New research suggests that the moon’s South Pole, a hotspot for future exploration, might be more challenging than expected due to “moonquakes” and landslides. The moon's allure as a target for space agencies like NASA and private companies like SpaceX is undeniable. But a recent study funded by NASA throws a cautionary flag on the lunar South Pole, a region rich in potential water ice and the target for several upcoming missions, reports CNN. The study revealed that the moon’s core is cooling and shrinking, causing its surface to wrinkle and crack, similar to a raisin, it said. China sends its youngest-ever crew to space as it seeks to put astronauts on moon before 2030 These “faults” trigger moonquakes lasting for hours and landslides, potentially posing a threat to future human settlements and equipment. The moon may seem geologically dead, but its interior is still hot, making it seismically active. The study links a powerful moonquake detected by Apollo astronauts to faults near the South Pole, highlighting the potential dangers. While the findings won’t affect the upcoming Artemis III mission due to its short duration, they raise concerns for long-term lunar settlements. Future site selection may consider factors like proximity to tectonic features. India becomes the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon Yosio Nakamura, , a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin, who was among the researchers who first looked at the data collected by the Apollo seismic stations, disagreed with the study’s cause of shallow moonquakes, suggesting they originate deeper within the moon. He emphasized the need for more data. Allen Husker, a research professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology, said “It is very unlikely that a large moonquake will happen while they are there. However, it is good to know that these seismic sources (causing the quakes) exist. They can be an opportunity to better study the moon as we do on the earth with earthquakes,” Husker said. “By the time there is an actual moon base, we should have a much better idea of the actual seismic hazard with upcoming missions.” Jeffrey Andrews, an associate professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona, said, “Moonquakes are an incredible tool for doing science.” “They are like flashlights in the lunar interior that illuminate its structure for us to see. Studying moonquakes at the South Pole will tell us more about the moon’s interior structure as well as its present-day activity,” he added. Japan becomes the fifth country to land a spacecraft on the moon
In today’s interconnected world, access to reliable and high-speed internet has become an essential aspect of modern life. The internet serves as the backbone of communication, information sharing, education, business, and countless other activities that shape our daily routines. However, despite the significant advancements in internet technology over the past few decades, a considerable part of the global population remains underserved or even entirely disconnected from the digital world. This digital divide is particularly evident in rural and remote areas, where traditional internet infrastructure is often impractical or prohibitively expensive to deploy. To address this pressing issue and fulfill the growing necessity for internet services worldwide, innovative solutions have emerged. One of the most ambitious and groundbreaking ventures is Starlink, a satellite internet constellation project spearheaded by SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk. What is StarLink? Starlink is a project created by SpaceX, a private company led by Elon Musk. They're putting a bunch of satellites up in space to make the internet work better for everyone. These satellites form a "constellation" and help bring the internet to even the remotest places on earth. Officially launched in 2019, the primary goal of Starlink is to provide global internet coverage by deploying a large number of small satellites into low earth orbit (LEO). Read more: How AI Can Improve Education Everything we know about Elon Musk’s Starlink Satellites and Future Internet Plans As of May 2023, Starlink’s operational network encompasses more than 4,000 mass-produced, compact satellites positioned in LEO. These satellites maintain communication with specific ground transceivers. The ambitious project aims to deploy a total of nearly 12,000 satellites, with potential future expansion of up to 42,000 satellites. Notably, SpaceX celebrated reaching a significant milestone by acquiring over 1 million subscribers in December 2022, and within just a few months, that number surged to 1.5 million subscribers as of May 2023. The Starlink Constellation: Size and Ambition The Starlink constellation consists of thousands of satellites orbiting at altitudes between 340 km (210 miles) and 1,200 km (750 miles) above earth’s surface. These satellites work in a cycle to create a network that beams high-speed internet signals down to earth, making it accessible to users with compatible receiving terminals, commonly referred to as user terminals or satellite dishes. Starlink’s internet is different from regular internet because it doesn’t use towers and cables on the ground. Instead, it has satellites that fly much closer to the earth. This closeness makes the internet faster because data doesn’t have to travel as far. It’s like having a shorter distance for messages to go back and forth between you and the satellite. This is really helpful in places that are far away from cities or places where getting good internet is hard. So, Starlink can provide better internet performance, especially in those remote and underserved areas. Read more: Top 10 Humanoid AI Robots in 2023 So Far Beta Testing and Expansion Starlink has conducted multiple phases of beta testing, known as the “Better Than Nothing Beta” program, where users in select regions were invited to test the service and provide feedback. During the beta phase, the system underwent improvements and optimizations based on user experiences. As the beta testing progresses, SpaceX has gradually expanded the coverage area, reaching more users in different parts of the world. The company has been seeking regulatory approvals from various countries to operate its satellite internet service globally. User Terminals (Satellite Dishes) To access the Starlink internet service, users receive a phased-array satellite dish, commonly known as a user terminal or satellite dish. These user terminals are designed to automatically track and connect to passing satellites overhead, making it easy for users to set up and use the service.
SpaceX sends Saudi astronauts, including nation’s 1st woman in space, to International Space Station
Saudi Arabia's first astronauts in decades rocketed toward the International Space Station on a chartered multimillion-dollar flight Sunday. SpaceX launched the ticket-holding crew, led by a retired NASA astronaut now working for the company that arranged the trip from Kennedy Space Center. Also on board: a U.S. businessman who now owns a sports car racing team. The four should reach the space station in their capsule Monday morning; they'll spend just over a week there before returning home with a splashdown off the Florida coast. Sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government, Rayyanah Barnawi, a stem cell researcher, became the first woman from the kingdom to go to space. She was joined by Ali al-Qarni, a fighter pilot with the Royal Saudi Air Force. Also Read: UAE spacecraft takes close-up photos of Mars' little moon They're the first from their country to ride a rocket since a Saudi prince launched aboard shuttle Discovery in 1985. In a quirk of timing, they'll be greeted at the station by an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates. "Hello from outer space! It feels amazing to be viewing Earth from this capsule," Barnawi said after settling into orbit. Added al-Qarni: "As I look outside into space, I can't help but think this is just the beginning of a great journey for all of us." Rounding out the visiting crew: Knoxville, Tennessee's John Shoffner, former driver and owner of a sports car racing team that competes in Europe, and chaperone Peggy Whitson, the station's first female commander who holds the U.S. record for most accumulated time in space: 665 days and counting. Also Read: SpaceX takes second shot at launching biggest rocket "It was a phenomenal ride," Whitson said after reaching orbit. Her crewmates clapped their hands in joy. It's the second private flight to the space station organized by Houston-based Axiom Space. The first was last year by three businessmen, with another retired NASA astronaut. The company plans to start adding its own rooms to the station in another few years, eventually removing them to form a stand-alone outpost available for hire. Axiom won't say how much Shoffner and Saudi Arabia are paying for the planned 10-day mission. The company had previously cited a ticket price of $55 million each. NASA's latest price list shows per-person, per-day charges of $2,000 for food and up to $1,500 for sleeping bags and other gear. Need to get your stuff to the space station in advance? Figure roughly $10,000 per pound ($20,000 per kilogram), the same fee for trashing it afterward. Need your items back intact? Double the price. At least the email and video links are free. The guests will have access to most of the station as they conduct experiments, photograph Earth and chat with schoolchildren back home, demonstrating how kites fly in space when attached to a fan. After decades of shunning space tourism, NASA now embraces it with two private missions planned a year. The Russian Space Agency has been doing it, off and on, for decades. "Our job is to expand what we do in low-Earth orbit across the globe," said NASA's space station program manager Joel Montalbano. SpaceX's first-stage booster landed back at Cape Canaveral eight minutes after liftoff — a special treat for the launch day crowd, which included about 60 Saudis. "It was a very, very exciting day," said Axiom's Matt Ondler.
SpaceX prepared to launch the biggest and most powerful rocket Thursday, working nonstop after the first shot at a test flight fizzled earlier in the week. The nearly 400-foot (120-meter) Starship was poised to blast off from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border. SpaceX’s Elon Musk gave 50-50 odds of the spacecraft reaching orbit on its debut. None of the rocket will be recovered. Instead, if all goes well, the first-stage booster, dubbed Super Heavy, would drop into the Gulf of Mexico. The spacecraft on top would continue eastward, passing over the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans before ditching near Hawaii. The whole flight, if successful, would last just 1 1/2 hours. The company plans to use Starship to send people and cargo to the moon and, eventually, Mars. NASA has reserved a Starship for its next moonwalking team, and rich tourists are already booking lunar flybys. A stuck booster valve scrapped Monday’s try. Hundreds of space fans returned to the launch site at Boca Chica Beach on the eve of the second launch attempt, snapping more selfies. “I've been waiting for this, really, for years,” said Bob Drwal, a retired engineer who drove down from Chicago with wife Donna.
The Defense Department has gotten a request from SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk to take over funding for his satellite network that has provided crucial battlefield communications for Ukrainian military forces since almost the beginning of its war with Russia, U.S. officials said Friday. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter not yet made public, said the issue has been discussed in meetings and senior leaders are weighing the matter. There have been no decisions. In a statement later Friday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said, “We can confirm the Department received correspondence from SpaceX about the funding of Starlink, their satellite communications product in Ukraine. We remain in communication with SpaceX about this and other topics.” During a Pentagon briefing, she declined to provide any details about the communication or say to whom the correspondence was sent and when the communications with Musk began. Musk began sending Starlink satellite dishes to Ukraine just days after Russia invaded in February. On Feb. 28, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted a photo of the first Starlink kits arriving on the back of a truck. Musk’s generosity was hailed by Ukrainians and seen as a game changer in war tactics — the Russians could try to cut Ukrainian ground communications but it could not control space. The Starlink system of more than 2,200 low-orbiting satellites has provided broadband internet to more than 150,000 Ukrainian ground stations. Early Friday, Musk tweeted that it was costing SpaceX $20 million a month to support Ukraine’s communications needs. In addition to the terminals, he tweeted that the company has to create, launch, maintain and replenish satellites and ground stations. CNN was the first to report the Musk request. The Starlink satellite internet’s vital role in Ukraine’s defense cannot be overstated. It has, for example, assisted front-line reconnaissance drone operators in targeting artillery strikes on key Russian assets. A senior military official on Friday made it clear that the U.S. believes the system has proven exceptionally effective on the battlefield. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to provide U.S. assessment of the Ukrainian battlefield. In a tweet on Friday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mikhail Podolyak said Ukraine will find a solution to keep Starlink working. “Let’s be honest. Like it or not, @elonmusk helped us survive the most critical moments of war. Business has the right to its own strategies,” he tweeted. “We expect that the company will provide stable connection till the end of negotiations.” In response to multiple questions during the briefing, Singh said the Pentagon was working with the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. “We know that there is this demand, and (satellite communications) capability ... is needed and we want to be able to ensure that there are stable communications for the Ukrainian forces and for Ukraine.” The request from the world’s richest man to have the Pentagon take over the hundreds of millions of dollars he says the system is costing comes on the heels of a Twitter war between Musk and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And in tweets overnight Musk referred to the friction, suggesting it may affect his decision to end his company’s largesse in funding the systems. In a Twitter exchange last week, Musk argued that to reach peace Russia should be allowed to keep the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014. He also said Ukraine should adopt a neutral status, dropping a bid to join NATO. Musk also started a Twitter poll asking whether “the will of the people” should decide if seized regions remain part of Ukraine or become part of Russia. In a sarcastic response, Zelenskyy posted a Twitter poll of his own asking “which Elon Musk do you like more?”: “One who supports Ukraine” or “One who supports Russia.” Musk replied to Zelenskyy that “I still very much support Ukraine, but am convinced that massive escalation of the war will cause great harm to Ukraine and possibly the world.” Andrij Melnyk, the outgoing Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, responded to Musk’s original tweet with an obscenity. It’s not clear how much of the cost of deploying Starlink satellite uplinks in Ukraine has been covered by U.S. funding. In April, the U.S. Agency for International Development said it had delivered 5,000 of the terminals. The Pentagon had no response to that question. Musk’s commitment to spend $44 billion to purchase Twitter “has to factor into his decision that he can no longer afford to do this for free,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, a non-resident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Musk’s request that the Pentagon begin to pick up the tab comes as the Space Force and Pentagon have been looking at how commercial vendors will play a role in national security. Musk’s threat to withdraw highlights the risk of leaning too much on commercial capabilities, Ferrari said. “Commercial vendors always get to change their mind, ” Ferrari said, adding that the reliance on Starlink to provide communications for Ukraine also serves as a reminder that the Pentagon has to expand this service beyond SpaceX, he said. “The government needs many vendors for key capabilities, of course that often means more money, but it is an insurance policy and insurance costs money,” Ferrari said. In March, commander of U.S. Space Command Army Gen. James Dickinson said that having vendors provide needed capabilities, such as Maxar’s satellite imagery of stalled Russian convoys, has become essential, because it frees up limited military satellite assets to focus on other things. In his tweets, Musk also raised a question that various vendors and the Pentagon are considering as space becomes a more critical part of wartime operations: If a commercial vendor is assisting the U.S. and is targeted, does the U.S. owe it protection? “We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder,” Musk tweeted.
Boeing’s crew capsule rocketed into orbit Thursday on a repeat test flight without astronauts, after years of being grounded by flaws that could have doomed the spacecraft. Only a test dummy was aboard. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crew flight. Also read:US astronaut ends record-long spaceflight in Russian capsule It’s Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight demo. At least this time, Starliner made it to the proper orbit, quickly giving chase to the space station despite the failure of a pair of thrusters. But the all-important rendezvous and docking loomed. “That's another big day for us,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and manager of Boeing's commercial crew program. “So there might be a couple of sleepless nights ahead of us still to get through the rest of the mission, but today feels really good." Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was stricken by software errors so severe that the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and had to skip the space station. The spacecraft came close to being destroyed as ground controllers hastily cut short the mission. After dozens of safety fixes, Boeing returned a different capsule to the launch pad last summer. Corroded valves halted the countdown, resulting in another round of repairs. The drawn-out test flight program has cost Boeing approximately $600 million. “We’re not going to fly (crews) unless we feel like we’ve bought down the risk,” stressed NASA space operations chief Kathy Lueders. Boeing is seeking redemption as it attempts to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other contracted taxi service. Elon Musk’s company has been flying astronauts to and from the space station for two years and delivering cargo for a full decade. Eager to reduce its high-priced dependency on Russia for crew transport, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts to the space station after the shuttle program ended in 2011. That's why it's so important for Boeing's Starliner to succeed, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “We always, in this case, want to have a backup," Nelson told The Associated Press hours before liftoff. Different in looks but similar in function to SpaceX's Dragon capsule, Boeing’s fully automated capsule will attempt to dock at the space station on its own. Station astronauts will be ready to steer the capsule by remote control, if necessary. The capsule still has 10 good thrusters for major moves, including dropping out of orbit at flight's end, officials said. The two failed ones actually fired briefly before shutting down prematurely one after the other; a backup kicked in to get the spacecraft into the right orbit. “We're doing this one step at a time, and we right now need to get this spacecraft through its paces and learn some things,” Lueders told reporters following liftoff. Also read: SpaceX capsule departs station with 4 astronauts, heads home Starliner will spend about five days at the space station before aiming for a touchdown in the New Mexico desert next Wednesday. NASA has yet to finalize which astronauts will be on the first Starliner crew. The program is so far behind that the original three have stepped aside. The leading candidates gathered at Cape Canaveral for the evening launch of Starliner atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. “We’re thrilled for this because the next one is us,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore. Besides Rosie the Rocketeer — a space-age version of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter — the capsule is carrying groceries and spacewalking gear for the seven station residents. U.S. spacewalks have been on hold since an astronaut’s helmet took on water in March. NASA is sending up extra absorbent pads for use in helmets, in case an emergency spacewalk is required as the investigation continues. Boeing also is flying mementos from historically black colleges and universities and tree seeds similar to those Apollo astronauts took to the moon that became so-called moon trees here on Earth.
SpaceX brought four astronauts home with a midnight splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, capping the busiest month yet for Elon Musk’s taxi service. The three U.S. astronauts and one German in the capsule were bobbing off the Florida coast, near Tampa, less than 24 hours after leaving the International Space Station. NASA expected to have them back in Houston later in the morning. NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer, embraced the seven astronauts remaining at the station, before parting ways. “It’s the end of a six-month mission, but I think the space dream lives on,” Maurer said. SpaceX brought up their U.S. and Italian replacements last week, after completing a charter trip to the station for a trio of businessmen. That amounts to two crew launches and two splashdowns in barely a month. Musk’s company has now launched 26 people into orbit in less than two years, since it started ferrying astronauts for NASA. Eight of those 26 were space tourists. READ: SpaceX launches 4 astronauts for NASA after private flight “Welcome home,” SpaceX Mission Control radioed at splashdown. “Thanks for flying SpaceX.” “That was a great ride,” replied Chari, the capsule commander. As for the reintroduction to gravity, he noted: “Only one complaint. These water bottles are super heavy.” The newly returned astronauts said their mission was highlighted by the three visitors and their ex-astronaut escort who dropped by in April, opening up NASA’s side of the station to paying guests after decades of resistance. On the down side, they had to contend with a dangerous spike in space junk after Russia blew up a satellite in a missile test in mid-November. More than 1,500 pieces of shrapnel spread across Earth's orbit for years to come. While the war in Ukraine has caused tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the astronauts have stood by their Russian crewmates, and vice versa. Flight controllers in Houston and Moscow also continued to cooperate as always, according to NASA officials. As he relinquished command of the space station earlier this week, Marshburn called it “a place of peace” and said international cooperation would likely be its lasting legacy. Russian Oleg Artemyev, the new commander, also emphasized the “peace between our countries, our friendship” in orbit and described his crewmates as brothers and sisters. Up there now are three Russians, three Americans and one Italian. It was Marshburn’s third spaceflight, and the first for the three returning with him. Chari and Barron’s next stop could be the moon; they are among 18 U.S. astronauts picked for NASA’s Artemis moon-landing program. Two others in that elite group are now at the space station.
SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Wednesday, less than two days after completing a flight chartered by millionaires. It’s the first NASA crew comprised equally of men and women, including the first Black woman making a long-term spaceflight, Jessica Watkins. “This is one of the most diversified, I think, crews that we’ve had in a really, really long time,” NASA’s space operations mission chief Kathy Lueders said on the eve of launch. The astronauts were due to arrive at the space station Wednesday night, 16 hours after their predawn liftoff from Kennedy Space Center. They will spend five months at the orbiting lab. SpaceX has now launched five crews for NASA and two private trips in just under two years. Elon Musk’s company is having an especially busy few weeks: It just finished taking three businessmen to and from the space station as NASA’s first private guests. Also read: SpaceX’s Elon Musk: 1st orbital Starship flight maybe March A week after the new crew arrives, the three Americans and German they’re replacing will return to Earth in their own SpaceX capsule. Three Russians also live at the space station. Both SpaceX and NASA officials stressed they’re taking it one step at a time to ensure safety. The private mission that concluded Monday encountered no major problems, they said, although high wind delayed the splashdown for a week. SpaceX Launch Control wished the astronauts good luck and Godspeed moments before the Falcon rocket blasted off with the capsule, named Freedom by its crew. “Our heartfelt thank you to every one of you that made this possible. Now let Falcon roar and Freedom ring,” radioed NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, the commander. Minutes later, their recycled booster had landed on an ocean platform and their capsule was safely orbiting Earth. “It was a great ride,” he said. The SpaceX capsules are fully automated — which opens the space gates to a broader clientele — and they’re designed to accommodate a wider range of body sizes. At the same time, NASA and the European Space Agency have been pushing for more female astronauts. While two Black women visited the space station during the shuttle era, neither moved in for a lengthy stay. Watkins, a geologist who is on NASA’s short list for a moon-landing mission in the years ahead, sees her mission as “an important milestone, I think, both for the agency and for the country.” She credits supportive family and mentors — including Mae Jemison, the first Black woman in space in 1992 — for “ultimately being able to live my dream.” Also cheering Watkins on was another geologist: Apollo 17′s Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon in 1972. She invited the retired astronaut to the launch, along with his wife. “We sort of consider ourselves the Jessica team,” he said, chuckling “Those of us who rode the Saturn V into space are a little bit jaded about the smaller rockets,” Schmitt said after the SpaceX liftoff. “But still, it really was something and on board was a geologist ... I hope it will stand her in good stead for being part of one of the Artemis crews that go to the moon.” Also read: SpaceX’s Musk: 1st Starship test flight to orbit in January Like Watkins, NASA astronaut and test pilot Bob Hines is making his first spaceflight. It’s the second visit for the European Space Agency’s lone female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, a former Italian Air Force fighter pilot, and Lindgren, a physician. The just-completed private flight was NASA’s first dip into space tourism after years of opposition. The space agency said the three people who paid $55 million each to visit the space station blended in while doing experiments and educational outreach. They were accompanied by a former NASA astronaut employed by Houston-based Axiom Space, which arranged the flight. “The International Space Station is not a vacation spot. It’s not an amusement park. It is an international laboratory, and they absolutely understood and respected that purpose,” said NASA flight director Zeb Scoville. NASA also hired Boeing to ferry astronauts after retiring the shuttles. The company will take another shot next month at getting an empty crew capsule to the space station, after software and other problems fouled a 2019 test flight and prevented a redo last summer.
Three days before Elon Musk agreed to buy Twitter, the world’s richest man tweeted a photo of Bill Gates and used a crude sexual term to make fun of his belly. Playful, aggressive and often juvenile, Musk’s past tweets show how he has used social media to craft his public image as a brash billionaire unafraid to offend. They may also reveal clues as to how Musk will govern the platform he hopes to own. “Look at the feed: It’s all over the place. It’s erratic. At times it’s pretty extreme,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University professor who studies social media and who recently assigned Musk’s tweets as reading material for their students. “It paints him as some sort of rebel leader who will take control of the public square to save it. That is a myth he has constructed.” Musk joined Twitter in 2010 and now has more than 85 million followers — the seventh most of any account and the highest for any business leader. He had mused about buying the site before he agreed on Monday to pay $44 billion for Twitter, which he said he hopes to turn into a haven where all speech is allowed. Also read: Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44B and will privatize company “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means,” Musk wrote in a tweet. As the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Musk uses his Twitter account to make business announcements and promote his enterprises. He muses about technology and trade, but has also posted jokes about women’s breasts and once compared Canada’s prime minister to Hitler. He regularly weighs in on global events, as he did in March 2020 when he tweeted that “The coronavirus pandemic is dumb.” He’s also used the account to punch back at critics, such as when he called a diver working to rescue boys trapped in a cave in Thailand a “pedo,” short for pedophile. The diver had previously criticized Musk’s proposal to use a sub to rescue the boys. Musk, who won a defamation suit filed by the diver, later said he never intended “pedo” to be interpreted as “pedophile.” A few years ago, after software engineer Cher Scarlett criticized Musk’s handling of the cave incident, the tech billionaire fired back and she was soon being harassed by dozens of Musk’s online fans. He later deleted the posts, but not before Scarlett had to lock down her account because she was receiving so many hateful messages. “It’s ironic to me that somebody who claims they want to buy Twitter to protect free speech has such thin skin,” she said. “He’s a very smart man, and when he replies to people that criticize him, he knows what he’s doing. To me that’s not championing free speech, it’s weaponizing free speech, and I think that’s what he’ll do owning this platform.” Also read: Elon Musk wants to buy Twitter, make it 'maximally trusted' Nineteen-year-old Jack Sweeney got Musk’s attention when he created an automated Twitter account that tracked the movements of Musk’s jet. Musk responded by offering Sweeney $5,000 to pull the account. When Sweeney refused, Musk blocked him on Twitter. Sweeney said he’s worried he may get kicked off the site entirely if Musk’s takeover is approved. But he said he likes Musk’s free speech absolutism, and hopes he sees it through. “He’ll make it more open, and I think that’s a good thing,” Sweeney said. Musk’s use of Twitter has also led to problems for his own companies. In one August 2018 tweet, for instance, Musk asserted that he had the funding to take Tesla private for $420 a share, although a court has ruled that it wasn’t true. That led to an SEC investigation that Musk is still fighting. More recently, Musk appeared to have violated SEC rules that required him to disclose that he’d acquired a 5% stake in Twitter; instead he waited until he had more than 9%. Experts say these issues aren’t likely to affect his Twitter acquisition. Last year another federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, ordered Musk to delete a tweet that officials said illegally threatened to cut stock options for Tesla employees who joined the United Auto Workers union. Those tweets helped cement Musk’s reputation as a brash outsider, a workingman’s billionaire, Grygiel said. But that doesn’t mean he is equipped to run a social media platform with more than 200 million users, the professor added. “Maybe he wants to burn it down,” Grygiel said. “I don’t know. But I do know that it shows that no one person should have this kind of power.”
SpaceX’s Elon Musk said Thursday that the first orbital flight of his towering Starship — the world’s most powerful rocket ever built — could come in another month or two. While he anticipates failures, he’s confident Starship will reach orbit by the end of this year. Musk provided his first major Starship update in more than two years while standing alongside the 390-foot (119-meter) rocket at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport. He urged the nighttime crowd, “Let’s make this real!” “This is really some wild stuff here,” he said. “In fact, hard to believe it’s real.” NASA plans to use the fully reusable Starship to land astronauts on the moon as early as 2025. Musk, meanwhile, hopes to deploy a fleet of Starships to create a city on Mars, hauling equipment and people there. For now, the initial flights would carry Musk’s internet satellites, called Starlinks, into orbit. “There will probably be a few bumps in the road, but we want to iron those out with satellite missions and test missions” before putting people on board, he said. SpaceX’s Super Heavy first-stage booster has yet to blast off. But the futuristic, bullet-shaped, steel Starship — perched on top and serving as the upper stage — successfully launched and landed on its own last May, following a series of spectacular explosions. The rocketship soared more than 6 miles (10 kilometers). Read: Space telescope launched on daring quest to behold 1st stars SpaceX is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration before proceeding with Starship’s next phase: going into orbit. Musk said he expects the go-ahead in March and that the rocket should be ready to fly by then as well. That would put the launch in the next couple of months, he added. If the FAA demands more information about potential environmental impacts or lawsuits emerge, Musk said Starship launches could move to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that would delay the first orbital launch by more than half a year, he noted. The full-size Starships are massive — taller than NASA’s past and present moon rockets, with approximately double the liftoff thrust. Besides Florida’s Cape Canaveral and the southern tip of Texas near Boca Chica, Starships could ultimately launch from floating ocean platforms anywhere in the world, Musk said. He envisions Starships launching three times a day — “rapid reusability” — with refilling stations in space for the longer destinations like Mars. The first refilling test could happen by the end of next year, he said. Musk estimates a Starship launch could wind up costing less than $10 million — maybe even just a few million dollars with a high flight rate, which would bring down prices. He called it “crazy low” and “ridiculously good” by current space standards. Starship already has one private customer: a Japanese entrepreneur who has bought a flight around the moon and plans to take a dozen artists with him. Musk hinted there are others interested in buying trips, saying future announcements would be forthcoming. Until now, SpaceX has relied on its much smaller Falcon rockets to launch satellites, as well as astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. Its first private flight, purchased by a billionaire, was last September. Another is coming up at the end of March, this one to the space station with three businessmen who are paying $55 million apiece.