Elon Musk and his Mission to Mars and to save Humanity

Elon Musk presented his vision of SpaceX’s eventual manned missions to Mars at IAC2016. During his presentation, the entrepreneur made a number of announcements regarding SpaceX’s goals for Martian landfall and colonizing Mars. Musk’s main point of discussion dealt primarily with SpaceX’s new massive Interplanetary Transport System, a system which utilizes three separate vehicles to make the trip to Mars and is key to Musk’s plan of making travel to Mars an obtainable reality for almost anyone.Related: SpaceX still on course for a manned mission to Mars ‘in 10 years, maybe sooner’

The system makes use of a massive booster known as the Raptor, a souped-up version of the Falcon 9 which retains the Falcon 9’s multi-use design and thruster landing. The crew transport ship intends to carry 100 people (though Musk plans for more), and features solar arrays and additional thrusters, as well as massive carbon fiber fuel tanks. A refueling craft loaded with methane fuel would also come in use, thus reducing the initial launch weight of the transport ship.

Detailing the launch procedure, Musk says it plans to involve the Raptor booster launching the crew transport in orbit around Earth. The booster would then return to the launch pad where it would be loaded with the refueling craft. After the booster launches again, the refueling craft would dock with the transport before fueling up and beginning the trip towards Mars.

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While Musk primarily showed off digital images and videos during the presentation, he stressed the fact each each one comes directly from SpaceX’s CAD design files and will resemble the final versions.

Using this new system, Musk said it would take anywhere from 40 to 100 years worth of manned trips to achieve the agency’s goal of moving 1 million people to Mars and establishing a self-sustaining city. This equates to roughly 10,000 flights carrying 100 to 200 people on each voyage — additionally, trips would take an average of 115 days while fluctuating between 80 and 140 days depending on the given distance between Earth and Mars. These trips would occur once every 26 months during the Earth-Mars rendezvous, otherwise known as when the two planets are closest to each other.

Musk expects the first passenger flights to begin in a decade or so and estimates the cost to run at about $200,000 per ticket — which is incredibly cheaper than what it would currently cost to send someone to Mars.

While these early trips sound like long, arduous endeavors, Musk assures the transport ship intends to feature plenty of entertainment including games, movie theaters, and restaurants. In time, given advancements in technology, Musk believes the trip time to drop to as little as 30 days.

So, that covers getting to Mars, but what happens when the passengers arrive?

Once on Mars, crews expect to get right to work building self-sustaining colonies which could include everything from restaurants to factories. Due to Mars’ resource-rich environment —which includes water, ice, and mineral and metal deposits — Musk assures crews won’t have to worry about a shortage of job opportunities on the red planet. Musk stated he hopes the new system has the ability to make “Mars seem possible.” Citing a desire to make Mars seem fun and adventurous, the SpaceX frontman intends to put the “dream of Mars in people’s heads.” While these manned flights are still several years out, SpaceX remains committed to sending an unmanned mission to mars by 2018, additionally vowing to send a craft to Mars during each Earth-Mars rendezvous from then on.

Travel to Mars was not the only use of this new Interplanetary transport System.

Musk proposed the Raptor booster could see added work by transporting cargo anywhere on Earth within 45 minutes, provided the proper landing location becomes accessible. He also explained how the Interplanetary Transport System’s refueling craft is the precursor to a solar system-spanning fuel depot where craft could have the ability to refuel on their way to the outer reaches of our solar system.

While this won’t enable interstellar travel, Musk did express during the Q&A section he often thinks about interstellar travel — something he believes will most likely be solved with anti-matter drives.

Musk was sure to drive the point home that we face an existential threat as a species: life as we know it will either go extinct or we could choose to become a multiplanetary species, a particularly dark subject he brought up numerous times during his presentation and the following Q&A session.

Related: Bioengineered bacteria could be used to 3D print food and tools on Mars

Musk is not alone in his call to make humans multiplanetary in order to save ourselves. Fellow entrepreneur Richard Branson and retired astronaut and second man of the Moon Buzz Aldrin have both expressed their own visions of humans becoming a dual planet species in the past. SpaceX’s initiative makes Martian exploration and colonization seem attainable in the near future but SpaceX isn’ the only agency working towards this goal. While SpaceX’s plans are by far the most aggressive, NASA, ESA, and the space programs of India, Russia, and China all have Mars missions currently planned or proposed. Given the number of companies and organizations that are invest in making Mars their next conquest, it seems its only a matter of time until Musk’s dreams come true.

Source: Digital Trends

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New film shot by totally autonomous drones

rones have aided in search and rescue attempts, recorded history unfolding, and explored the skies — and now, they’re telling a love story, and all without a human operator directing the flight pattern. In the Robot Skies, the first fiction film shot entirely by autonomous drones, is expected to debut at the London Film Festival on Oct. 8.

Directed by Liam Young and written by Tim Maughan, the film uses drones to record the story while simultaneously treating the unmanned aerial vehicles themselves as a cultural object — much as the subway created hip hop and graffiti, the video’s creators explained.

Related: This auto-follow drone uses artificial intelligence to predict your next move

In the movie’s science fiction society, two teenagers are confined by police and a network of security drones. The unmanned aerial vehicles identify and track people, and using the on-board computer systems, identify antisocial behavior, categorizing which numbered citizens are societal risks. Using hacked drones, the two teens find ways to communicate with each other as the quadcopter becomes not just a security tool but a way to fall in love.

But drones play a big role in more than just the film’s storyline. The production team collaborated with the Embedded and Artificially Intelligent Vision Lab in Belgium to program camera drones with a set of cinematic rules — essentially, the entire movie was shot with autonomous drones that follow a set of rules without human input. Of course, programming the drones involved human input to create a different set of rules for creating different camera effects, but the automated video operation is impressive regardless.

The film isn’t director Liam Young’s first shot at using drones either. A self-described speculative architect, he also collaborated in the exhibit “Under Tomorrows Sky” (yes, the apostrophe is missing intentionally) on what cities of the future might look like, and “City of Drones,” another conceptual piece of art.

Produced using drones supported by DJI, the production team released a trailer yesterday. With the debut scheduled for the London Film Festival, there’s no word yet on how (or if) the film will be widely distributed.

Source: Digital Trends

NBC is streaming the US debates in VR – want to be there…?

Facebook is live streaming the presidential debates with help from ABC News, and Twitter this morning announced it will host its own live streams, courtesy of a Bloomberg partnership. NBC, however, in an effort out-tech them all, will instead stream the debates in virtual reality.

Welcome to the future, where watching TV is that weird thing that only grandma still does.

NBC says it’s working in partnership with AltspaceVR to launch a number of election-themed virtual reality events, starting tonight, September 21st.

At 6 PM ET, you’ll be able to “tune in” (can we still call it that?) to meet NBC’s Al Roker – well, his VR avatar – where he will debut NBC’s “Virtual Democracy Plaza.”

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This is the VR version of the real “Democracy Plaza” at Rockefeller Center that NBC News runs during presidential election season, which includes a national map projected on the ice skating rink. Roker will be there to chat about his favorite moments from the plaza and to answer viewer questions, says the network. 

Leading up to Election Night, NBC will host a variety of different VR events, including debate watch parties, Q&A’s with political experts, political comedy shows, and more.

The current lineup also includes MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, who will join on Sept. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET to analyze the state of the election, as well as CNBC’s Sharon Epperson, host of “Your Money, Your Future” and the digital video series “Retire Well.” She will arrive on Oct. 11 to answer visitors’ personal finance questions about the election.

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Viewers can attend using the AltspaceVR app on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Samsung Gear VR. However, for those who are curious but lacking equipment, a 2D version of these events will be offered via Mac and PC at altvr.com/nbcnews.

Founded in 2013 and backed by over $15 million in fundingAltspaceVR officially launched its VR chat room platform in June 2015. It has since hosted a number of VR events, including film screenings, e-sports events, gamer gatherings, meetups, live concerts, comedy specials, and more.

A May event with Reggie Watts in VR may have helped to prepare the startup for this forthcoming election coverage, as it drew in the largest crowd ever and saw peak usage of over 1,200 simultaneous viewers. The company admitted technical difficulties prevented some users from getting in, and the event also helped it to uncover scaling issues it still needed to address.

Hopefully, those have been resolved in time for NBC’s election coverage. But we’ll find out tonight, it seems.

Source: TechCrunch

Driverless Taxis hit the streets in Singapore

What incredible news this week that Driveless Taxis have hit the streets. And it wasn’t Uber to be the first…

NuTonomy’s self-driving taxis, said to be the first in the world, have today begun picking up passengers as part of a public trial in Singapore.

Here’s the startup’s promo video for the launch:

Bloomberg reports:

The world’s first self-driving taxis will be picking up passengers in Singapore starting Thursday.

Select members of the public will be able to hail a free ride through their smartphones in taxis operated by NuTonomy, an autonomous vehicle software startup. While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, NuTonomy says it will be the first to offer rides to the public. It will beat ride-hailing service Uber, which plans to offer rides in autonomous cars in Pittsburgh, by a few weeks.

The service will start small — six cars now, growing to a dozen by the end of the year. The ultimate goal, say NuTonomy officials, is to have a fully self-driving taxi fleet in Singapore by 2018, which will help sharply cut the number of cars on Singapore’s congested roads. Eventually, the model could be adopted in cities around the world, NuTonomy says.

The rides – in modified Renault Zoe and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electrics – will be confined within the One North business district and passengers must be invited to use the service. An engineer from NuTonomy will be in the car to watch the system and assume control if needed.

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Throughout the trial, the company will collect and evaluate data related to the software’s performance, the booking process, vehicle routing, and the overall passenger experience. This data will allow it to refine everything in preparation for the commercial launch in 2018.

NuTonomy is backed by VC firm Highland Capital Partners, Samsung Ventures, and EDBI, the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. Other investors include Fontinalis Partners – co-founded by Ford Motor chairman Bill Ford – and Signal Ventures.

Source: Tech in Asia

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