Tag Archives: elon musk

Jeff Bezos’ space company does world first in landing reusable rocket

The Amazon chief used Twitter for the first time to announce historic landing of Blue Orbit rocket, but got trolled by Elon Musk

Jeff Bezos’ privately-funded space company Blue Origin announced a historic first today – it successfully landed a fired rocket back on Earth after an unmanned flight to space.

Bezos announced the compelling test flight video on Twitter – the first time he has ever tweeted – calling the achievement the “rarest of beasts.”

In this test flight, the rocket separated itself from the New Shepard vehicle, which flew to an altitude of 93km on Monday, at almost 4 times the speed of sound.

Usually, the rocket would have fallen back to Earth and been unable to complete any more flights. “Rockets have always been expendable,” Bezoswrote in blog post about the landing. “Not anymore.”

In this case, it was guided towards a launchpad on Earth where it slowed down and landed, intact. This means the rocket can be re-used for subsequent flights, which companies like Blue Origin claim will make spaceflight far less expensive.

Bezos told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he planned to start commercial suborbital flights with tourists potentially in less than two years. “I’m thinking it could be sometime in 2017,” he said.

But not everyone was as triumphant about the event. Rival space entrepreneur and billionaire Elon Musk responded on Twitter saying it wasn’t really that rare, linking to his own SpaceX Grasshopper rocket which has done multiple flights – although it hadn’t gone as far as Blue Orbit’s 93km distance.

He then went on to Tweet from his own account about the distinction between space and orbit, and why getting into orbit was a lot harder than reaching the edge of space.

Mr Musk’s private space transport company SpaceX has also beenattempting to land its Falcon 9 rocket but has failed to do so yet. In June, it exploded after lift-off.

Earlier this month, SpaceX was awarded its first Nasa contract to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk denies hating Apple

Technically Incorrect: Tesla’s CEO tries to set the record straight after being quoted as saying that Apple hires the automaker’s engineering castoffs and the Apple Watch isn’t all that.

When you’re a famous CEO, you end up giving so many interviews that you might forget what you’ve said in them all.

You might also give interviews on particular days when you’re in particular moods. This can lead to particular articles being published that you particularly regret.

So it is, perhaps, with an interview in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave to Germany’s Handelsblatt. In it, he suggested — jokingly?– that the Cupertino, California, tech titan hires Tesla’s engineering castoffs.

“Did you ever take a look at the Apple Watch? No, seriously,” he said of Apple’s alleged foray into cars. “It’s good that Apple is moving and investing in this direction. But cars are very complex compared to phones or smartwatches.”

Some wondered whether Apple and Tesla had endured a falling out. It had once been rumored that the two companies might come together.

Thankfully, Musk took to Twitter on Friday to dismiss the very notion that he and Apple weren’t BFFs.

“Yo, I don’t hate Apple,” he first tweeted. “It’s a great company with a lot of talented people. I love their products and I’m glad they’re doing an EV.”

Those of punctilious mien might suggest that Apple’s “talented people” still just weren’t talented enough to work for Tesla. They might also muse that Musk seems to know definitively that Apple is making an electronic vehicle. Might that be because the alleged castoffs from Tesla who now work at Apple have told him?

Musk followed up with another tweet addressing his views on the Watch. “Regarding the watch, Jony & his team created a beautiful design, but the functionality isn’t compelling yet. By version 3, it will be.”

Translation: Version 2 will still be an inadequate lump of beautiful design.

Commenters on Musk’s tweets weren’t all amused. Someone called Joe Zou suggested that Tesla’s CEO was merely jealous that the Apple Watch made more profit in three months than Tesla will in 2015.

However, my favorite act of pure opportunism came from Henry Levak.

He offered: “Can I send you a Pebble Time Steel in the meantime? :)” Levak is the director of product at Pebble.

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Farhad and Mike’s Week in Tech: Welcoming Our New Media Overlords

Each Saturday, Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, technology reporters at The New York Times, review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry.

Farhad: Howdy, Mike! What’s going on with you? Sorry, I don’t have some kind of funny intro this week. I’m just pretty tired. I need a nap.

Mike: I had a root canal on Friday and my dog won’t stop eating our drywall. Other than that, life is grand.

Farhad: Sounds fantastic. OK, let’s go through some tech news. Apple announced it sold 13 million new iPhones in its opening weekend — which, like everything with Apple, some people thought was really awesome and others thought was meh. Google unveiled some new Nexus phones, tablets and a Chromecast streaming device. Those were fine and also unexciting — smartphones changed everything and yet, man, are they boring.

Mike: I have a seriously difficult time caring about phones now. Every announcement is just “look at this cool new processor we put inside.” Yawn.

Farhad: You know what’s not boring? Cars. Google let some reporters ride in its new driverless vehicles this week, and some went away convinced that cars without drivers are the inevitable future. Also, Tesla began shipping the Model X, its super-expensive new crossover vehicle. I don’t get the business case for selling a $130,000 sport utility vehicle with rap-star doors, but it does make for some good press.

Oh, also, there was some speculation about whether Jack Dorsey will be named the permanent chief executive of Twitter — but given the rate at which the Twitter board is moving, I’m sure we’ll have all year to talk about that.

So let’s talk about our business, the media! This week Business Insider, the scrappy tech- and finance-focused digital publication founded by the former stock analyst Henry Blodget, was sold to the German media company Axel Springer for $343 million. It was just one of many dump trucks full of money pulling up to the digital media business. BuzzFeed and Vox recently each announced that they had raised $200 million from NBC Universal. Vice has also raised a boatload. So is this all great news? Should I start shopping for a McMansion?

Mike: I’m glad this is our topic this week, because like any good member of the media, most of my day is occupied thinking about myself and the indispensable nature of my industry.

Really, though, here’s my thought: There’s tons of money, as you said, pouring into these digital media start-ups. I don’t believe it is possible for all of them to survive.

Rates for display ads — the often terrible, splashy things that crowd your screen — are in the tank, relatively speaking, which means your site has to garner enormous traffic over time to cover costs and, eventually, become profitable.

That’s (arguably!) doable for some legacy media brands, at least in the short term. Our publication, for instance, is not in immediate trouble, since we are well-known and drive lots of traffic, and we have other revenue streams beyond just display advertising.

Farhad: I think some people would argue with you about whether The New York Times is in immediate trouble. Especially after it hired you and me.

Mike: O.K., but think of these smaller businesses: Many are still nascent, trying to make a name for themselves in a crowded world with many competitors offering the same product. They prop themselves up with venture capital so they don’t require immediate profits, but that’s obviously not a sustainable strategy. And in some cases, they are also paying out huge salaries to star writers who help to gain an audience. Again, this is not viable for the long term.

So the options are: Grow until you’re significant enough to become acquired by a larger company, go public or die. And I truly don’t believe that there are enough large media acquirers to go around that all of these small digital media upstarts will eke it out. Others obviously won’t have the numbers to go public. Many will die.

What do you think of all that uplifting, armchair media commentary? The best part about it is I’m sure many of our self-absorbed, outspoken friends will tweet many reasons I’m wrong when this newsletter comes out.

Farhad: Wait a second. I think you need to name names. Sure, not all new media ventures are going to survive, and sure, a bunch of smaller ones will choke. But which big ones are you saying will die?

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Business Insider’s success was built according to your template. By quickly covering just about every story in its orbit, and by slapping on tabloidy, eye-catching headlines that get people to click, Mr. Blodget’s company became a traffic behemoth, attracting an audience of 70 million or so people a month. It grew fast enough to become significant — and then irresistible to acquirers.

BuzzFeed and Vox have accomplished the same ends using different editorial approaches; BuzzFeed, in particular, has figured out a way to surface stories and ads on social networks that creates a tsunami of traffic. The business is working: Per a report on BuzzFeed’s internal financials that Gawker acquired this year, BuzzFeed’s revenue tripled in 2013 and was on track to double in 2014. And despite huge investments in talent and production, the company eked out a small profit in the first half of 2014.

I’m not saying all of these businesses will survive. But for the bigger ones, the picture looks pretty good. I think the larger story here is about the benefits that come from a willingness to try new business models. For a long time, our business was trapped in a stultifying state of mourning — things were changing, people hated change and many threw up their hands. The money from venture capitalists has given people not just hope but also the freedom to try out new ways to pay for media.

Some of those models won’t work. That’s the nature of experimentation. But some will, and maybe a few will do so spectacularly. I, for one, welcome our new media overlords.

Mike: But I don’t think these are all spectacularly new business models. The Huffington Post figured out how to aggregate reporting from other outlets and optimize search engine terms for Google, exploding in page views. So did Business Insider. BuzzFeed is just doing with social traffic what Huffington Post did with search traffic. Vice is bringing TV to the web, but it really wants to run its own TV channel. Same with Fusion. Everything new is old again.

Farhad: Slightly new ideas, at the right time, can be huge successes. The iPod was just a digital version of the Walkman. It was also a pretty great business.

Mike: My predictions, with no direct knowledge: Vox will be bought by NBC/Comcast. BuzzFeed, which passed on being acquired by Disney, will go public. Vice will also go public.

What I really think is that the smaller sites that have not been acquired — Refinery29, Mic, The Daily Dot, Mashable, The Next Web — those are the ones to watch and see if they get sold or if they flop. Growth is hard, profitability is hard and venture capital is not going to be so easy to come by forever.

Anyway, what do I know? I’m just another media blowhard.

Until next week?

Farhad: Sure, if there’s still money to pay us. See you!

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Tesla’s new Model X has a ‘bioweapon defense mode’ button

This is a real button,’ Musk says

If you want to survive a biological attack, you might want to look into buying a Tesla. The company just officially unveiled the Model X, and Elon Musk shared a rather unexpected feature during the unveiling: a “bioweapon defense mode” button.

“This is a real button,” said Musk, who was all too ready to have to defend the existence of the outrageous feature. He was in the middle of discussing how clean the Model X is when it comes to air quality both in and out of the car (the air cleanliness is “on the levels of a hospital room,” he said) when things got dark.

THE MODEL X IS 800 TIMES BETTER AT FILTERING VIRUSES THAN OTHER CARS

The button should come in handy “if there’s ever an apocalyptic scenario of some kind,” he said. All you apparently have to do is push the button and the Model X’s air filter — which is about 10 times larger than a normal car’s air filter— should be able to keep you safe. The company claims it’s 300 times better at filtering bacteria, 500 times better at filtering allergens, 700 times better at filtering smog, and 800 times better at filtering viruses.

“We’re trying to be a leader in apocalyptic defense scenarios,” Musk continued. Because what else do you want from a futuristic, semi-autonomous, all-electric car that’s as fast as a Porsche than the ability to survive biological warfare?

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Tesla Model X: The electric SUV we’ve all been waiting for

With the announcement of the Tesla Model X Tuesday, the innovative company tacks with the prevailing winds of customer choice and finally offers an SUV electric vehicle. The majority of cars sold in the US now are SUVs or light trucks. While it’s built on the same chassis as the existing Tesla Model S, the Model X will be a bit longer, taller and heavier, and that means Tesla will be challenged to return 200 miles per charge. It will be a true seven-seat vehicle with a forward-facing third row of seats.

The Model X will be about $71,000 before state and federal credits (which Tesla bakes into the large type in ads, as do other EV makers), and the performance edition will be around $96,000, plus options, less those federal and state credits.

TeslaX_front_gullwing

First deliveries in early 2016

For those tracking car tech, the Model X seems like an old friend — and for good reason. Tesla announced the Model X in February 2012 and said first units would ship by the end of 2013. There have been several several postponements since, and now it looks as if the first-in-line customers will get their Model Xs in February 2016.

Tesla says the Model X will offer 60-kWh and 85-kWh batteries. On the Model S, the EPA says they’re good for 208 and 255 miles, respectively. The Model X has more frontal area and heavier all-wheel-drive, with a motor in front as well as in back. Tesla estimates the Model X will come in about 10% less, meaning Tesla may or may not be able to claim its entry version goes 200 miles on a charge. That’s one number we’re hoping to hear described at Tuesday’s rollout.

Expect the Model X to have the most current safety technologies including driver assistance and rudimentary self-driving. Tesla is the leader in over-the-air software updates, so any Tesla with current hardware can be as up-to-date as brand-new Teslas. The benchmark among combustion engine vehicles would be the BMW X5 as well as Volvo’s dazzling new XC90.

The only premium SUV EV for a year

Assuming the Model X finally does ship, it will have the category — high-end SUVs with electric drive — all to itself for at least a year. That’s when Audi is reportedly shipping the Audi Q8 E-tron crossover. The idea of an electric-only crossover is intriguing. A big crossover or SUV is the preferred vehicle of suburbia for soccer momming as well as for two, sometimes three couples going for a night on the town when somebody else watches their kids. But it’s also the go-to vehicle for long vacation trips, and that will pose a challenge. Every time Tesla talks about how many Supercharger stations it has, those being the 440-volt devices that refill the tank in 45 minutes at no cost, it’s a reminder of how many places Superchargers aren’t.

Up next: $35,000 Tesla Model 3

Many are looking past the Model X to the Tesla Model 3. If Tesla can do a knockout sedan, it can do a knockout SUV. The Model 3 (formerly Model E) is the Volks-Tesla, a people’s car with a starting price of around $35,000, although that could well be the after-tax-credits price. But still, below $50,000 to start. It will be sized and priced to compete with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. That is expected to launch in 2016 with deliveries in 2017 and full production in 2018.

The announcement is listed as Tuesday at 7 p.m. PDT. For an interesting read, check out Tesla fans trying to figure out what time it will be on the east coast.

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Tesla amps up Model S self-driving capabilities with firmware update

Tesla will improve its highway autosteer capabilities and automated parallel parking features shortly. Equally as important is how the car is enhanced: not with a visit to the dealership or with new hardware components, but with over-the-air software updates. That’s increasingly important when a quick update is needed, such as the next time a car gets hacked.

“Almost ready to release highway autosteer and parallel autopark software update,” the Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote in a Tweet. He followed with tweets noting challenging situations and that the car will learn over time.

Tesla advances the state of sort-of autonomous driving

What Tesla is updating is its Highway Autosteer feature. Using sensors already on the Tesla Model S, Highway Autosteer paces the car in front using adaptive cruise control, stays in lane using lane departure warning / lane keep assist, and tracks cars coming up in adjacent lanes with blind spot detection. At the least, the car minds its own business, doesn’t get in the way of other cars, and slows down if another car gets in its way. It works best on limited access highways with clear lane markings that aren’t obscured from lack of maintenance, heavy rain or snow, or snow on the pavement.

This is something other cars do as well. It’s not clear how much a Tesla differs from a Mercedes-Benz from a BMW based on the quality of its hardware (all sourced from a finite number of third parties) and software (typically co-developed then tweaked by the automaker) versus the automaker’s skill in describing the capabilities.

The parallel autopark helps the driver maneuver into and out of a tight parking spot. The car finds a suitable space and then steers, while the driver applies reverse gear, throttle, and brakes. Some cars do head-in perpendicular parking as well, and parking with the driver out of the car is coming.

Tesla describes the challenges

In follow-on Tweets, Musk described some issues Tesla faces. “Final corner case is dealing with low contrast lane markings (faded white on grey concrete) while driving into the sun at dusk,” he Tweeted. Musk further Tweeted, “The car will learn over time, but there is a min caliber of starting quality.”

Radar and sonar used in adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection obviously isn’t bothered by lack of light. The windshield camera used for lane departure warning is. Headlamps are an adequate light source at night. But the nation’s near-contempt for quality infrastructure includes delayed maintenance of lane markings. Not only does it hamper the quality of driver assist technology, but it degrades the abilities of older drivers with older eyes.

Optical devices are also affected by being driven into the sun at dawn and dusk, by oncoming headlamps, and dirt on the windshield. Subaru for several years and now BMW on its new 7 Series use dual front-facing cameras to reduce, but not eliminate, problems from low light, glare, and crappy lane markers. Next-generation GPS isn’t to the point where cars can position themselves in the middle of the lane via satellite fixes. If you zoom the navigation map all the way, you appear to be centered in the lane, but that’s really the nav software snapping your approximate position to the roadway.

One probem Musk didn’t address — technical depth takes a hit when you speak in 140-character blips — is the difficulty of dealing with cars that change lanes and cut suddenly in front of you. Anyone who has a car with forward collision warning or ACC sees that a couple times a day on a long highway trip. Side-facing radar or sonar that effectively changes blind spot detection to rear-and-side detection will help.

The magic of over the air updates

Tesla has a big advantage over most carmakers with integrated telematics. If there’s a desirable update or a necessary update, it can happen automatically. It doesn’t require a dealer visit, or the owner downloading a patch to a USB key and installing that. General Motors has near-universal telematics (OnStar), but the average Tesla owner is more tech-savvy and more understanding of the process.

At the very least, when Tesla releases Version 7 of its software, the car will do an even better job of taking some of the pressure off the driver and forgives his or her miscues, such as drifting too close to the car in front, or veering over a lane marking. Everybody thinks they’re a good driver. At the very least, attention drifts late in a long day of driving, or on monotonous daily commutes.

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Musk, Hawking, Wozniak: Ban AI warfare, autonomous weapons

More than a thousand researchers, AI experts, and high-profile business leaders say war is getting out of hand and we should ban “offensive autonomous weapons,” lest the world powers wind up in a “military artificial intelligence arms race.”  They would ban AI development for warfare and autonomous weapons that decide who, what, where, and when to fire. They’d draw the line so as to allow remotely operated devices under human control, however, such as drones are now.

The signatories include Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, professor Stephen Hawking, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, and about 1,000 others. The letter will be presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence Wednesday in Buenos Aires, according to the Guardian, which first reported the story.

AI as the third deadly revolution in warfare

According to the letter, “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

On the one hand, they say, artificial intelligence makes the battlefield safer. On the other, it lowers the risk of going to war, especially for the side that strikes first or has more and better AI weaponry.

Beyond gunpowder and nukes, there have been other big leaps in technology that gave one side an advantage: the machine gun (Gatling Gun) of 1862, poison gas and tanks in World War I, massive aerial bombardment of cities in the 1930s (taking war beyond the front line and to the civilian population), and potentially biological agents. Ironically, Richard Gatling, inventor of the eponymous weapon, was quoted as believing its efficiency would reduce the size of armies and thus the total amount of deaths and suffering. The only way it reduced the size of armies was after a battalion charged the guns.

Some new weapons have been banned or sidelined. Since 1995, blinding lasers have been outlawed.

Differences among the signers

sony-aiboThere is general agreement that an AI/robotic arms race is bad, especially since they make their own decisions, which could lead to the escalation of fighting since both sides can toss more materiel at each other. There are also differences: Hawking and Musk have said, “[AI] biggest existential threat …. [full AI might] spell the end of the human race.” Wozniak on the other hand makes an orthogonal point: Robots can be good for people. They might become akin to the “family pet … taken care of all the time.” If so, Sony needs to bring back Aibo quick.

Generally, the 1,000-plus signatories appear to see a difference between hands-off autonomous weaponry using AI decision-making, and devices such as drones that operate without humans aboard, but controlled from afar (sometimes back in heartland America) by human operators who decide when to push the button.

Already considered by the UN

In April, a United Nations conference meeting in Geneva discussed futuristic weapons, including killer robots. Some world powerhouses were opposed to limits or bans. The UK, for instance, was in opposition because it wasn’t necessary. According to The Guardian, the UK Foreign Office said, “[We] we do not see the need for a prohibition on the use of laws, as international humanitarian law already provides sufficient regulation for this area.”

Right now, advantage accrues to the major powers with big budgets. Over time, smaller countries or rogues-without-states could buy or adapt robots and AI to their own purposes. Unlike work on nukes or chemical weapons, it might be easier to mask their work into AI warfare.

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Hyperloop: Crowd-Sourced Company Plans Test Track in California

The first Hyperloop test track could be built as early as 2016 in California, moving Elon Musk’s dream of a high-speed transportation system of tubes one step closer to becoming a reality.

Using Musk’s free design plan, Hyperloop Test Technologies, a crowd-funded company not affiliated with the Tesla and SpaceX billionaire, said it plans to build a full-scale model on five miles of land in California’s Quay Valley.

“This installation will allow us to demonstrate all systems on a full scale and immediately begin generating revenues for our shareholders through actual operations,” Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, said in a statement to The Verge.

Musk first unveiled his futuristic idea in 2013, calling it “a cross between a Concord, a rail gun and an air hockey table.” He published the 57-page design plan on both Tesla Motors‘ and SpaceX’s blogs as a PDF available for download, allowing anyone to take the design and adopt it.

While Musk described a system that could carry humans at speeds as high as 760 mph, the California test track will likely only reach around 200 mph, Ahlborn told The Verge.

The Hyperloop is a large pneumatic tube, similar to the system used by some hospitals to transport documents, samples and medications in a more efficient manner. New York City also relied on a network of pneumatic tubes to transport mail during the first half of the 20th century.

Last month, Musk tweeted that he plans to build a Hyperloop test track “most likely in Texas” where student teams and companies can test out designs for possible Hyperloop pods.

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SpaceX Video Stirs Excitement for Falcon Heavy

SpaceX on Thursday released a computer-generated animation demonstrating how the three Falcon 9 cores of its Falcon Heavy rocket, scheduled for launch later this year, would return to Earth.

The boosters would land vertically at a selected site.

Trimming Costs

The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world, being able to lift more than 53 metric tons, or 117,000 pounds, into low earth orbit. That’s equivalent to a Boeing 737 fully loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuel, and it is more than twice the payload of the next closest operational space vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, SpaceX said.

Lifting that payload with the Falcon Heavy will cost just one-third of the cost of doing it with the Delta IV Heavy, according to SpaceX.

It will cost US$85 million to launch a payload of up to 14,100 pounds to geosynchronous transfer obit using the Falcon Heavy.

If the Falcon Heavy works as planned and can be recovered for reuse, “it could reduce the cost per kilo to transport [a payload] to orbit from millions of dollars to thousands,” said Mike Jude, manager of the Stratecast consumer communication services program at Frost & Sullivan.

The Falcon Heavy is a variant of the Falcon 9 v1.1. It will consist of three standard Falcon 9 nine-engine rocket cores with Merlin 1D engines, and two additional Falcon 9 strap-on first stages.

The Heavy stands 224 feet tall and is 38 feet wide. It has a mass of more than 3.2 million pounds. The Falcon Heavy’s maximum GTO payload is 46,700 pounds.

Crashing and Burning

SpaceX has been experimenting with rocket recovery, testing first-stage boosters that relight their engines to slow their descent through the atmosphere. They have fins to help their descent, and legs for a stable touchdown.

SpaceX’s attempt earlier this month to bring part of a Falcon 9 rocket down to a floating platform — a barge less than 100m wide — failed, in that the first stage hit the barge hard instead of making a controlled return. However, it was pitch dark and foggy at the time.

The fins “ran out of hydraulic fluid right before landing,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

An attempt in August, using the prototype falcon 9 Reusable, failed when the vehicle blew up in mid-air over McGregor, Texas, after its instruments detected an anomaly.

Getting Rockets Down to Earth

“General Dynamics Space Systems was working on this idea in 1991,” said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, who worked on that project. “This was a government-sponsored program where General Dynamics was working on one project and Boeing on another.”

The program “was one of the programs killed by the Clinton administration,” he told TechNewsWorld. “If the United States government hadn’t killed NASA in the early ’90s, we would have had [a reusable rocket] by the end of the ’90s.”

“The challenge is landing a rocket without wrecking it because it’s coming down at high speed. You almost have to do it with a parachute assist,” said McGregor.

Also, a rocket that returns to Earth will require fuel, which means it can carry less cargo.

“The more mass you devote to recovery and re-entry, the less you have for the payload,” Frost’s Jude told TechNewsWorld, but SpaceX “is trying to get around some of this by distributing recover mass to each stage.”

Development of the technology to achieve it “is more of a software problem” than a materials issue, suggested Jude, and SpaceX “will probably be successful on the next attempt.”

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Elon Musk is trying to bring the Internet to space

The SpaceX CEO wants to build a satellite network high above Earth that would speed up the Internet and bring access to underserved communities. And he’ll use the profits to help colonize Mars.

Elon Musk, the man who’s determined to move our civilization to Mars, will also tackle creating an Internet in space.

The CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX said Friday night that he will use a fleet of satellites to make the Internet speedier and to bring it to those without access, according to media reports of a private event in Seattle. Details of the plan were shared before the event with Bloomberg.

While this new network would initially benefit only those of us on Earth, Musk said he has much loftier plans: using the profits to build a Martian city.

“We see it as a long-term revenue source for SpaceX to be able to fund a city on Mars,” Musk told Bloomberg. He didn’t offer specifics on how he’ll make money off the project, but he did mention the possibility of selling satellites after the network is completed. SpaceX did not return a request for comment.

To create the new network, SpaceX will build and launch roughly 4,000 satellites orbiting about 750 miles above earth, GeekWire reported.

Musk is known for his determination to colonize Earth’s relatively nearby neighbor, with plans to put humans on Mars by the mid 2020s. A member of the so-called “PayPal Mafia” — co-founders of the payment service who have found continued success after selling the company to eBay — Musk founded SpaceX in 2002 to “to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets,” according to the SpaceX website. It won a $2.6 billion contract from NASA last year, becoming one of the first private companies — the other is Boeing — set to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, beginning as early as 2017.

SpaceX unveiled its first manned spacecraft, the Dragon V2, in May. The craft is intended for trips to and from the space station, and the company successfully sent a cargo capsule to the ISS this month, but the “reusable” rocket crashed into its floating landing pad in the Atlantic Ocean.

And now it looks like Musk sees his space Internet project as another way of getting him to Mars. The network would take at least five years to develop and cost around $10 billion, he told Bloomberg. Instead of sending data through a network that uses fiber optic cables, the proposed system would bounce signals from satellite to satellite. Musk said the setup would also connect underserved communities that don’t have Net access. The project will be overseen at SpaceX’s new Seattle headquarters.

Musk isn’t the only space enthusiast who wants to make it to Mars. Living on the Red Planet has been a longtime science-fiction fantasy, and in recent years, a goal of many technologists. Mars One, for example, is trying to fund a human mission to Mars in 2025 by offering investors interplanetary product placement.

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