASA astronauts, Starliner flew with 760 pounds of cargo, including 300 pounds of food and other supplies requested by the crew that's currently onboard the International Space Station. Wilmore and Williams will spend eight days on the ISS conducting tests to help determine whether the Starliner is ready for regular flights to the orbiting laboratory. NASA said that if the mission is completed successfully, it will begin the final process of "certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/boeings-first-crewed-starliner-mission-is-finally-heading-to-the-iss-151053557.html?src=rss

Billionaire space tourist cancels lunar flight amid changing SpaceX priorities

Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire who signed up for a lunar orbit flight aboard SpaceX's Starship back in 2018, has cancelled his trip. The reason, he said in a series of posts on X, is that Starship is still in development and the "dearMoon" launch may not occur until well into the 2030s.

"I signed the contract in 2018 based on the assumption that dearMoon would launch by the end of 2023," he wrote. "It’s a developmental project so it is what it is, but it is still uncertain as to when Starship can launch. I can't plan my future in this situation, and I feel terrible making the crew members wait longer. I apologize to those who were excited for this project to happen."

Maezawa announced the dearMoon project with Elon Musk at SpaceX's Hawthorne factory in 2018. He reportedly paid the company in the order of low nine figures to help fund it and later selected eight other companions for the trip, including artists, photographers, YouTubers and a member of a Korean boy band.

However, Starship development was slower than expected, as has been the case with nearly every rocket development program ever. The first test flight was just a year ago, and the first fully successful launch (with the vehicle remaining intact) only took place a few months ago. The next flight is set to launch as early as June 5. 

In addition, SpaceX's priorities changed drastically when NASA selected Starship for its Artemis program. That forced the company to deprioritize dearMoon, which meant it was not likely to take place until the early 2030s. Maezawa's net worth as also dropped since the 2018 announcement, as Ars Technica noted. On top of all that, the billionaire has already gone to space, having spent 12 days aboard the International Space Station.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/billionaire-space-tourist-cancels-lunar-flight-amid-changing-spacex-priorities-120043594.html?src=rss

Boeing’s Starliner has two more chances this week to make its first crewed flight

After yesterday’s launch of the first crewed Starliner mission was scrubbed, NASA, Boeing and ULA made the decision to wait a few days before making another attempt. Starliner was scheduled to finally lift off on Saturday afternoon after a series of delays, but this attempt was aborted due to a last-minute issue with a ground computer system that plays a key role in launching the rocket. While NASA and partners discussed possibly flying today following their assessment of the issue, they’ve decided to hold off until the next opportunities, either on June 5 or 6.

Saturday’s launch wasn’t scrubbed due to a problem with the Starliner craft itself, but because an automatic hold was issued by the ground launch sequencer for a then-unknown reason. In a press conference later on Saturday, Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA explained that it came down to a problem in verifying the launch sequencer’s redundancy. There are three large computers in this system, all of which are the same so it’s “triple redundant,” Bruno said. During the system health check in the minutes before launch, one of the computers came up slow, triggering an automatic hold.

NASA said the decision to forgo today’s launch attempt was made in order to “give the team additional time to assess a ground support equipment issue.” The launch window opens again on June 5, but no target liftoff time has been announced just yet. If Starliner doesn’t fly by June 6, it’ll be set back by at least another 10 days, ArsTechnica reports, as the ULA team will need to swap out the Atlas V rocket’s batteries.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/boeings-starliner-has-two-more-chances-this-week-to-make-its-first-crewed-flight-184739763.html?src=rss

Starliner’s first crewed flight gets scrubbed just before launch

The first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has once again been called off, this time after an automatic hold was issued by the ground launch sequencer less than four minutes before liftoff. As a launch commentator explained during NASA’s livestream, the ground launch sequencer is the computer that takes over the terminal count and essentially launches the rocket. “The reason for that hold is not known at this time,” he said. Starliner’s next chance to fly is tomorrow at 12:03PM ET, but whether it does will depend on the outcome of the team’s investigation into today’s issue.

In a brief update, NASA said the launch was scrubbed “due to the computer ground launch sequencer not loading into the correct operational configuration after proceeding into terminal count.” Why this happened, though, remains unclear. “The ULA team is working to understand the cause,” NASA said. 

It's been delay after delay for Starliner, which was initially supposed to take its first flight with astronauts on board back on May 6. If it can't launch on Sunday, it'll have other opportunities on June 5 and June 6. The mission, in which the craft will deliver astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the International Space Station for a brief stay before bringing them back home, is meant to validate Starliner as a viable crew transportation system.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/starliners-first-crewed-flight-gets-scrubbed-just-before-launch-171045016.html?src=rss

NASA’S James Webb Space Telescope has found the most distant galaxy ever observed

The hits keep on coming with NASA’S James Webb Space Telescope. According to the space agency, the JWST just found the most distant known galaxy ever. The catchily-named JADES-GS-z14-0 galaxy is said to have formed just 290 million years after the big bang, but it features some unique properties that are at odds with that notion.

The galaxy is incredibly large, at 1,600 light years across. It’s also very bright and features an unusual amount of starlight, given how soon it formed after the big bang. This has led researchers Stefano Carniani and Kevin Hainline to ask “how can nature make such a bright, massive, and large galaxy in less than 300 million years?” In cosmic time, that’s barely a blip.

The wavelengths of light emitted from JADES-GS-z14-0, as spotted by the JWST’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), indicate the presence of strong ionized gas emissions, likely from an abundance of hydrogen and oxygen. This is also weird, as oxygen is not typically present early in the life of a galaxy. This suggests that “multiple generations of very massive stars had already lived their lives before we observed the galaxy.”

A chart of light wavelengths.
NASA

As always with distant space stuff, we are actually looking at the past, due to the speed of light, so that means that the galaxy spawned those multiple generations of massive stars in under 290 million years. Stars “only” take around ten million years to form, but can take up to 20 billion years to die. However, ultra-massive stars typically have decreased lifespans. So this finding doesn’t exactly rewrite our understanding of the cosmos, but does certainly call into question the nature of star formation in the early life of the universe.

“All of these observations, together, tell us that JADES-GS-z14-0 is not like the types of galaxies that have been predicted by theoretical models and computer simulations to exist in the very early universe,” the researchers told NASA. “It is likely that astronomers will find many such luminous galaxies, possibly at even earlier times, over the next decade with Webb.”

The Webb telescope has made a habit out of redefining our understanding of the cosmos. It has shown us stars being born in the Virgo constellation, found water for the first time orbiting a comet and discovered carbon dioxide on a distant exoplanet, which was a first. All of this has been done in under two years of operation, so who knows what the future will bring.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasas-james-webb-space-telescope-has-found-the-most-distant-galaxy-ever-observed-185833121.html?src=rss

NASA’S James Webb Space Telescope has found the most distant galaxy ever observed

The hits keep on coming with NASA’S James Webb Space Telescope. According to the space agency, the JWST just found the most distant known galaxy ever. The catchily-named JADES-GS-z14-0 galaxy is said to have formed just 290 million years after the big bang, but it features some unique properties that are at odds with that notion.

The galaxy is incredibly large, at 1,600 light years across. It’s also very bright and features an unusual amount of starlight, given how soon it formed after the big bang. This has led researchers Stefano Carniani and Kevin Hainline to ask “how can nature make such a bright, massive, and large galaxy in less than 300 million years?” In cosmic time, that’s barely a blip.

The wavelengths of light emitted from JADES-GS-z14-0, as spotted by the JWST’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument), indicate the presence of strong ionized gas emissions, likely from an abundance of hydrogen and oxygen. This is also weird, as oxygen is not typically present early in the life of a galaxy. This suggests that “multiple generations of very massive stars had already lived their lives before we observed the galaxy.”

A chart of light wavelengths.
NASA

As always with distant space stuff, we are actually looking at the past, due to the speed of light, so that means that the galaxy spawned those multiple generations of massive stars in under 290 million years. Stars “only” take around ten million years to form, but can take up to 20 billion years to die. However, ultra-massive stars typically have decreased lifespans. So this finding doesn’t exactly rewrite our understanding of the cosmos, but does certainly call into question the nature of star formation in the early life of the universe.

“All of these observations, together, tell us that JADES-GS-z14-0 is not like the types of galaxies that have been predicted by theoretical models and computer simulations to exist in the very early universe,” the researchers told NASA. “It is likely that astronomers will find many such luminous galaxies, possibly at even earlier times, over the next decade with Webb.”

The Webb telescope has made a habit out of redefining our understanding of the cosmos. It has shown us stars being born in the Virgo constellation, found water for the first time orbiting a comet and discovered carbon dioxide on a distant exoplanet, which was a first. All of this has been done in under two years of operation, so who knows what the future will bring.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasas-james-webb-space-telescope-has-found-the-most-distant-galaxy-ever-observed-185833121.html?src=rss

New research places the sun’s magnetic field close to the surface, upending decades of theories

New research indicates the sun’s magnetic field originates close to the surface and not deep within the star, according to findings published in the journal Nature. This upends decades of prevailing scientific thought that placed the field more than 130,000 miles below the surface of the sun. It also brings us closer to understanding the nature of the sun’s magnetic field, which has been on scientist’s minds since Galileo.

The study, led by Northwestern University and a team of international researchers, suggests that the magnetic field actually generates 20,000 miles below the surface. This was discovered after the team ran a series of complex calculations on a NASA supercomputer. It’s worth noting that these are just initial findings and more research is required to confirm the data.

The sun’s magnetic field fluctuates in a cycle that lasts 11 years. During the strongest part of this cycle, powerful winds and sunspots form at the solar equator, along with plumes of material that cause the aurora borealis here on Earth. Previous theories that place the magnetic field deeper within the sun have had a difficult time connecting these various solar phenomena. Scientists hope that, given further study, they’ll be able to use this theory to not only explain the creation of solar events, but more accurately predict when they will occur.

This could lead to more than just earlier predictions of the next aurora borealis event. The sun’s intense magnetic energy is also the source of solar flares and eruptions of plasma called coronal mass ejections. When these ejections travel toward Earth, all kinds of bad things happen. This famously occurred back in 1859, when a giant geomagnetic storm created the largest solar storm in recorded history.

This is called the Carrington Event, attributed to British astronomer Richard Christopher Carrington. The solar flare, which was actually a magnetic explosion on the sun’s surface, briefly outshone the sun and caused colored lights to erupt all over the planet, similar to the aurora borealis. It also supercharged telegraph cables, shocking operators, and set telegraph paper on fire. It was pretty nasty.

Now, this was 1859, before the modern use of electricity and before computers and all related technologies. If something like the Carrington Event were to occur today, we’d have it much worse. The emitted X-rays and ultraviolet light would interfere with electronics, radio and satellite signals. The event would cause a solar radiation storm, which would be deadly to astronauts not fully equipped with protective gear.

It would also lead a coronal mass ejection to bump up against Earth’s magnetic field, which would shut down power grids, cell phone satellites, modern cars and even airplanes. The resulting global power outages could last for months. Last month’s smallish (relatively speaking) storm messed with electronics and that was no Carrington-sized event. Even worse? We are absolutely due for this to happen. It’s basically a ticking time bomb.

So these findings could, in theory, be used to prepare new early warning methods for large-scale solar flares hitting Earth. Someday, we might have solar flare warnings alongside hurricane warnings and the like. The research has already demonstrated some interesting links between sunspots and the sun’s magnetic activity.

“We still don’t understand the sun well enough to make accurate predictions” of solar weather, lead study author Geoffrey Vasil of the University of Edinburgh told The Hill. These new findings “will be an important step toward finally resolving” this mysterious process, added co-author Daniel Lecoanet of Northwestern University.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/new-research-places-the-suns-magnetic-field-close-to-the-surface-upending-decades-of-theories-182059055.html?src=rss