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From The Editors Science

Elon Musk Shares Photo of “Stainless Steel Starship” Designed to Carry Humans to the Moon and Mars

In an impromptu late-night tweet last month, Elon Musk announced that he was changing the names of Space X’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) booster and Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS) to “Super Heavy” and “Starship,” respectively.

Together, the two units make up the two-stage space vehicle that Musk plans to use for manned missions to the Moon and Mars in the not too distant future.

On Monday, in the early hours of Christmas Eve, the Tesla and Space X CEO took to Twitter again for another spontaneous tweet, this time sharing a photo of the top section of the under-construction second stage with the caption “Stainless Steel Starship.”

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He did, however, follow up with some more information on the enormous stainless steel wonder, so massive that the work trucks seen parked around it in the photo look dwarfed and insignificant in comparison.

The “test hopper” – as he calls the prototype Starship being built at the Space X test facility in Texas – will have a stainless steel skin, which Musk says will perform better at re-entry temperatures than lightweight carbon fiber.

Answering a question about the use of stainless steel, Musk said that while the use of the material was in common with NASA’s early Atlas rocket, it would be a different alloy mix.

“Stainless steal [sic] is correct, but different mixture of alloys and new architecture,” said the billionaire entrepreneur.

“Actually, the only significant design element in common with early Atlas is stainless steel and we’re using a different alloy mix,” he clarified further.

The Tesla boss also said that the Raptor rocket engines that would power the two stages were also being “radically redesigned.”

Musk promised to reveal additional details about the Starship, but only after it completes the “hopper” test flight, expected to happen sometime in the first quarter of 2019.

“I will do a full technical presentation of Starship after the test vehicle we’re building in Texas flies, so hopefully March/April,” he tweeted.

“It’s still difficult to determine how long until tests actually take place, but from a historical perspective, it could be a year or more from the November application date,” William Ostrove, aerospace and defense analyst at Forecast International, was quoted as saying.

“That means tests are still possible in late 2019,” he told ‘Inverse.’

Ostrove went on to say that with Space X continually making design changes to the Starship, it’s “difficult to assess significance” in so far as the “meaning of any test” is concerned.

“It’s not clear if they are done fine-tuning the design; however, it’s likely that at least small changes will continue to be made to the design,” he continued.

Ostrove is of the opinion that “hopper” flights will, in fact, lead to more design changes as these tests are likely to identify unforeseen areas of improvement.

“That being said, any time a company can conduct an actual liftoff of a rocket, even if it’s a failure, it is a step toward completion,” he told the digital media company.

“Those tests are invaluable for gathering real-world performance data and fine-tuning engineering models,” he concluded.

Once complete, the Starship – the second-stage spacecraft – will sit atop the gigantic Super Heavy rocket – the first-stage booster – together making up the two-stage rocket that will stand 387 feet tall – almost as tall as a 40-story building.

Musk’s interplanetary space vehicle is going to be taller, heavier, and more powerful than the 360-foot three-stage Saturn V rocket developed by NASA for its Apollo moon program and later used to launch Skylab.

Since, both, Super Heavy and Starship are designed to be fully reusable, they will represent a more cost-effective space transportation system that will ultimately replace the costlier-to-operate Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and Dragon.

Designed for interplanetary flights, the rocket will also serve all Earth-orbit needs and, if Musk is to be believed, “later versions” will even visit other star systems, which would do justice to its name “Starship.”

In fact, Musk confirmed that in his rebuttal to a tweet from one Michael Wolman who wrote, “Unless this “starship” is sent on a mission to another star system it can’t be called a starship.”

Musk retorted with, “Later versions will.”

Well, if you are wondering how he’s going to make that happen, you’re not alone.

The nearest known star system other than our own is the Alpha Centauri system, which is more than four light years away, and our technology is way, way too far from achieving the speed of light needed to embark on a star-bound journey.

To put things in perspective, the distance that light travels in a second (186,282 miles) is more than what the Parker Solar Probe – the fastest human-made spacecraft – can do in an hour (155,000 miles).

In the coming years, the solar probe is expected to reach a top speed of 450,000 miles per hour; compare that with 670,000,000 (670 million) miles per hour that light travels at and you’ll get a better idea of the kind of disparity we’re talking about here.

Now, that’s a colossal gap to bridge, but with Musk, you never know, as the eccentric entrepreneur has an uncanny knack of surprising us with things we least expect and, for all you know, he may do that with yet another random tweet.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk Hosts First Public Demo of The Boring Company’s Test Tunnel in Hawthorne

“Boring, it’s what we do,” he had said – and boring is what he did!

Elon Musk’s ‘The Boring Company’ on Tuesday (Dec 18) gave the first public demo of a 1.4-mile-section of the Loop – the company’s tunnel transportation system – in Hawthorne, California

An audience of invited VIPs and members of the press watched as a Tesla Model X SUV was lowered down on a metal lift from ground level to the starting point of the prototype section of the tunnel, known as “the pit.”

Here, the electric vehicle was fitted with a set of horizontally-aligned retractable “tracking wheels” before it moved forward for its maiden journey down the test tunnel.

As the lights on the tunnels’ roof changed from red to green, the car surged forward as each of the outward protruding wheels gripped and ran along the opposite sides of the tube – a sure-shot way of keeping the vehicle on course and preventing it from hitting the sides.

It was a clear deviation from the company’s original plan of using electric skates to transport vehicles.

At one point, The Boring Company had even considered electric pods as a mode of public transportation inside the Loop.

However, both plans were dropped in favor of the “tracking wheel” way of doing things.

While the system would not be limited to Tesla vehicles, they would have to be both electric and autonomous to be eligible for the tracking wheel, which could be pre-installed during configuration at an additional cost of $200 to $300.

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The employee-driven EV achieved a maximum speed of 44 miles per hour (about 71 kph), which is still some way away from the promised 150 miles per hour.

“At that speed, it will feel like teleporting within a city,” Musk said.

Also, reporters who experienced the tunnel run first-hand said that the ride was a bit too bumpy for comfort.

The Space X and Tesla CEO blamed the “bumpiness” on “some issues with the paving machine not paving smoothly.”

“That bumpiness will definitely not be there down the road—it will be smooth as glass,” he promised.

The high-profile event was graced by celebrities like Kendrick Lamar, Grimes and Jared Leto along with donors and a battery of reporters; they were among the first to ride the Los Angeles Loop.

Celebrity entrepreneur and West Coast News anchor for Cheddar, Alyssa Julya Smith, called it an “EPIC” experience, tweeting that Musk’s answer to the “soul-crushing” traffic was “one step closer to being a reality.”

In the video accompanying the ‘CBS This Morning’ tweet below, the program’s co-host Gayle King can be seen riding the Loop alongside none other than Elon Musk himself, chatting him up as they go along on the bumpy run.

“What I think this really amounts to is an actual solution to the soul-crushing burden of traffic,” Musk was quoted by ABC7 as saying.

“Why tunnels? Some people say, what about flying cars and all those other things and what about mass transit – I want to be clear, we’re not opposed to mass transit – we think mass transit is fine,” Musk said.

“Let’s try every solution possible, but the thing about tunnels is that you can go 3-D underground,” he added.

While Uber and others have been looking upwards to find ways of taking daily commute to the skies, Musk chose to find answers to LA’s traffic woes underground.

Musk’s tunnel vision (no pun intended) has come a long way since that December day in 2016 when he sat stuck in a Los Angeles traffic snarl and, just like that, decided to launch “The Boring Company” and build a tunnel to address the city’s traffic woes.

“Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging…,” he had tweeted from his car, following it up with another tweet that read, “It shall be called “The Boring Company.”

In August, The Boring Company announced that it was planning to add a tunnel that would connect Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village neighborhoods to Dodger Stadium.

Once operational, the tunnel would transport baseball fans and concertgoers, and everybody else who would like to make the trip in just about 4 minutes at an outrageously affordable cost of about a dollar per ride per person.

And, by the way, the company is officially calling it the Dugout Loop, which kind of fits, doesn’t it?

“The Boring Company is excited to announce Dugout Loop – a high-speed, zero-emissions, underground public transportation system, allowing fans to get from the Red Line to Dodger Stadium in under 4 minutes,” the company said in an Aug 16 tweet.

It is intended to provide an environment-friendly economical public transport option to some 250,000 people who brave the LA traffic every year to get to their favorite game or concert taking place at the stadium – home to the city’s Major League Baseball franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While that is a just a small percentage of the number of people who visit the stadium each year, the company said it was a start that should “complement the existing public transportation systems and provide an all-electric and affordable option” to people headed that way.

The company also said:

“Initially, Dugout Loop will be limited to approximately 1,400 people (approximately 2.5% of Stadium capacity) per event.

“Based on City and community feedback, it could be possible to increase ridership per game to 2,800 per game or event (5% of Stadium capacity).

“Between games and events Dugout Loop would transport 250,000 people per year.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had wholeheartedly welcomed the proposal, saying that the innovative idea “could help ease congestion on our roads and make our most iconic destinations more accessible to everyone.”

The 3.6-mile-long single-line tunnel between the stadium and the western terminus is being planned to run underneath public right-of-way or land belonging to or leased by The Boring Company, while the eastern terminus on the stadium side would be built on “privately owned property at or near the Dodger Stadium parking lot.”

The construction phase is expected to last for about 12-14 months, during which time the company proposes to build the tunnel and two Loop Lifts – one each for the eastern and western terminuses – along with 6 ventilation shafts that would also serve as emergency exit points.

The shafts, which shouldn’t take longer than six weeks to complete, would be located on the privately-owned property, alongside the alignment.

Only time will tell whether city commute goes subterranean or takes to the air first – all we know for now is that the race is on.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk Reveals Details of the Final Iteration of Space X’s Gargantuan BFR

At the Space X event earlier this week, not only did Elon Musk announce the name of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa as the company’s first private passenger to have booked a trip to the Moon, he also revealed the updated design and various other details of the company’s under-production BFR, short for Big Falcon Rocket – or “Big F*ing Rocket,” as Musk likes to call it.

Sitting atop the humongous booster will be a massive spaceship, dubbed BFS (Big Falcon Spaceship), with Maezawa inside it when the moon-bound rocket blasts off into space sometime in 2020.

Accompanying Maezawa will be a merry band of six to eight artists from around the word that the Japanese tycoon wishes to invite to the party around the Moon, but that shouldn’t be a problem as the massive BFS is capable of carrying a payload of up to 100 passengers.

Effectively, that leaves the door open for the fashion magnate, a known connoisseur of art, to invite even more artists – as long as he’s willing to foot the bill, which, of course, he’s quite capable of, many times over.

The BFR and BFS together will stand 387 feet tall – almost as tall as a 40-story building – which is about the same size as the Saturn V rocket used by NASA for its Moon mission.

Powered by 31 main Raptor engines that are propelled by liquid oxygen and methane, the BFR will be able to generate 5,400 tons of thrust; good enough to go all the way to the Solar System, says Musk.

“If you have propellant depot on Mars, you’ll be able to get from Mars to the asteroid belt to the moons of Jupiter and kind of like a planet moon-hop all the way to the outer Solar System,” he said.

“BFR is intended as an interplanetary transport system capable of getting from Earth to anywhere in the Solar System.”

Both units, launch vehicle as well as spaceship, are equipped with their own set of Raptor engines, giving them the capability for powered touchdowns, be it on Earth or elsewhere in the Solar System – or, perhaps, even beyond.

Details of the BFR was first made public back in 2016 at the 67th International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in Guadalajara, Mexico, although Space X had been working on it for several years and used the nomenclature Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) to refer to it.

Musk presented the Big Falcon Rocket as a vehicle meant exclusively for interplanetary travel; part of his vision of an Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).

At the next IAC event in Adelaide the following year, Musk presented an updated design version of the BFR, which had been scaled down to have a core diameter of 30 feet, instead of 89, and was now being looked at as an all-embracing multipurpose vehicle – not one that’s dedicated to just planet hopping.

And now, in 2018, we have yet another update on the BFR, and a big one at that – the announcement coming at a Space X event and not at the IAC.

“The production design of BFR is different in some important ways from what I presented about a year ago,” Musk said.

According to the updated design, the BFR will be about 387 feet tall, as mentioned earlier, almost half of which is accounted for by the spaceship (BFS).

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“I mean, this is a ridiculously big rocket,” Musk said, pointing out to a life-size illustration on the wall to give the audience a sense of size, relative to the other rockets and the crowd in the picture.

However, most of the updates and changes involve the BFS, rather than its launch vehicle.

The revised design iteration of the BFS includes seven large Raptor engines, instead of four large and two smaller engines that the previous design version called for.

Explaining the new design’s engine-size uniformity and the increase in the number of engines and their changed arrangement, Musk said that it was an attempt to bring engine parity between the BFR and the BFS so that “development risk and costs” could be brought down.

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“In order to minimize the development risk and costs, we decided to harmonize the engine between the booster and the ship,” he said.

“Having the engines in that configuration, with seven engines, means it’s definitely capable of engine out at any time, including two engine out in almost all circumstances,” he said.

“In fact in some cases you could lose up to four engines and still be fine. It only needs three engines for landing.”

According to the new update, the spaceship will now have three fins at the bottom – one more than what the previous iteration suggested.

In addition to helping the BFS with maneuverability and stability in flight, the fins on the bottom will also serve as landing legs, a big deviation from the pop-out landing pads shown in the earlier designs.

It must be mentioned, though, that the third fin does not have any aerodynamic purpose; it’s there to complete the set of three landing pads and has been designed as a replica of the other two fins to maintain symmetry, says Musk.

“It doesn’t have any aerodynamic purpose — it really is just a leg,” he said, explaining that “it looks the same as the other ones for purposes of symmetry.”

The new version of the design also provides for additional cargo space on the bottom of the launch vehicle, spacious enough to hold a couple of buses’ worth of payload.

The new iteration’s uncanny resemblance to the spaceship seen in the Tintin classic comic “Explorers on the Moon,” is by design and not a case of serendipity.

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“I love the Tintin rocket design, so I kind of wanted to bias it toward that. So now we have the three large legs, with two of them actuating as body flaps or large moving wings.”

“I think this design is probably on par with the other one. It might be better. Yeah, if in doubt, go with Tintin,” he quipped.

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From The Editors Technology

Boring is What He Does! Elon Musk Plans to Build Tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Elon Musk is boring again!

No jibe intended there.

Despite the Tesla turmoil Musk finds himself in the midst of, his desire to keep surging ahead, seemingly, never diminishes.

Well, that’s what his Boring Company’s August 15 announcement, proposing to build an underground tunnel to the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California, would apparently suggest.

The proposed high-speed, zero-emission, underground public transportation system, connecting Los Feliz, East Hollywood, or Rampart Village neighborhoods to Dodger Stadium, will transport baseball fans and concertgoers – and everybody else who wants to make the trip in just about 4 minutes at an outrageously affordable cost of about a dollar per ride per person.

And, by the way, the company is officially calling it Dugout Loop – kind of fits, doesn’t it?

The company says Dugout Loop is being built in an attempt to address LA’s traffic woes, to some extent.

It is intended to provide an environment-friendly economical public transport option to some 250,000 people who brave the LA traffic every year to get to their favorite game, or concert, happening at the home to the Los Angeles Dodgers – the city’s Major League Baseball franchise.

While that is a just a small percentage of the number of people who visit the stadium each year, the company says it’s a start and should “complement the existing public transportation systems and provide an all-electric and affordable option” to people headed that way.

The Boring Company said:

“Initially, Dugout Loop will be limited to approximately 1,400 people (approximately 2.5% of Stadium capacity) per event.

“Based on City and community feedback, it could be possible to increase ridership per game to 2,800 per game or event (5% of Stadium capacity).

“Between games and events Dugout Loop would transport 250,000 people per year.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has welcomed the proposal, saying that the innovative idea “could help ease congestion on our roads and make our most iconic destinations more accessible to everyone.”

There are three possible originating points in the western terminus area – including Vermont/Sunset, Vermont/Santa Monica, and Vermont/Beverly stations – that the company says will be “evaluated in the review process,” before deciding on a winner.

Map of the proposed route
Map of the proposed route

The Boring Company says that the likelihood of the tunnel causing any disruptions in the Metro service is nonexistent, as the western terminus’ proximity to the Red Line is, in fact, being planned to “complement the Metro.”

“Dugout Loop does not have any Metro crossings and its western terminus will be close to the Red Line in order to complement the Metro,” said the Wednesday announcement.

“The Boring Company is coordinating with Metro on a regular basis to ensure project compatibility and utility, and will not begin construction until Metro has fully approved of the plan,” it added.

The 3.6-mile-long single-line tunnel between the stadium and the western terminus will run underneath public right-of-way or land belonging to or leased by The Boring Company, while the eastern terminus on the stadium side will be built on “privately owned property at or near the Dodger Stadium parking lot.”

The construction phase is expected to last for about 12-14 months, during which the company proposes to build the tunnel and two Loop Lifts – one each for the eastern and western terminuses – along with 6 ventilation shafts that would also serve as emergency exit points.

The shafts, which shouldn’t take longer than six weeks to complete, will be located on privately-owned property, alongside the alignment.

Concrete “shelves,” which the company plans to install once the tunnel is complete, will serve as the guideway for the electric skates that are capable of zipping through the tunnel at 125-150 miles per hour, carrying a payload of 8-16 passengers at a time.

Powered by multiple electric motors, the emission-free electric skates are fully stabilized autonomous vehicles, a feature that allows for increased safety as it eliminates the human error quotient and the possibility of a skate veering off-course.

Shelves inside the Dugout Loop tunnel will serve as the guideway for electric shelves
Shelves inside the Dugout Loop tunnel will serve as the guideway for electric shelves

The 14-foot-diameter tunnel will be dug at least two diameter lengths deep, with the top of the tunnel running some 30 feet and the bottom 44 feet below the surface of the ground, and may even go deeper to avoid existing underground infrastructure like utilities, bridge piles, pipelines, and the likes.

The electric skates will collect passengers from the surface level at the Dugout Loop terminuses and sink underground, down a Loop Lift consisting of an elevator or a ramp, to the level from where the 4-minute subterranean trip to and from the Dodgers Stadium will start.

Western terminus configuration
Western terminus configuration
Eastern terminus configuration
Eastern terminus configuration

“We were excited when The Boring Company came to us with this project,” Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chief Financial Officer, Tucker Kain, said in a statement.

“Whether it is flying overhead in an aerial transit system or bypassing traffic through an underground tunnel, we are always looking for innovative ways to make it easier for Dodgers fans to get to a game,” he said, going on to say that the franchise was “committed to working with our neighbors and fans as the project moves forward.”

Here are some more reactions on Twitter

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk Clarifies Position on “Funding Secured” for Taking Tesla Private

Under fire from certain quarters for his tweeted announcement last week, about taking Tesla private, Elon Musk has responded with a rather lengthy blog-post entitled “Update on Taking Tesla Private”, in which he has tried to justify, at length, his position on the entire matter.

Before we discuss what he said in that August 13 update, let’s first do a quick recap of the events leading up to it.

Last Tuesday (August 7), the Tesla and Space X CEO announced his intention to take Tesla private at $420, tweeting confirmation that the requisite funding had been “secured.”

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” said the tweeted message.

Explaining the “rationale” behind the announcement in an email addressed to Tesla employees, Musk wrote that the intended move, though not finalized, was “all about creating the environment for Tesla to operate best.”

He went on to justify his decision by detailing various financial aspects of taking the Palo Alto-based company private; how it would benefit the shareholders; what it would mean for Tesla employees; how it would augment performance; and so forth.

“Basically, I’m trying to accomplish an outcome where Tesla can operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible, and where there is as little change for all of our investors, including all of our employees, as possible,” he wrote.

“This proposal to go private would ultimately be finalized through a vote of our shareholders. If the process ends the way I expect it will, a private Tesla would ultimately be an enormous opportunity for all of us. Either way, the future is very bright and we’ll keep fighting to achieve our mission,” he concluded.

Apparently, the tweeted announcement didn’t go down well with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and reports suggest that the Federal body has initiated an inquiry, if not an investigation, about the legality of the announcement.

If the Commission’s findings reveal that Musk’s tweeted announcement was indeed in violation of any law/s pertaining to public limited companies, it may attract fines that could well go into hundreds of millions of dollars, or criminal charges, or, perhaps, both.

Not only did the tweet rub the SEC up the wrong way, it also attracted several lawsuits from disgruntled investors who feel that the announcement was made with mala fide intent, one of which was to manipulate share prices.

While requests for comments have so far gone unanswered by Tesla, SEC has declined to comment on the issue.

So, with our memories refreshed, we can now understand why Musk felt the need to give a detailed “Update on Taking Tesla Private,” wherein he explains the chain of events leading up to the announcement; why he said what he did; and what to expect going forward.

Musk is convinced that taking Tesla private is the way to go, not only in the interest of the company’s shareholders but also to enhance operational capabilities and advance the company’s “mission of accelerating the transition to sustainable energy.”

Defending his decision to go public about taking Tesla private, the charismatic CEO wants us to believe that it was the only way he could have “meaningful discussions” with the company’s “largest shareholders.”

However, not sharing the same information with the rest of the shareholders would have been kind of unethical; hence his decision to shout it out from the rooftop.

He then goes on to say that the announcement was made “as a potential bidder for Tesla” rather than anything else.

“To be clear, when I made the public announcement, just as with this blog post and all other discussions I have had on this topic, I am speaking for myself as a potential bidder for Tesla.”

Looking to diversify away from oil, the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, known in the Kingdom as the Public Investment Fund, or PIF, has been in talks with the Tesla CEO about their interest in taking the company private, writes Musk in defense of his “funding secured” comment.

“Going back almost two years, the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund has approached me multiple times about taking Tesla private,” he says in the blog-post

“They first met with me at the beginning of 2017 to express this interest because of the important need to diversify away from oil,” he goes on.

“They then held several additional meetings with me over the next year to reiterate this interest and to try to move forward with a going private transaction,” adding that the Saudi PIF “has more than enough capital needed to execute on such a transaction.”

Having recently bought almost 5 percent of Tesla stock through the public markets, the Saudis wanted another meeting with the CEO, which Musk says took place on July 31.

“During the meeting, the Managing Director of the fund expressed regret that I had not moved forward previously on a going private transaction with them, and he strongly expressed his support for funding a going private transaction for Tesla at this time,” Musk writes.

Musk’s take from the meeting was that the Saudis were “eager to proceed” and that the Managing Director was the final deciding authority, leaving the meeting convinced that the deal was as good as sealed.

So, what he is basically saying is that the “funding secured” tweet was no pie in the sky.

“I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving. This is why I referred to “funding secured” in the August 7th announcement.”

Talks with the Managing Director is still ongoing, he says, adding that the PIF boss “has expressed support for proceeding subject to financial and other due diligence and their internal review process for obtaining approvals.”

“He has also asked for additional details on how the company would be taken private, including any required percentages and any regulatory requirements.”

Musk pledges complete transparency in so far as the “proposed nature and source of the funding to be used” are concerned, “before anyone is asked to decide on going private.”

“I continue to have discussions with the Saudi fund, and I also am having discussions with a number of other investors, which is something that I always planned to do since I would like for Tesla to continue to have a broad investor base. It is appropriate to complete those discussions before presenting a detailed proposal to an independent board committee.”

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From The Editors

Elon Musk Bites Tweet Bait: Pledges to Fix Water Contamination in Flint Households

Elon Musk has made a solemn pledge on Twitter to do everything within his ample means to fix water contamination issues in any household in Flint, Michigan, that still needs it.

“Please consider this a commitment that I will fund fixing the water in any house in Flint that has water contamination above FDA levels. No kidding,” he said.

He was, actually, responding to a tweet that sounded more like a challenge than a plea for help to find a solution to the years-long water crisis plaguing the residents of Flint, Michigan.

In fact, it was pretty smart of @DylanSheaMusic to coerce the commitment out of the tech billionaire rather than make a case for the city’s beleaguered residents.

Fresh from failing to have a decisive say in the rescue of 12 kids and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand, Musk didn’t think twice before taking the bait dangled at him, as he had a point to prove – an ego thing, probably.

Also, commendably, the tweet’s timing was spot on.

“Hey @elonmusk I heard a bunch of people saying there’s NO WAY you could help get clean water to Flint, Michigan. Said you wouldn’t be capable idk,” wrote @DylanSheaMusic.

Responding to Musk’s tweet, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver requested the Tesla and Space X CEO for a discussion on the city’s “specific needs.”

Mask said he would call on Friday.

Mari Copeny, a leading Flint activist and founder of #DearFlintKids, tweeted in defense of Musk, saying that her team had been working with the man for more than a week “to figure out the best solution to help #Flint with the #FlintwaterCrisis.” She expressed her gratitude for “all he has done so far.”

There was some flip-flopping in Musk’s follow-up tweets, though, which were, basically, his interpretation of “fund fixing the water.”


Musk even suggested a “brainstorming weekend for water filter installation”

When CNET’s Sean Hollister asked Musk to “comment on reports that lead levels are generally below federal standard in Flint?” and if he could “confirm this is 100% real,” Musk tweeted:

“You’re right on both counts. Most houses in Flint have safe water, but they’ve lost faith in govt test results. Some houses are still outliers. Will organize a weekend in Flint to add filters to those houses with issues & hopefully fix perception of those that are actually good.”

The Flint water crisis began back in 2014 when the city’s water supply source was changed from Lake Huron and Detroit River to Flint River.
Inadequate water treatment resulted in lead-poisoning of the city’s water supply, creating a serious threat to public health.

The improperly treated water caused corrosion of the aging lead pipes it flowed through, reportedly exposing 100,000 residents to the potentially fatal lead-contaminated water.

A federal state of emergency was declared in January 2016 after a couple of scientific studies established the presence of high levels of lead in the city’s water supply.

Initially, a state of emergency was declared by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, soon followed by President Obama’s declaration of a Federal State of Emergency, which has provisions for additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Citizens were warned of the dangers of exposure to the water and were instructed to use nothing but bottled water for their daily drinking, cooking, washing, and bathing needs.

Although the water quality has improved since then, residents have been advised to continue using bottled or filtered water as there are still many remaining lead pipes that need to be replaced – a task that may stretch till 2020.

Musk is not the first known figure to announce some kind of relief for the long-suffering residents of Flint.

Last year, 31-year-old Grammy Award winner Bruno Mars announced – midway through his sold-out concert at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Detroit, Michigan – that he would donate a whopping $ 1 million from the proceeds of his show in aid of the Flint water crisis victims.

“I’m very thankful to the Michigan audience for joining me in supporting this cause,” Bruno said at the time.

“Ongoing challenges remain years later for Flint residents, and it’s important that we don’t forget our brothers and sisters affected by this disaster,” Bruno said.

“As people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again,” added the “Too Good to Say Goodbye” singer.

The donation was intended for the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which has been involved addressing a host of issues affecting the area, ever since lead-poisoning in the city’s water supply led to more than a dozen deaths.

The deaths were caused by Legionnaire’s Disease which in turn was caused by exposure to the contaminated water – so it is believed.

A number of government employees have, since, been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

“With a grateful heart, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint is honored to accept this inspiring donation,” the Foundation’s President and CEO Isaiah M. Oliver said in a statement.

“We know Bruno Mars’ $1 million gift will be transformative to the children and families of Flint. He understands the issues faced by Flint citizens, and we are touched by his concern and generosity,” he added.

It would, probably, have been better if Musk adopted the Bruno approach and offered a few million dollars to the right organization, rather than talking about spending a weekend fixing filters and educating the people, all of which the people of Flint have had enough of.

What the city needs is a complete overhaul of the city’s entire network of aging and lead-contaminated water pipes, which shouldn’t be a problem if the right amount of funds is in the right hands.

Think about it, Mr. Musk!

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From The Editors

Thailand Cave Rescue: Divers Start Mission as Elon Musk’s Team Continues Building Mini-Submarine

Elon Musk and his team of company engineers have been working on a “kid-sized submarine,” with inputs from Thailand, in an effort to save the lives of 12 boys in their teens and preteens along with their 25-year-old soccer coach, trapped in a watery cave.

The Tesla and Space X billionaire has been brainstorming different ideas on Twitter over the past few days to chalk out a viable rescue plan to get the beleaguered group out from deep inside the flooded Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand, where they’ve been languishing for the last 15 days.

Musk tweeted a number of possible solutions: from boring holes into the cave to using an inflatable nylon tube to create an escape route for the boys – an idea he tweeted on Thursday – to his Friday tweet about building “double-layer Kevlar pressure pods with Teflon coating to slip by rocks.”

However, he finally settled on the ‘kid-sized submarine” idea he tweeted on Saturday, saying that work on the mini-sub was already underway and that it would be ready in about 8 hours for the 17-hour haul to Thailand.

Musk then shared some features of the rescue pod in a follow-up tweet, saying that it would have four handles, or hitch points, on the front and four on the rear, with 2 air tank connections up front and two on the rear.

This would make it possible to connect up to 4 tanks simultaneously, all of which will be “recessed” to protect them from impact damage, while a cap seal on each tank will serve as the second line of defense against leaks.

Meanwhile, Thai authorities announced this morning (Sunday, July 8) that an evacuation mission has been initiated.

An international team of 13 professional divers and 5 Thai Navy Seals descended into the flooded maze of underground tunnels below the Mae Sai mountains, at 10 am local time, as the families of the stricken group, the nation and, indeed, the entire world pray for their success.

“Our readiness is at the highest today. Today is D-day,” said Narongsak Osotthanakorn – Governor of Chiang Rai who has been leading the rescue efforts ever since the boys went missing.

“The boys are ready to face any challenges,” he said, adding that the families of the group have been informed and have given their consent to the evacuation efforts underway.

Based on a doctor’s assessment of the boys, he said that they were all “very fit physically and mentally” and that “they are determined and focused.”

Soon after the rescue operation commenced, it started raining heavily, somewhat dampening the hopes of millions around the world who have been keenly following the story.

With more monsoon rains forecasted for the coming days, the chance of success is going to get increasingly bleaker until it becomes non-existent as the cave gets sealed off until the end of the rainy season in October.

However, according to Governor Osotthanakorn, water levels are at their lowest inside the cave as of now and there wouldn’t have been a better day to attempt the evacuation than today as things are going to get worse from here on.

“There is no other day that we are more ready than today,” said Osotthanakorn. “Otherwise we will lose the opportunity,” he added.

“We have two obstacles: water and time. This is what we have been racing against since day one. We have to do all we can, even though it is hard to fight the force of nature,” he said.

“All we need is a suitable time window when all conditions are right to carry out the operation, we have been waiting for this right moment.”

The rescuers will have to carefully navigate a complex network of tunnels that get claustrophobically narrow in certain stretches, before they can reach the boys and their coach, waiting in anticipation four kilometers inside the cave with a dwindling supply of oxygen and flood water all around them.

The plan is to evacuate the boys one at a time to Chamber Three, which is the makeshift rescue command center in the caves, from where specialist rescue teams will take over to guide the group through Chambers One and Two into the waiting arms of their loved ones.

“Today the water level in chambers number One, Two and Three inside the cave is low enough to walk through them,” said Osotthanakorn.

Rescue workers have been relentlessly pumping out the flood water from the caves, fighting desperately against time.

“The water of some parts recedes as much as 30 cm (11.8 inches), it is considered the lowest level for the past 10 days,” Osotthanakorn said.

A former Thai Navy Seal died of asphyxiation on Thursday as he was returning after delivering oxygen supply to the boys.

Twelve boys, belonging to the same soccer team, headed into the caves with their mentor on June 23 and got trapped in one of the chambers in the cave system when flash floods cut off their route to the outside world and prevented rescuers from locating them for nearly 10 days.

With the monsoon season in full swing and more rains on the cards and with oxygen levels depleting fast, it has been a race against time for the rescuers, who have been working tirelessly, around the clock, to keep the boys alive and healthy with a constant supply of food and oxygen.

Even for trained divers, it’s an 11-hour round trip from the rescue command center in Chamber Three to where the boys are trapped.

So, even if everything goes according to plan, fingers crossed, the boys can’t be expected to reach the surface before 21:00 local time (14:00 GMT), on Sunday.

According to one official, it could take 2-3 days to get the entire group out of the watery depths of the caves.

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From The Editors Technology

Tesla Celebrates Model 3 Production Milestone of 5000 Units Per Week

Tesla shares were up by as much as 6 percent following the company’s announcement today (July 2) that it had not only surpassed the production milestone of 5,000 Model 3 units, but also the Model S and Model X production targets, churning out a combined 7,000 vehicles in a week.

“We did it!!” Musk wrote in his email to Tesla employees, applauding their hard work and contribution in achieving what was considered almost impossible, as recently as a month, or so, ago.

“What an incredible job by an amazing team. Couldn’t be more proud to work with you. It is an honor,” he said.

“The level of dedication and creativity was mind-blowing. We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible,” he added.

The billionaire CEO of Tesla and Space X continued:

“The level of dedication and creativity was mind-blowing. We either found a way or, by will and inventiveness, created entirely new solutions that were thought impossible. Intense in tents. Transporting entire production lines across the world in massive cargo planes.

Whatever. It worked. Not only did we factory gate over 5000 Model 3’s, but we also achieved the S & X production target for a combined 7000 vehicle week!”

Tesla’s initial plan of achieving the Model 3 target numbers in December 2017 did not come about, as the company, by its own admission, found itself mired in a “production hell,” managing a production rate of only 3,600 cars a week, way short of its intended goal.

Musk had attributed the Model 3 production hiccups to automation, a couple of months ago, admitting that humans were the answer to Tesla’s production woes.

When asked if robots were the reason behind the poor production numbers, Musk said, “Yes, they did … We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

The very next day, Tesla temporarily halted the Model 3 production in a bid to improve its production performance by enhancing automation and removing bottlenecks – a move which was in stark contrast to what Musk had said a day earlier about humans being the answer to production issues.

Not having met its last quarter target in 2017, Musk and company went full steam ahead to achieve its new goal of reaching the magical number of 5,000 Model 3s a week by the end of the second quarter this year, which ended yesterday and the result of all the sweat and sacrifice is there for the world to see.

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Talking of sacrifices, Musk led by example through those difficult times, moving his office to the factory floor where he even celebrated his 47th birthday.

Well, all that is in the past now and the company has every reason to celebrate the commendable feat, something which was not considered possible even as recently as a month ago.

The second quarter of 2018 was what Tesla calls “the most productive quarter in Tesla history by far,” as the company managed to record a 55 percent jump in production from the previous quarter, rolling out a total of 53,339 vehicles during this period.

Included in that figure are 28,578 Model 3 sedans – that’s three times the Model 3s produced in the first quarter – and a combined total of 24,761 Model S and Model X cars.

A total of 40,740 vehicles were delivered in this past quarter, including 18,440 Model 3, 10,930 Model S, and 11,370 Model X cars, which according to Wall Street estimates fell short of expectations.

While the second-quarter delivery data is not very encouraging, as far as analysts and investors are concerned, what’s boosting the Tesla shares is the Model 3 numbers.

It remains to be seen if Musk and his Tesla crusaders can maintain the punishing pace of the last quarter to achieve the CEO’s key goal of making the company cash flow positive in the remaining half of 2018, “despite negative pressures from a weaker [U.S. dollar] and likely higher tariffs for vehicles imported into China as well as components procured from China.”

Becoming cash flow positive is a critical step toward Tesla’s profitability, considering the company has recorded just two profitable quarters since it went public eight years ago.

Tesla is now looking to work its way up to producing 6,000 Model 3 units a week, sometime by late August.

In May, amid all the production chaos Musk was having to contend with, he announced two new variants of the Model 3 – the dual-motor, all-wheel drive (AWD) Model 3, as well as the Performance version, which Musk said is capable of zero to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds.

While the single motor rear-wheel-drive base model option remains, you can opt for an upgraded version at an additional $5,000, which will not only give you AWD, but also an improved range of 310 miles and a zero to 60mph time of 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 140mph.

To put that in perspective, the base Model 3 has a maximum range of 220 miles and its stationary to sixty miles per hour time is 5.6 seconds.

The $78,000 Performance version of the Model 3 is not only set to give the BMW M3 a run for its money – in terms of speed and handling – but is good enough to “beat anything in its class on the track,” claimed Musk, which is, indeed, a tall claim to make, considering the fact that the M3 is quite a gladiator in the sports sedan arena.

One thing is for sure, though; the Model 3 is not going to be the fastest car out of the Tesla stable, as the Model S P100D can do zero to sixty miles per hour in a snappy 2.5 seconds, while the $200,000 Tesla Roadster promises the same acceleration in a snappier 1.9 seconds, but we’ll have to wait for that, as production is yet to start.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk’s The Boring Company Will Build Chicago’s High-Speed Transit Link between the Loop and O’Hare

Out of the four companies that were shortlisted by the City of Chicago to build the windy city’s high-speed transit link between the Loop and the O’Hare International Airport, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has chosen billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s “The Boring Company” to do the job.

The Wednesday announcement was acknowledged by The Boring Company in a late tweet the same day.

“We’re really excited to work with the Mayor and the City to bring this new high-speed public transportation system to Chicago,” read the tweet.

Despite the fact that, until recently, the concerned city officials had been considering the more traditional high-speed rail as the answer to the city’s commute issues between the two points in question, they decided to place their bet on The Boring Company – more because of Musk’s reputation as a go-getter than anything else.

“We’re taking a bet on a guy who doesn’t like to fail — and his resources. There are a bunch of Teslas on the road. He put SpaceX together. He’s proven something,” Mayor Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune in his Wednesday interview with the daily.

“The risk — with no financial risk — is I’m betting on a guy who has proven in space, auto and now a tunnel, that he can innovate and create something of the future. Given his track record, we are taking his reputation and saying, ‘This is a guy in two other transportation modes who has not failed.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

While specifics are still awaited, we do know that the Chicago Infrastructure Trust’s initial Request for Qualification talks about a high-speed transit system that will “improve transportation between O’Hare International Airport and downtown Chicago by providing faster, more direct, and more reliable service.”

Currently, it takes a minimum of 40 minutes and as much as $60 for a taxi commute between the Loop, Chicago’s central business district, and O’Hare International Airport said to be one of the world’s busiest.

The proposed link, dubbed the Chicago Express Loop, that The Boring Company is expected to start work on as soon as the details and specifics are finalized between the concerned parties, will not only cut down the travel time between the two points to just about 12 minutes, but bring the cost down to a much more affordable $20 to $25 per trip, as well.

“If you look at the history of Chicago … every time we’ve been an innovator in transportation, we have seized the future,” Emanuel told the Tribune.

“I think figuring out — when time is money — how to shrink the distance between the economic and job engines of O’Hare and downtown positions Chicago as the global leader and global city in the United States,” added the Mayor.

The Chicago Tribune reported that while, both, The Boring Company and the Chicago authorities have not yet volunteered any information on what the final route is going to be, a source privy to the Hawthorne, California-based company’s plans says that the preliminary route proposes to “follow Randolph Street west from Block 37 and then run under the Kennedy Expressway northwest before tracking north under Halsted Street and northwest under Milwaukee Avenue,”

A Boring Company passenger pod
A Boring Company passenger pod

“The tunnels then would run northwest under Elston Avenue near Goose Island before later again crossing under the Kennedy Expressway and heading west to O’Hare, according to a source familiar with the plans who was not authorized to speak publicly,” said the daily.

The source also told the Tribune that the link’s O’Hare station is likely to be built near the new international terminal that the Mayor had earlier announced as part of the $8.5 billion airport overhaul project.

The proposal outlines that the Chicago Express Loop project will not be financed by the taxpayers’ money; it will be “100% privately funded.”

This, effectively, means that Musk is on his own, in so far as the project costs are concerned, in return for which his company will be entitled to all the revenue earned from the transit fees, as well as all other income generated from advertisements, in-car sales, etc.

The City of Chicago, basically, wants Musk’s company to “design, build, finance, operate and maintain” the ambitious high-speed transit system between Block 37 and O’Hare.

“We set forth a pretty ambitious proposal for fast service from downtown to O’Hare at no public cost,” Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin said.

“One is proposing a more traditional rapid rail service. The other is proposing a tunnel service. Cost components will be different. But the city won’t be on the hook for any of it,” he added.

According to reliable sources and based on the information provided by Mayor Emanuel’s office and the company officials themselves, here’s what is expected of The Boring Company.

  • The Chicago Express Loop must have the capability to transport at least 2,000 passengers each way, every hour.
  • The frequency of cars is required to be as high as every 30 to 45 seconds, with each car carrying up to 16 passengers, including their luggage.
  • Each one-way commute should cost less than what the current taxi and ride-sharing services charge.
  • The Boring Company will complete the unfinished underground transit station at the Loop and also build a new station at the O’Hare International Airport.
  • The Chicago Express Loop’s tunnels are expected to be about 14 feet in diameter, about half the size of a regular tunnel, which, of course, translates to speed and economy, as smaller tunnels can be dug faster and at a lesser cost.

When Emanuel was asked in a Wednesday interview to comment on his relationship with Elon Musk, the Chicago Mayor said that he had not had a chance to “consciously” talk to Musk “about this project,” as he had been busy with the city’s ongoing procurement process, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Emanuel did, however, say that he had “dealt with him in the past when I was in the White House” and had spoken to the billionaire at other times, as well, but had not had a word with him in the last four to five years.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk Reveals Tesla Model 3 Variants, Including the $78,000 “Performance”

In a series of tweets, Tesla supremo Elon Musk yesterday announced two new variants of the Model 3 – the dual-motor, all-wheel drive (AWD) Model 3 as well as the Performance version, which Musk said is capable of zero to 60mph in just 3.5 seconds.

While the single motor rear-wheel-drive base model option remains, you can opt for an upgraded version at an additional $5,000, which will not only give you AWD, but also an improved range of 310 miles and a zero to 60mph time of 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 140mph.

To put that in perspective, the base Model 3 has a maximum range of 220 miles and its stationary to sixty miles per hour time is 5.6 seconds.

The $78,000 Performance version of the Model 3 is not only set to give the BMW M3 a run for its money – in terms of speed and handling – but is good enough to “beat anything in its class on the track,” claims Musk, which is, indeed, a tall claim to make, considering the fact that the M3 is quite a gladiator in the sports sedan arena.

And, as mentioned at the outset, the Performance Model 3 is capable of zero to sixty in a mere 3.5 seconds, in addition to having a top speed of 155 mph, with a maximum range of 310 miles on a fully juiced-up battery.

Now, the two-motor configuration in the AWD Model 3, including Performance, is conceptualized along the lines of the Model S, with the front motor optimized for range and the one on the back built for power.

Musk says that the car is capable of safely taking you to your destination on any one engine, should the other break down.

If you don’t already know, the all-wheel-drive system in an electric vehicle works differently from that of a petrol or a diesel car where the front and back axles are mechanically connected via a driveshaft so that power is transferred from a single source to all four wheels.

Tesla makes the Model 3 an all-wheel drive by putting another motor up front to power the front wheels, which in effect means that the only connection between the two axles is the surface it drives on, which is known as a “through-the-road” system.

Addressing a doubt about the front and back motor types used on the Performance Model 3, the Tesla boss clarified that the front motor is an AC induction version while the one at the back is a “switched reluctance, partial permanent magnet” motor.

Apparently, what Musk is saying is that the Performance variant will likely have the same rear motor as the one on the current single-motor rear-wheel-drive model.

He also confirmed that both motors will get Silicon Carbide inverters and that the Performance version will have carbon fiber spoiler, 20” Performance wheels, and black & white interior.

One thing is for sure, though; the Model 3 is not going to be the fastest car out of the Tesla stable, as the Model S P100D can do zero to sixty miles per hour in a snappy 2.5 seconds, while the $200,000 Tesla Roadster promises the same acceleration in a snappier 1.9 seconds, but we’ll have to wait for that, as production is yet to start.

Talking about production, well, that’s where Tesla has had some major issues in recent times, failing to meet deadlines time and again, managing to produce only 3,600 cars a week, on average, for a total of under 30,000 Model 3 cars, per Bloomberg estimates.

Musk attributed the Model 3 production hiccups to overdependence on automation, last month, admitting that humans were the answer to Tesla’s production woes.

When asked if robots were the reason behind the slowing down of production, Musk said, “ Yes, they did … We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts … And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

The very next day, Tesla temporarily halted the Model 3 production in a bid to improve its production performance by enhancing automation and removing bottlenecks – a move which was in stark contrast to what Musk had said a day earlier about humans being the answer to production issues.

“These periods are used to improve automation and systematically address bottlenecks in order to increase production rates,” a Tesla spokesperson said about the temporary suspension of work.

Before that, in February, there was a similar four-day stoppage in production, with the same reason given for the temporary suspension.

However, in spite of the oft-written-about production problems, Tesla is “quite likely” to roll out more than 500 Model 3s every day of this week, according to a leaked Musk email to Tesla employees, reports Electrek – the electric car blog.

At that rate, the company would be hitting a healthy production rate of 3,500 Model 3s every week, but still quite some distance away from its original target production rate of 5,000 cars a week by the quarter.