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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk Says Tunnel is Almost Ready and Promises Free Demo Rides to the Public

“The Boring Company” has done it!

Elon Musk is thrillingly close to fulfilling his promise of taking the notorious Los Angeles traffic to a different level – literally.

While Uber and others have been busy finding ways to take daily commuting to the skies, Elon Musk chose to find answers to LA’s traffic woes underground and, as mentioned, is now on the verge of delivering on that front.

Thursday night, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO announced via a social media post that The Boring Company’s first tunnel in subterranean Los Angeles was almost complete and it would be offering free demo rides to the general public in just a few months, once regulatory formalities were taken care of.

He also pledged priority to building pods dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists which would cost them less than the regular bus fare.

The accompanying video takes you on an up|down ride through a section of the tunnel at high-speed, with the tracks speeding away from you in the first part of the ride and rushing towards you on the return trip.

Replying to a fan query, Musk confirmed that work on a New York City-Washington, D.C. link was already in progress and a similar project was being planned to link LA with San Francisco, hoping to start work sometime next year.

Within hours, the announcement had fetched the billionaire entrepreneur more than a million views.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BinoVT6Acpd/?utm_source=ig_embed

What Musk actually envisages as the finished product, if you will, is a network of crisscrossing tunnels below La-La Land through which superfast pods, or electrified “skates,” would whisk pedestrians and cyclists, even cars, from one point to another at 125mph.

It all started one day in December of 2016 when Musk got held up in a typical LA snarl and since he didn’t have anything better to do at the time, he took to Twitter to vent his frustration.

“Traffic is driving me nuts. Am going to build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging,” he wrote.

And just like that, the idea of going underground to bypass traffic congestions germinated in the man’s mind.

Within the next hour or so, he had even announced the name of the company which would undertake the tunnel boring task and, thus, was founded the “The Boring Company.”

A lot of credit for all that has been achieved, so far, goes to that monstrous tunnel boring machine (TBM) which Musk calls Godot!
Musk with his TBM – Godot

To put things into perspective, a 17-mile one-way trip would take just about eight minutes at a speed of 125 mph, which currently takes no less than an hour to cover on surface in the “soul-destroying” LA traffic.

“To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3-D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head,” says The Boring Company website in justification of a subterranean solution to LA’s wretched peak traffic.

Transporting vehicles, goods, or pedestrians through the tunnel would involve an electric skate – “a flat plate on wheels propelled by an electric motor” – which is safe, fast, and eco-friendly.

Conceptually, a vehicle would drive on to the skate at surface level, which would then sink below to the tunnel level and transport its payload from point A to point B in quick time.

“When the project is completed, the Test Tunnel would house a ‘skate’ system that would be tested to prove the viability for transporting pedestrians or personal vehicles. The concept is that a vehicle would be driving on to the skate, the engine would be turned off and the vehicle and its passenger would be transported from one end of the Test Tunnel to the other,” the company said in an August resolution last year.

“The Test Tunnel project would involve SpaceX engineers repeatedly testing and experimenting with personal vehicle types suitable for placement on the skates; refinement of the design and technology; and general data collection on performance, durability, and application. No public use of the Test Tunnel would occur, and no people would be occupying vehicles located on the skates as the skates are tested within the tunnel,” the resolution further stated.

Here’s a look at how the system is intended to work.

And here’s a video of the electric skate test run Elon posted earlier last year with a light-hearted disclaimer that it “may cause motion sickness or seizures.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BT_itC8h0Cx/?utm_source=ig_embed

In October, the Maryland Department of Transportation gave Musk its nod of approval to bore a tunnel underneath a state-owned 10.3-mile-stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for the CEO’s ambitious rocket-speed Hyperloop project, which aims to transport passengers from Washington to New York in under 30 minutes.

Not everybody is impressed with Musk’s tunnel vision, though – pun unintended – as is evident from a tweet from Mark Hogan – Architect & Principal at @OpenScopeStudio.

He is of the opinion that the media is giving the man and his “stupid” tunnel unmerited publicity. He thinks it’s no big deal as similar projects are happening across the world.

https://twitter.com/markasaurus/status/994951572965670914

Here’s one of the takers of the tunnel travel concept, saying it could well prove to be a “wonderful improvement for folks who have to get around in LA.”

And, here’s a tweet from someone who may not be a big Elon Musk fan but suggests that the man’s “attitude and appetite for risk and just doing” is worth being emulated.

This is from someone who laments the thought of not being able to have a similar mode of transportation in low lying Florida, where they can’t even have basements.

https://twitter.com/PJaghab/status/994938943824191489

A map by the Boring Co. shows potential tunnels throughout the area – Photo: The Boring Co.
A map by the Boring Co. shows potential tunnels throughout the area – Photo: The Boring Co.
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From The Editors Science

SpaceX Supremo Elon Musk Talks “Pizza Joints” and “Great Bars” on Mars

Speaking at a Q&A session at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, SpaceX billionaire and visionary Elon Musk spoke at length on one of his pet topics, Mars and its imminent colonization.

Musk said that SpaceX was in the process of building an “interplanetary ship,” which, obviously, is the first step towards realizing his super-ambitious dream of colonizing the red planet.

In spite of the fact that his exaggerated and unrealistic timelines have been questioned in the past, Musk is bravely optimistic that his company will be able to launch a series of “short up and down flights,” to start with, as early as under six months into the next year.

“People have told me that my timelines historically have been optimistic.” Musk conceded. “I’m trying to ‘recalibrate’ to some degree here.”

“We are building the first ship, or interplanetary ship, right now,” Musk told screenwriter Jonathan Nolan at the Austin venue. “And we’ll probably be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, during the first half of next year.”

BFR, or Big Falcon Rocket, as Musk prefers to call his future Mars vehicle, is “a bit of a Rorschach test in acronym form,” he said. However, “it’s very big.”

Clearing the general misconception that the colonization of Mars would mainly serve as “an escape hatch for rich people,” Musk said that it was far from the truth, going on to say that it was a dangerous undertaking that could even sound the death knell for some, but “excitement” for those who manage to come out of it alive.

“For the people who go to Mars, it’ll be far more dangerous. It kind of reads like Shackleton’s ad for Antarctic explorers. ‘Difficult, dangerous, good chance you’ll die. Excitement for those who survive.’ That kind of thing,” he said.

He said that despite the risks involved in going at the start, there were people for whom the thrill of the adventure into the “next frontier” would take precedence over everything else.

“There’s already people who want to go in the beginning. There will be some for whom the excitement of exploration and the next frontier exceeds the danger,” he said.

Speaking about the probability of another dark age, which could well be the fallout of a possible third world war, Musk said that a self-sufficient base away from the planet had the potential to save the human race from complete obliteration. And, he feels that Mars offered better survival chances than our only natural satellite –the Moon.

Musk believes that “it’s unlikely that we will never have another world war,” and before that eventuality takes place, he would prefer to have as many people on Mars as possible, to ensure that the human race does not go the way of the dinosaurs.

Should a nuclear conflict break out on earth, “we want to make sure there’s enough of a seed of civilization somewhere else to bring civilization back and perhaps shorten the length of the dark ages. I think that’s why it’s important to get a self-sustaining base, ideally on Mars, because it’s more likely to survive than a moon base,” said the ambitious entrepreneur.

Musk is confident that his initiative will provide the proof of the pudding, so to speak, thereby encouraging other nations to follow suit, at least in so far as building interplanetary spaceships is concerned. He sees it as a huge “entrepreneurial opportunity.”

“Once we have it, we’ll have a sort of point of proof, something that other countries and companies will go and do,” he said.

Taking it a step or two further, he said that his Mars endeavor would herald a larger world participation in terms of building the infrastructure necessary for the colonization of his dream planet, ranging from “iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs.”

The man even envisions a “direct democracy” kind of government on the red planet, allowing the colonizers to vote directly on specific issues, rather than having a representative government. “Most likely, the form of government on Mars would be somewhat of a direct democracy.”

“Maybe it requires 60% [majority vote] to get a law in place, but any number over 40% can remove a law,” Musk said. That way it would be “easier to get rid of a rule than to put one in,” he added.

According to the SpaceX bigwig, having too many regulations to contend with could be detrimental to the progress of society, leading to what he eloquently referred to as the “hardening of the artery of the civilization.”

Speaking on Artificial Intelligence, Musk reiterated his stance on the contentious technology, at least in his opinion, saying that regulating AI was of utmost importance.

“Mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes,’ he said. “I’m very close to the cutting edge of AI and it scares the hell out of me,” he admitted.

“I’m not normally advocate of regulation and oversight. This is a very serious danger to public therefore there needs to be public body that has insight and oversight,’ said the billionaire.

And, here’s his take on autonomous vehicles: “By the end of next year, self-driving will encompass essentially all modes of driving and be at least 100-200% safer than a person. We’re talking maybe 18 months from now.”

While all of that is happening, Musk’s cherry-red Tesla roadster and its dummy pilot Starman, launched into space atop a Falcon Heavy rocket early last month, are drifting farther and farther away from earth as telescopes continue to track the car in space.

According to calculations by Czech and Canadian researchers, the car and its passenger have a good chance of continuing to remain in space for tens of millions of years before crashing back into Earth or Venus.

While researchers give the car a 6% probability of crashing into earth, it has a 2.5% chance of colliding with Venus and little or no chance of hitting either the Sun or Mars in the next million years or so.

Watch the SXSW 2018 event here

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From The Editors Technology

Tesla to Provide Free Charging Stations to Office Buildings under a New “Workplace Charging” Program

Tesla introduces yet another charging program called “Workplace Charging,” adding to its range of existing programs, including the Supercharger network, Urban Superchargers, and the Destination Charging network.

Under the new program announced on Thursday, Tesla proposes to provide free brand-specific Tesla charging points at workplace parking lots, which appears to be a really handy option, particularly for Tesla owners who live in apartment blocks and don’t have access to a garage at night.

The EV giant said that it would engage building owners/managers to set up the charging infrastructure in their parking areas absolutely free. The electricity cost, however, will have to be taken care of by the building owners/management.

This is how the company described the new program in its Thursday statement.

“As Tesla’s fleet continues to grow, it is more important than ever for our customers to be able to easily charge their cars where they park. The most convenient way to charge is to plug in overnight at home, and for most people, this is all that is needed. For others, such as those who live in an apartment, Tesla is introducing its new Workplace Charging program. Charging at work is simple and convenient, just plug in and your car is charged by the time you’re done for the day.

For qualified employers or commercial property managers who choose to provide an EV charging option, Tesla will review, donate their Tesla Wall Connectors and provide installation assistance. Energy costs will be the responsibility of the property,” the statement added.”

Tesla did not divulge any information on how much it is looking to invest in the workplace program, nor has it revealed the identities of the companies that have already enrolled for the free infrastructure.

The workplace program is somewhat similar to the company’s Destination Charging network, which covers establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and resorts where Tesla has installed free chargers, specific to its brand, for the customers of these businesses.

Needless to say, the cost of electricity is the responsibility of the concerned establishment.

The dissimilarity, however, lies in the fact that the Workplace Charging stations will not show up on Tesla’s onboard navigation system, as they are meant for a specific set of users who work or live in the buildings covered under this scheme and not for the general public, as is the case with Destination Charging network.

Business owners interested in providing free charging facility to their employees can apply for the new program on the company’s official website (https://www.tesla.com/charging-partners#apply).

While it may seem to be a magnanimous move on the part of Tesla, it must be mentioned that the company will surely benefit from it in the long run.

Potential customers who have so far held themselves back from purchasing a Tesla EV simply because they do not have a garage at home are likely to come into the Tesla scheme of things.

Tesla owners who do have access to a garage will also benefit from the Workplace Charging program by choosing to charge their EVs at the workplace, instead of their own garage, to save on energy costs.

Also, the workplace charging stations will be Tesla-specific and cater to all Tesla models, but not to other EVs.

According to Tesla, the rate of charge will depend on the available infrastructure and are likely to vary from location to location.

That said, the 240-volt “Level 2” wall chargers – the same units that people have in their personal garages – are capable enough to juice up a battery pack to capacity in a matter of a few hours.

However, they are nowhere near the company’s Superchargers that can top up a battery pack in just 75 minutes, while a 30-minute charge at one of these stations can give an additional 170 miles.

Tesla’s Supercharger network of 480-volt DC fast-charging stations, which the company began work on back in 2012, is designed for the long-distance traveler and is compatible with all its EVs, including the Model S, 3, and X.

Today, the network encompasses some 7,500 chargers at 1,045 stations.

In December 2016, the company started imposing monetary penalties on Tesla owners who indulged in hogging the superchargers by exceeding the five-minute limit of keeping their cars parked at a charging space.

“We designed the Supercharger network to enable a seamless, enjoyable road trip experience. Therefore, we understand that it can be frustrating to arrive at a station only to discover fully charged Tesla cars occupying all the spots. To create a better experience for all owners, we’re introducing a fleet-wide idle fee that aims to increase Supercharger availability,” Tesla wrote in a blog post back then.

The blog spoke about Tesla’s vision for the future when cars would be able to move out autonomously once the charge was complete thereby “enhancing network efficiency and the customer experience even further.”

“For every additional minute a car remains connected to the Supercharger, it will incur a $0.40 idle fee. If the car is moved within 5 minutes, the fee is waived. To be clear, this change is purely about increasing customer happiness and we hope to never make any money from it.” The blog said.

Then in 2017, the company took another step to further improve the functioning of its Supercharger network by disallowing commercial, ride-sharing, taxicab and government vehicles from using Superchargers.

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From The Editors Science

SpaceX’s  Satellite Broadband Plan Gets FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Nod

Elon Musk’s intended foray into yet another business frontier got a major thrust on Wednesday when Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai gave his nod of approval to SpaceX’s plan of providing broadband services using space technologies.

Pai urged his fellow commissioners to give their consent to the California-based space company’s application, highlighting the space internet technology’s potential to provide broadband services to rural America and remote parts of the country.

The four FCC commissioners who will be considering the application are Mignon Clyburn (Dem.), Michael O’Reilly (Rep.), Brendan Carr (Reo.) and Jessica Rosenworcel (Dem.).

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies,” Pai said. “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial internet access is already available.”

Should the application get the majority votes it requires from Pai’s four fellow commissioners, SpaceX will become the fourth company after OneWeb, Telesat Canada and Space Norway to get the FCC approval for broadband satellite services out of a total of twelve applications that the agency has received until now.

“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” Pai said in a Wednesday statement.

With Pai in favor of the plan and two Republican commissioners most likely to give their nods as well, it appears that Musk is well on his way to realizing his space-broadband dreams.

And, with Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel saying that the move would “multiply the number of satellites in the skies, creating extraordinary new opportunities,” a unanimous decision in favor of the project seems like a foregone conclusion.

“The FCC should move quickly to facilitate these new services while underscoring our commitment to space safety,” Rosenworcel said.

If all goes as anticipated, SpaceX will deploy an array of 4,425 satellites to meet its broadband venture requirements.

It must be mentioned that OneWeb and Telesat Canada have FCC approval for 720 and 117 LEO satellites respectively, while Space Norway has the agency’s go-ahead for two highly elliptical arctic-focused satellites.

Pai’s words of encouragement comes at the most opportune time, at least as far as SpaceX is concerned, as the company prepares to launch its first set of prototype satellites named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b together with Spanish company Hisdesat’s radar-imaging satellite PAZ atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California  on February 17.

After their launch, 511 kilometers above the earth, both the SpaceX demo satellites Microsat 2a and 2b will ultimately reach an altitude of 1,125 kilometers where they will do the groundwork, or should we say spacework, for the constellation of 4,425 satellites that Musk’s company proposes to launch by 2025.

Telesat Canada and Kepler Communications, also a Canadian company, are slightly ahead in the race in so far as demo satellites are concerned, both having launched prototypes in January.

While Telesat deployed its 168-kilogram smallsat with the help of an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, Kepler launched its smaller Cubesat atop a Chinese Long March 11 carrier rocket.

OneWeb, on the other hand, will launch its first ten operational satellites in May this year, bypassing demo launches altogether. The Arlington, Virginia-based company is looking to reach out to world broadband consumers with 500-Mbps connectivity as early as 2019, at least a year or two ahead of Telesat and SpaceX.

According to OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, the company should have its next-gen constellation in place by 2021, ready to provide five times as much speed to consumers at 2.5 Gbps.

While testifying before Congress alongside Wyler in October last year, SpaceX Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs Patricia Cooper said that the company will follow up its demo satellite deployments with operational satellite launches in 2019.

She said that the company was looking forward to providing some level of broadband service by 2020-21, by which time it would have some 800 operational satellites in low orbit around the planet.

Telesat, which currently operates 15 geostationary telecommunications satellites, has not yet decided on a manufacturer for its 117-strong satellite constellation.

The Canadian company, however, expects to begin its launches sometime in 2020 and be ready to start its service in 2021.

Like Telesat, Kepler has also not finalized a manufacturer for its 140-satellite constellation although the company is preparing to launch its second CubeSat prototype called ‘Case,’ later this year.

However, with its focus on providing low-data to Internet-of-Things devices, Kepler is not being looked at as much of a competitor to OneWeb, Telesat or SpaceX.

Kepler’s main competition comes from fellow Canadian company Helios Wire and Australia-based Adeline, with both companies looking to launch Internet of Things-focused satellites this year.

Meanwhile, Musk’s cherry-red Tesla roadster and its dummy pilot Starman, launched into space atop a Falcon Heavy rocket earlier this month, is drifting farther and farther away from earth as telescopes continue to track the car in space.

According to calculations by Czech and Canadian researchers, the car and its passenger have a good chance of continuing to remain in space for tens of millions of years before crashing back into Earth or Venus, reports BBC.

While the researchers give the car a 6% probability of crashing into earth, it has a 2.5% chance of colliding with Venus and little or no chance of hitting either the Sun or Mars in the next million years or so.

Here’s what Hanno Rein (Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Canada), Daniel Tamayo (postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Planetary Sciences (CPS) and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics – CITA) and David Vokrouhlicky (professor at the Astronomical Institute, Charles University, Prague) said about in their analysis:

“On February 6th, 2018 SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster on a Mars crossing orbit. We perform N-body simulations to determine the fate of the object over the next several million years, under the relevant perturbations acting on the orbit. The orbital evolution is initially dominated by close encounters with the Earth. The first close encounter with the Earth will occur in 2091. The repeated encounters lead to a random walk that eventually causes close encounters with other terrestrial planets and the Sun. Long-term integrations become highly sensitive to the initial conditions after several such close encounters. By running a large ensemble of simulations with slightly perturbed initial conditions, we estimate the probability of a collision with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be 6% and 2.5%, respectively. We estimate the dynamical lifetime of the Tesla to be a few tens of millions of years.”

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From The Editors Science

Falcon Heavy Stood Upright for the First Time on Historic Launch Pad 39A for Pre-Flight Tests

On December 28, SpaceX moved another step closer to its first Falcon Heavy launch, due sometime in January 2018. The 3-booster rocket stood vertical, for the first time, at the famous launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, for pre-launch tests.

Several lucky spectators who happened to be in the vicinity of the KSC launch pad, whether by design or coincidence, actually got to see the raising of the 70-meter-tall rocket – a historic first for the triple-booster space vehicle.

Capable of generating three times the thrust of a Falcon 9, made possible by 27 Merlin engines – nine to each core – the 229-foot-tall science and technology marvel will be able to carry payloads of up to 63,800 kg into low orbit.

It is all set to become the most powerful in-service rocket, bypassing Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, which, for now, is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle with a lift-off thrust of 2.9 million pounds from its core engine and two boosters.

However, maximum payload capability can only be achieved if the company decides not to recover the first-stage boosters, which, basically, eats up the rockets propellant reserves, thereby reducing the rocket’s lifting capacity.

With SpaceX already decided on recovering all three first-stage boosters, needless to say, Falcon Heavy will not be carrying the maximum payload when it lifts off next month.

Even when the boosters are not recovered, maximum payload launch into low Earth orbit will require a velocity boost from Earth’s rotation. For that to happen, the rocket will have to be launched to the east from Florida’s Space Coast.

“When Falcon Heavy lifts off in 2018, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb)—a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel—Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy at one-third the cost,” claims SpaceX on its website.

Falcon Heavy’s two side-boosters, recovered and refurbished from 2016’s Falcon 9 missions, will separate and return to land at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in quick succession, if not simultaneously, while the new center core will detach and land on SpaceX’s droneship in the Atlantic.

Here’s what Elon Musk tweeted after the successful December 22 launch of Falcon 9 – the 18th and last launch for SpaceX in 2017.

If Elon Musk has not been pulling our legs, we will get to see an “unusual” payload this time around – a red Tesla Roadster.

In a December 22 Instagram post, Musk had uploaded the image of the red car alongside a message captioned “A Red Car for the Red Planet.”

This is what the message said:

“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.
The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdA94kVgQhU/

The mighty Merlins of the Falcon Heavy are expected to give the Roadster enough thrust for it to beat Earth’s gravity, allowing it to go into a heliocentric orbit, about the same distance as between Mars and the sun.

Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A owes its historic significance to the fact that it was the launch pad used for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle missions as well as other NASA launches until it was decommissioned after the July 2011 launch of the space agency’s Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis – the final flight of the Shuttle program.

Yes, it’s the same launch pad from where the Saturn V rocket lifted off on its historic 1969 manned mission to the moon.

Leased by SpaceX and active since early this year for Falcon 9 launches, the iconic pad was modified to support Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy launches, as well.

Barring the stationary fire test of all 27 first stage engines – which will happen in January before the launch – SpaceX engineers carried out fit checks and other tests before the rocket was lowered down back to a horizontal position.

While SpaceX has not yet released a target date, company officials do confirm that a January launch is certainly on the cards, not long after the hold-down firing of the multiple engines.

Below, you can see the Falcon Heavy being set up at launch pad 39A in a time-lapse video “Spaceflight Now” posted on Twitter.

SpaceX has had a superlative 2017 with 18 launches to its credit, more than any other private-sector spaceflight company in the world.

Also, the December 15 recovery of the Falcon 9 booster made it the 20th successful first-stage retrieval for the spaceflight company, with 14 recoveries this year alone.

The first-stage of Falcon 9 that returned after the spectacular evening launch on December 22 could also have been retrieved but was intentionally allowed to plunge into the ocean.

With the busy launch schedule of 2018, it may well turn out to be as good a year, if not better.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk is “Dying” to Build a New Tesla Pickup Truck “Right After Model Y”

Responding to a Tesla fan’s request, Elon Musk pledged that his company would make a pickup truck soon after Model Y was rolled out– the SUV he had unveiled at Tesla’s 2017 Annual Shareholder Meeting, back in June.

In a Tuesday (Dec. 26) Twitter exchange with Tesla fans, after he had thanked Tesla owners for their support and belief in the company, Musk asked how Tesla could “improve further.”

A fan that goes by the Twitter name “Vancouver Seed Bank” immediately responded, asking for a Tesla pickup truck.

Musk answered the tweet with a promise to “make a pickup truck right after Model Y,” saying he has had the “core design/engineering elements” in his mind for nearly 5 years and he was dying to build it.

While Musk is “dying’ to make it, Vancouver Seed Bank is “dying” to drive it, as he said in his tweeted thanks.

“Well, I’m dying to drive it thank you sir.”

Another fan asked if the pickup would be larger than Ford’s F-150, adding that she was “hoping for a regular family size truck.”

While Musk anticipates a somewhat similar overall size, it may just turn out a tad bigger to accommodate a revolutionary feature he has in mind.

“Similar total size. Maybe slightly bigger to account for a really game-changing (I think) feature I’d like to add,” he wrote.

The announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise given that Musk had made a similar announcement in April this year, tweeting that he would “unveil” the pickup in “18 to 24 months.”

Even before that, in July 2016, Musk had dropped hints about this pickup during the announcement of the second part of his much talked about “master plan.”

He had spoken about a next-gen version of the Tesla “Model X” SUV, which we now know is the Model Y, and a “new kind of pickup truck” – the one he promised will follow the Model Y.

Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model Y

Musk had also revealed the company’s plans to launch a kind of urban transport and a semi truck, which turned out to be the futuristic-looking Tesla electric semi he unveiled at the company’s Hawthorne facility in California, last month.

No sooner had the semi truck been revealed than Tesla was flooded with pre-orders from companies like, Walmart, JB Hunt Transport and the Michigan-based hypermarket chain Meijer, that anticipate substantial cost-per-mile savings by replacing traditional diesel trucks with the electric version.

“We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Walmart had said in a statement at the time. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emission.”

JB Hunt’s President and CEO John Roberts had said, “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology.”

Furthermore, Michigan-based supermarket chain Meijer told Bloomberg at the Hawthorne event that it had advanced $5,000 to Tesla for each of the four semis it has ordered.

Musk’s Tesla pickup plan goes as far back as the 2013 Tesla Owners Event.

“I am quite keen on building a truck and I think there’s a lot one can do with truck technology,” he had said.

“I was driving an F-250 down the 405 one day and honestly that thing… it was resonating on 405 on the little ridges. I thought my teeth were going to rattle out of my head. If you put load on it it’s fine, but if you’re empty it’s not. It would be good to do that and obviously to make it light and really handle well. That’s where having a battery pack low can improve the center of gravity. I think it’s possible to produce a really well-handling truck that feels good at any load point. That would be really great.”

While the promised pickup may be music to many ears, it is still going to be a long wait ahead, before fans have the pleasure of driving it, as the Model Y itself will not be ready for production until late 2019 or early 2020.

During his Tuesday chat, Musk also appreciated a suggestion to use all onboard cameras on Tesla vehicles as dashcams, sign recognition, as well as a “Disco Mode” – to allow the vehicle’s lighting to pulse in sync with the music being played, which Musk almost rejected but changed his mind, calling it “good, cheesy fun”

He also agreed to tech investor Jason Calacanis’ idea of incorporating an alert for the family of Tesla users to let them know the expected time of arrival of your Tesla at home.

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From The Editors Science

SpaceX Launches Last Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017: A Dazzling Light Show in the California Sky

Is it a UFO? A North Korean Nuclear Missile?

No, it’s Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket streaking across the South California sky!

Many southern Californians were left wondering as to what really blazed through the darkening sky Friday evening, until a media advisory from the LA Fire Department AND a Twitter post from none other than the LA Mayor Eric Garcetti himself, allayed their worst fears of UFOs and North Korean nuclear attacks.

“Media Advisory; 5:40PM; VANDENBERG AIR FORCE

BASE; https://goo.gl/maps/wxzcqrqvDEy; INFORMATION ONLY: MYSTERIOUS LIGHT IN THE SKY IS REPORTED TO BE AS A RESULT OF VANDENBURG AIR FORCE BASE LAUNCHING ROCKET TO PUT SATELLITE INTO SPACE. NO FURTHER DETAILS.;TONY HANDY”

SpaceX launched its 18th and last rocket of the year on Friday (Dec. 22), successfully putting a payload of 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into their target orbits.

The Falcon 9 lifted off at 5:27 pm PT (8:00 pm ET/0127 GMT) from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, north of Los Angeles, into a darkening evening sky about 30 minutes after sunset.

However, it was the spectacular views in the California sky, fear-evoking for many, that made more news than the actual launch itself. Well, enough has already been written and said about Elon Musk’s forays into space, a resounding success for each of the eighteen launches this year – and many more expected in 2018.

The rocket was seen throughout southern California and even as far away as Arizona, streaking across the evening sky, leaving in its wake a spectacularly ethereal white plume of expelled gases.

Those who knew about the launch were thoroughly wowed by this awe-inspiring experience.

However, many in nearby La La land, including several Hollywood celebrities, who were not aware of the launch, found themselves in a quandary about the identity of the giant white sperm-like streak passing through the sky, leading many to speculate about UFOs and North Korean nuclear missiles.

And, Elon Musk only added to all of it by jokingly tweeting about a “Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea”

Here are the worried and confused tweets:

Photographer and visual storyteller Apu Gomes saw what he thought was a “weird light in the sky in Los Angeles” but soon came to know from the “LAFD advisory that the “mysterious light in the sky” was from a rocket launch.”

Emmy and Golden Globe awards nominee and HBO’s “Westworld” star, Evan Rachel Wood, certainly didn’t know what she had just seen in the sky.

Actor/Rapper Jaden Smith was as confused as Wood

Singer, songwriter, actress Demi Lovato has a conspiracy theory and is “calling bullshit on SpaceX’s excuse. That shit’s a UFO and there’s been others that have been seen that are just like it!!”

Professional skater and actor Tony Hawk wanted to know what he had seen in the skies above San Diego. “Does anyone know what we just saw in the skies above San Diego?”

Rapper, singer, songwriter William Adams – better known as will.i.am – asked, “What is that in the Los Angeles sky?”

Coming back to the launch, the Falcon 9 used for Friday’s Iridium Next satellite-launch mission is the same rocket that carried Iridium satellites in June, as well, with the first stage landing on a floating deck in the Pacific Ocean, while this time around, the booster was allowed to plunge into the sea.

According to Elon Musk, this was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of spectacle, what with the 3-first-stage-booster Falcon Heavy rocket, with three times the thrust of the current Falcon 9, scheduled for several launches in 2018.

Instead of one, we’ll get to see two boosters returning to back to base, while a third core will land on a drone ship.

Here are pictures of the Falcon Heavy, Musk posted on social media.

In what will be another first for SpaceX, Musk announced Friday, via an Instagram post, that future test flights of new rockets will carry a Tesla Roadster car, instead of the usual “concrete or steel blocks,” which he called boring. “A Red Car for the Red Planet,” he said – an indication of his seriousness about future Mars missions.

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From The Editors Technology

Tesla’s New Electric Semi Truck May Well Be the Game Changer for the Freight Trucking Industry

On Thursday, Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s new all-electric semi truck at the company’s Hawthorne, California, facility. The imposing behemoth can travel 500 miles on a single charge and, if the Tesla CEO is to be believed, the truck can potentially give 1 million miles of breakdown-free run.

Although the futuristic looking semi will go under production sometime in 2019, Wall Mart has reportedly pre-ordered 15 of them to add to its fleet of 6,000 conventional trucks. The retail giant plans to employ 5 of these semis for its US operations while the remaining 10 are intended for the company’s Canadian routes.

“We have a long history of testing new technology – including alternative-fuel trucks – and we are excited to be among the first to pilot this new heavy-duty electric vehicle,” Walmart said in a statement. “We believe we can learn how this technology performs within our supply chain, as well as how it could help us meet some of our long-term sustainability goals, such as lowering emissions.”

Tesla, meanwhile, has declined to comment on specific customer orders.

And it’s not only Walmart that’s on a pre-order spree; Arkansas-based JB Hunt Transport Services has said in a statement that the company has booked “multiple” Tesla semis.

JB Hunt’s President and CEO John Roberts said, “We believe electric trucks will be most beneficial on local and dray routes, and we look forward to utilizing this new, sustainable technology.”

Furthermore, Michigan-based supermarket chain Meijer told BLOOMBERG at the Hawthorne event on Thursday that it had advanced $5,000 to Tesla for each of the four semis it has ordered.

While analysts are apprehensive about the vehicle’s competitiveness against traditional heavy-duty trucks in so far as the cost per mile is concerned, Musk has pledged $1.26 per- mile operation costs on a 100-mile route for each of its semi, as opposed to $1.51 incurred by a diesel truck. Great economics for truckers, one has to say.

The main idea behind all-electric long-haul vehicles is to have a more telling impact on greenhouse gas emissions since conventional diesel freight trucks are particularly hazardous to the environment because of its toxic emissions.

Jimmy O’Dea from the Union of Concerned Scientists says, “Heavy-duty vehicles make up a small fraction of the vehicles on the road, but a large fraction of their emissions.”

To put this in perspective, heavy-duty vehicles (trucks and buses) make up 7 percent of total vehicles in the state of California but account for 20 percent of transportation-related emissions and one-third of all Nitrogen Oxide or NOx emissions that are highly reactive gases, formed when fuel burns at high temperatures – one of the major causes of respiratory diseases, including asthma.

From the outside, the Tesla semi is all about aerodynamics, which is so important when we talk about fuel efficiency, whether you’re trying to get the most out of a gallon of diesel or get the maximum distance from a single charge on an electric vehicle.

Because there is no space-consuming bulky engine, transmission, after-treatment system or differentials to contend with and work around, the nose of the vehicle has been kept almost flat without much protrusion. This allows for the driver’s seat, which is in the center of the cab much like the McLaren F1 sports car, to be set far forward. And that, in turn, has made it possible for Tesla to accommodate a secondary seat behind the captain’s seat.

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There is enough head space within the cab to allow even well over 6-foot-tall people to stand upright.

The cab is equipped with two 15-inch touch-screens, either side of the pilot seat, to assist the driver in navigation, blind side monitoring, and more. Additionally, there are two extensions on the steering giving access to other functions.

Tesla has paid a great deal of attention to safety as well. Onboard sensors monitor jack-knifing and fishtailing and make adjustments by managing power to the individual wheels. A reinforced battery will prevent it from exploding or catching fire in the event of an accident while a strengthened windshield has been incorporated to stop it from cracking.

Similar to Tesla’s electric passenger vehicles, the Tesla semi has also been outfitted with an Autopilot system that allows advanced control features to the driver with its array of sensors, cameras, radar, and software. It gives some level of autonomy to the vehicle which can adjust speeds according to traffic conditions, stay within a particular lane, and even change lanes without the need of driver-intervention.

“This is no mere ‘truck.’ It will transform into a giant robot, fight aliens, and makes one hell of a latte,” is what Elon Musk had teased with prior to the Tesla semi’s Thursday launch.

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Entertainment From The Editors

A Lonely Elon Musk Speaks His Heart Out About His Breakup With Amber Heard

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s billions could not erase the “hurt” he felt after his breakup with the 31-year-old JUSTICE LEAGUE and AQUAMAN actress Amber Heard. He is after all as human as any of us.

Speaking to Neil Strauss of the ROLLING STONE after his breakup this past summer in an interview that was published on Wednesday – Musk said he was in severe “emotional pain” and had to really psych himself up to deal with his daily business affairs. “A couple of Red Bulls” and the company of “positive people” is what seems to have helped him through that painful phase.

“I’ve been in severe emotional pain for the last few weeks,” Musk told Strauss. “Severe. It took every ounce of will to be able to do the Model 3 event and not look like the most depressed guy around. For most of that day, I was morbid. And then I had to psych myself up: drink a couple of Red Bulls, hang out with positive people and then, like, tell myself: ‘I have all these people depending on me. All right, do it!'”

According to tech billionaire, it was Heard who initiated the split and admitted to being “hurt bad” because he was “really in love” with the lady.

“I just broke up with my girlfriend,” Musk told the ROLLING STONE writer. “I was really in love, and it hurt bad…Well, she broke up with me more than I broke up with her, I think.”

 However, soon after the breakup, THE MAIL had quoted a source as saying that it was actually the billionaire’s decision to end the relationship.

“It’s all over between Amber and Elon and she’s devastated. It was his decision. He ended it a week ago,” the source told THE MAIL. “He’d heard certain things about her behavior that didn’t sit well with him. Amber can be very manipulative and selfish. Elon’s back in LA while she’s licking her wounds in Australia.”

Yet another anonymous source had told “Us Weekly,” at the time that “the timing wasn’t good for them. He’s super busy and works all the time. Amber is filming [Aquaman] in Australia until October. She’s in no position to settle with him. She feels her career is just starting.”

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Well, we now know from the interview that the SpaceX guy is a man of “love” and “long-term relationships, and not “one-night stands.”

 And yes, he hates sleeping alone – it kills him.

“If I’m not in love, if I’m not with a long-term companion, I cannot be happy,” Musk said, later adding, “I will never be happy without having someone. Going to sleep alone kills me.”

“When I was a child, there’s one thing I said,” he further lamented. “‘I never want to be alone.’ That’s what I would say…I don’t want to be alone, he added.

“It’s so hard for me to even meet people,” Musk said. “I’m looking for a long-term relationship. I’m not looking for a one-night stand. I’m looking for a serious companion or soulmate, that kind of thing.” 

Elon Musk first broke his silence on his breakup after Heard posted a picture of herself and the cartoon character Ariel of THE LITTLE MERMAID on Instagram. Musk’s spontaneous response was “Cute” followed by a measured statement citing their “long distance relationship” and the “intense work obligations” of both partners as the cause of the split. However, he did seem hopeful of a revival when he said: “who knows what the future hold.”

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Soon after Heard followed up with another Instagram post which read: “Being in the public eye means having to explain yourself to so many people, so much of the time. In this case, I’d like to remain more quiet. Although we have broken up, Elon and I care deeply for one another and remain close. Thank you for the continued support, respect, and privacy during these difficult, very human times.”

Musk met Heard back in 2013 on the sets of Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” when she was already in a relationship with Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp.

 HOLLYWOOD REPORTER had reported then that Elon wanted to meet Heard “just out of curiosity” and was “not angling for a date” when he requested Rodriguez to set up a dinner date with the lady.

The JUSTICE LEAGUE star went on to marry Johnny Depp in February 2015 and filed for divorce in May the following year.

Although Elon had been seeing Amber for some time, it was only in April that the couple publicly acknowledged there was more to the relationship than met the eye.

Shortly after being spotted and photographed arm-in-arm in an Australian wildlife sanctuary, a photograph of the doting duo was posted on Amber’s Instagram account. The two of them can be seen in a restaurant, presumably in Australia, with Amber’s arm resting on Elon’s shoulder while he’s looking away exposing the right side of his face with a visible lipstick smooch impression on his cheek.

Cheeky

A post shared by Amber Heard (@amberheard) on

The Tesla and SpaceX founder has been married twice before and has five sons with his first wife and Canadian author Justine Wilson whom he married in 2000 and separated from in 2008.

Soon after the split in 2008, Elon started dating British actress Talulah Riley, marrying her in 2010. Elon ended the relationship in 2012 tweeting to Riley “It was an amazing four years. I will love you forever. You will make someone very happy one day.”

However, the couple remarried in 2014 and re-divorced in 2016.

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From The Editors Technology

Elon Musk’s Tunnel Vision Reaches 500 Feet under Los Angeles, on its Way to Solve “Soul-Destroying” Traffic Woes

Elon Musk’s tunnel vision, literally, has come a long way since that December day last year when he sat stuck in a Los Angeles traffic snarl and decided to launch “The Boring Company” and build a tunnel to address the city’s traffic woes.

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

Over the weekend, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted the progress made in The Boring Company’s tunneling efforts thus far – a picture of a finished portion of the under-construction tunnel, curving away out of sight into the distance, complete with tracks, cables, paneled walls, lighting, and a large upper conduit.

Thanks to the monstrous tunnel boring machine (TBM) which Musk chooses to call Godot!

Musk added that the portion shown in the tweeted pic is “500 feet so far” and estimated that another three to four months of boring would extend it to two miles long, hoping to stretch the distance to cover the “whole 405 N-S corridor from LAX to the 101 in a year or so.”

What the tech billionaire is talking about is a 17-mile one-way trip that would take just about eight minutes at a speed of 125 mph, which currently takes no less than an hour to cover on surface, considering the kind of “soul-destroying” traffic one can expect in Los Angeles.

This is how The Boring Company’s website justifies a subterranean solution to LA’s traffic woes:

“To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3-D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head.”

The 17-mile tunneling route on Google Maps
The 17-mile tunneling route on Google Maps

Transporting a vehicle, goods, or even pedestrians through the tunnel would involve an electric skate – “a flat plate on wheels propelled by an electric motor” – which is safe, fast, and eco-friendly.

Conceptually, a vehicle would drive on to the skate at surface level, which would then sink below to the tunnel level and transport its payload of a vehicle and its passengers from one end of the tunnel to the other at a speed of 125 mph.

According to the Hawthorne Council document the “Test Tunnel for Zero Emission Subterranean Transportation” has the following specifications.

  • External diameter of 4.1 meters (13.5 feet)
  • Interior diameter of approximately 3.6 meters (12 feet)
  • Depth of 13.4 meters (44 feet) beneath the surface

“When the project is completed, the Test Tunnel would house a ‘skate’ system that would be tested to prove the viability for transporting pedestrians or personal vehicles. The concept is that a vehicle would be driving on to the skate, the engine would be turned off and the vehicle and its passenger would be transported from one end of the Test Tunnel to the other,” says the August resolution.

“The Test Tunnel project would involve SpaceX engineers repeatedly testing and experimenting with personal vehicle types suitable for placement on the skates; refinement of the design and technology; and general data collection on performance, durability, and application. No public use of the Test Tunnel would occur, and no people would be occupying vehicles located on the skates as the skates are tested within the tunnel,” the resolution further states.

Musk This video should give you an idea as to how the system is intended to work.

And here’s a video of the electric skate test run Elon posted earlier this year with a disclaimer that it “may cause motion sickness or seizures.”

In October, the Tesla tycoon got permission from the Maryland Department of Transportation to bore a tunnel underneath a state-owned 10.3-mile-stretch of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway for his ambitious rocket-speed Hyperloop project, which aims to transport passengers from Washington to New York in under 30 minutes.

Here’s Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s tweeted announcement

That’s about all we know about the SpaceX founder’s Maryland hyperloop project, with no specifics about the route or timeline made available, thus far, by the Maryland Transport Dept or Musk.