NASA set to resume human spaceflight from US soil with historic SpaceX launch – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, was set to launch two Americans into orbit on Wednesday from Florida on a mission that would mark the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT), launching Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
They were to blast off from the same launch pad used by NASA’s final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to visit Florida’s Cape Canaveral to view the launch in person.
Prospects for an on-time liftoff hinged on the weather, with forecasters late on Monday citing a 40 percent chance that storms over eastern Florida could force a postponement. If that happens, the next launch window would be Saturday afternoon.
A successful mission would achieve NASA’s top priority, as articulated by agency chief Jim Bridenstine, of resuming launches of “American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.” Over the past nine years, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
For Musk, Thursday’s launch represents another milestone for the reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and frequent. It would also mark the first time that commercially developed space vehicles – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – have carried Americans into orbit.
The last time NASA launched astronauts into space aboard a brand new vehicle was 40 years ago at the start of the shuttle program.
Musk, the South African-born high-tech entrepreneur who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, is also the CEO of electric carmaker and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc.
Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, NASA employees under contract to fly with SpaceX, are expected to remain at the space station for several weeks, assisting a short-handed crew aboard the orbital laboratory.
Aerospace giant Boeing Co, producing its own space launch vehicles in competition with SpaceX for NASA business, is expected to launch its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with astronauts aboard for the first time next year.
NASA has awarded nearly US$8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing combined for development of the rival space launch systems.
Bridenstine declared the manned SpaceX flight a “go” last week after NASA and the company convened for final engineering checks.
The Hawthorne, California-based rocket company, founded by Musk in 2002 and formerly known as Space Exploration Technologies, has never previously flown humans into orbit, only cargo.
SpaceX successfully tested Crew Dragon without astronauts last year in its first orbital mission to the space station, but that vehicle was destroyed the following month during a ground test when a valve for its in-flight abort system failed, causing an explosion. The ensuing nine-month investigation ended in January.

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Google faces antitrust case in India over payments app – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

India’s antitrust body is looking into allegations that Alphabet Inc’s Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country, five sources familiar with the case told Reuters.
The complaint was filed in February and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) has kept the identity of the complainant confidential, the first source with direct knowledge of the case said.
The complaint alleges the U.S. tech giant more prominently showcases its Google Pay app inside its Android app store in India, giving it an unfair advantage over apps of competitors which hurts consumers, the source added.
Google did not respond to a request for comment. Two of the sources said the watchdog informed Google about the case being filed a few days ago and the company will respond in due course.
A source said the case filing is currently being reviewed by senior CCI members. Typically in such cases, Google will appear before the watchdog which will then decide on the way forward.
The CCI can direct its investigations unit to conduct a wider probe into the allegations, or dismiss the case if it finds no merit in it.
“It is at a consideration stage,” the source said.
The CCI did not respond to a request for comment.
This is Google’s third major antitrust challenge in India. In 2018, the CCI fined Google $21 million for “search bias”, but a company appeal against that is pending. The CCI last year also started probing Google for allegedly misusing its dominant position to reduce the ability of smartphone manufacturers to opt for alternate versions of its Android mobile operating system.
Google Pay allows users in India to do inter-bank fund transfers and bill payments. It competes with apps such as Softbank-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s crowded digital payments market, where Facebook’s WhatsApp is also planning a similar service.
Google said on its blog in September that its payments app had rapidly grown in India to reach 67 million monthly active users, driving transactions worth more than $110 billion on an annualised basis. Use of such apps has surged in India.
The Google antitrust complaint alleges the company is able to leverage its strong position in the Android market to promote the app, the first source added.
Android mobile operating platforms power around 98% of the 490 million smartphones in India, data from Counterpoint Research showed.
The complaint also alleges Google is promoting its payments app using search manipulation, the source added, without elaborating whether the allegations detail how the company did so.
One of the sources, however, said users in India have options to select one of the several digital payment apps available on Android, something that Google can use to defend against complaints over its dominant position.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that the CCI was looking into allegations that WhatsApp was abusing its dominant position by offering payment services to its vast base of messaging app users in the country.

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Apple reopening 25 more US stores, will soon top 100 worldwide – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Apple Inc will this week reopen more than 25 of its branded stores in the United States, the company said on Sunday, continuing a gradual process that has unlocked doors at nearly a fifth of its worldwide retail outlets.
The iPhone maker in March shut all its stores outside of Greater China in response to the spread of the coronavirus. It started shutting its more than 50 Greater China stores in January and reopened them by mid-March.
“Our commitment is to reopen our stores when we are confident the environment is safe,” Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail, wrote on Sunday in a note on the company’s website.
The stores will impose social-distancing rules, limit occupancy and some will offer only curbside or storefront service, she said.
Apple does not disclose its retail store revenue. Direct sales, including retail stores, web and corporate sales, accounted for 31 percent of its US$260 billion in 2019 revenue.
Chief Executive Tim Cook declined last month to provide an outlook for the June quarter, citing business uncertainty created by the virus. First-quarter sales in China, reflecting that country’s store closings and lockdown, were US$9.46 billion, about US$1 billion less than for the same period a year earlier.
Last week, Apple reopened its first five stores in the United States, requiring customers and employees to undergo temperature checks and wear masks before entering the premises.
Apple has 510 stores worldwide and 271 in the United States.
The website 9to5Mac reported that the company would reopen 10 of its stores in Italy beginning on Tuesday.

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Amazon planning to reopen its French warehouses from May 19 – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Amazon said on Friday it aims to gradually reopen its French warehouses from May 19 as it finalises an agreement with unions and work councils to end a dispute over coronavirus protection steps that closed the sites for more than one month.
The US e-commerce giant’s six French warehouses, which employ about 10,000 people on permanent and interim contracts, have been closed since April 16 following court rulings that ordered it to restrict deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic or face hefty fines.
“We are currently finalizing a process with French unions and works councils, and we are hopeful that we will be able to re-open our French fulfillment centres in the coming days,” Amazon said.
The legal stand-off followed a complaint filed by hardline union SUD, which said Amazon did not do enough to protect employees from COVID-19 contagion.
The company has said the latest French court ruling, which restricts deliveries to IT products, health items, food and pet food, could lead to multimillion-dollar fines if it unintentionally ships items that are not included on the list.

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Facebook buys GIF website Giphy to integrate with Instagram – Benchmarking Change – Networking – Security- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Facebook Inc is acquiring Giphy, a popular website for making and sharing animated images, or GIFs, Facebook said in a blog post on Friday.
The cost, which was not disclosed, was placed at around $400 million by news website Axios. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The announcement comes at a time when the largest social media network is under scrutiny from regulators over antitrust concerns.
Giphy will become part of Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook. Its GIF library, which can integrate with other apps, will be further integrated into Instagram and other Facebook-owned apps.
“People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs; and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content,” said Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, in the blog post.
“We will continue to make GIPHY openly available to the wider ecosystem,” Giphy said in a post on blogging website Medium.
Facebook’s blog post said 50% of Giphy’s traffic comes from Facebook’s apps, with half of that coming from Instagram.

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‘Star Trek, not Star Wars:’ NASA releases basic principles for moon exploration pact – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

NASA on Friday set the stage for a global debate over the basic principles governing how humans will live and work on the moon, as it released the main tenets of an international pact for moon exploration called the Artemis Accords.
The accords seek to establish ‘safety zones’ that would surround future moon bases to prevent what the US Tempemail Aeronautics and Space Administration called “harmful interference” from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity.
They would also permit companies to own the lunar resources they mine, a crucial element in allowing NASA contractors to convert the moon’s water ice for rocket fuel or mine lunar minerals to construct landing pads.
The accords are a key part of NASA’s effort to court allies around its plan to build a long-term presence on the lunar surface under its Artemis moon programme.
“What we’re doing is we are implementing the Outer Space Treaty with the Artemis Accords,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told Reuters, referring to a 1967 international pact that emphasizes that space should be used for peaceful rather than military uses.
The framework will be used as an incentive for nations to adhere to US norms of behaviour in space, he added.
“It applies to low Earth orbit, it applies to the moon as well,” Bridenstine said. The accords also require countries to adopt standards of the United Nations Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines — which govern the prevention of hazardous space debris — and the Registration Convention, which would require countries to provide orbital details of their “space objects.”
The US Congress passed a law in 2015 allowing companies to own the resources they mine in outer space, but no such laws exist in the international community. The Artemis Accords, consistent with the Trump administration’s space policy, appear to clear the way for companies to mine the moon under international law and urge countries to enact similar national laws that would bind their private sector’s space operations. 
“Why would private companies take the risk of going to mine resources if the legal situation was they could be kept from owning them?” Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA, said to Reuters. “So anything this does to clear any of that up could really help advance progress in space development.”  
China and Russia
Reuters reported earlier this month that the administration of US President Donald Trump was drawing up the Artemis Accords.
In response, Russia’s space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin criticized Washington for excluding Russia from early negotiations over the space exploration pact, drawing parallels with US foreign policy in the Middle East.
“The principle of invasion is the same, whether it be the Moon or Iraq. The creation of a ‘coalition of the willing’ is initiated,” Rogozin wrote on Twitter. “Only Iraq or Afghanistan will come out of this.”
China said it was willing to cooperate with all parties on lunar exploration “to make a greater contribution in building a community with shared future for mankind,” a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters.
The safety zones — while intended to encourage coordination — have prompted questions on whether the accords align with the Outer Space Treaty, which states the moon and other celestial bodies are “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”
The size of the safety zones would vary depending on the nature of the site they surround and would not constitute appropriation, Bridenstine said.
They would follow the principle that “basically says I’m gonna stay out of your way, you’re gonna stay out of my way, and we can all operate in this space,” he added.
However, there is a question over who determines the sizes of the safety zones, said Ram Jakhu, associate professor at McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law in Canada. “Safety zones are necessary, but they can also be abused in a way that it may become appropriation.”
But Mike Gold, NASA’s associate administrator for international relations, told Reuters the language on moon mining shouldn’t worry other nations.
“The principles that are being put forward here is nothing that we believe any responsible spacefaring nation would disagree with,” he said.
“Via the Artemis Accords, we hope that the future will look a lot more like “Star Trek,” and a lot less like “Star Wars” by getting ahead of these issues,” Gold said.

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Nvidia turns to driver-assistance market as robo-taxis stall – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

 Nvidia Corp, whose semiconductors power data centers, autonomous cars and robots, said on Thursday it plans to enter the market for technology that helps cars with automated lane-keeping, cruise control and other driver-assistance features.
The move, announced as part of the chip company’s annual conference, which was held online this year, represents a change in direction for Nvidia. Until now, the Santa Clara, California-based company has supplied key technology aimed at making autonomous vehicles that require much more sophisticated computers.
But such vehicles, some of which are known as “robo-taxis,” remain years away from mass adoption. Even before the coronavirus pandemic hammered the world economy, automakers such as General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co were dialing down their expectations for self-driving cars.
Many of the driver-assistance features that the new Nvidia system will enable, by contrast, are already available on high-end vehicles with technology from providers such as Mobileye, the Israeli firm owned by Nvidia data center rival Intel Corp.
Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at Nvidia, said the shift in strategy is aimed at meeting the existing needs of automakers that struggle with maintaining two systems – one for the driver assistance available today, and one for more advanced self-driving technology for the future.
The new Nvidia system means automakers will be able to use one system for both, saving engineering efforts and using some of the self-driving technology to improve the driver assistance functions, Shapiro said.
“We have a single architecture that will enable the automaker to span every potential level of automation they want to deliver and put that software-updatable system in every single vehicle,” Shapiro said.
Nvidia’s new self-driving technology uses the “Orin” processing chip the company launched in December. Shapiro said he expected vehicles using the system could start production in early 2023.
Shapiro declined to comment on pricing or potential automaker customers. However, he said the Nvidia chips will be part of a larger system that includes cameras and will likely be built by traditional automotive suppliers such as Continental AG, ZF Friedrichshafen AG or Robert Bosch.
“We’re the (artificial intelligence) brain that would go into this,” Shapiro said.

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WHO readies coronavirus app for checking symptoms, possibly contact tracing – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to launch an app this month to enable people in under-resourced countries to assess whether they may have the novel coronavirus, and is considering a Bluetooth-based contact tracing feature too, an official told Reuters on Friday.
The app will ask people about their symptoms and offer guidance on whether they may have COVID-19, the potentially lethal illness caused by the coronavirus, said Bernardo Mariano, chief information officer for the WHO. Other information, such as how to get tested, will be personalized according to the user’s country.
Though the WHO will release a version on app stores globally, any government will be able to take the app’s underlying technology, add features and release its own version on app stores, Mariano said in a phone interview.
India, Australia and the United Kingdom already have released official virus apps using their own technology, with common features including telling people whether to get tested based on their symptoms and logging people’s movements to enable more efficient contact tracing.
Several countries are ramping up contact tracing, or the process of finding, testing and isolating individuals who crossed paths with an infectious individual. It is seen as vital to safely opening economies, and apps that automate parts of the process could accelerate efforts.
The WHO expects its app to draw interest in other countries, including some in South America and Africa where case numbers are rising. They may lack the technology and engineers to develop apps or be struggling to offer testing and education.
“The value is really for countries that do not have anything,” Mariano said. “We would be leaving behind the ones that are not able to (provide an app), that have fragile health systems.”
Engineers and designers, including some who previously worked at Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp , have been volunteering for weeks to develop the new app with about five of them overseeing the process. They are designing it open-source on the hosting service GitHub, meaning code is open to public input.
Several team members declined to comment.
Mariano said he wants to include additional tools beyond the symptom checker, including a self-help guide for mental health care.
The team also is considering what the WHO refers to as proximity tracing.
Engineers have done preliminary work and talked to smartphone operating system makers Apple Inc and Google about possibly adopting technology the companies plan to release jointly this month to make tracing easier.
The technology relies on virtual “handshakes” between phones that come within a few feet of each other for at least five minutes. Phones keep anonymised logs of such encounters, allowing someone who later tests positive to anonymously send notifications to recent contacts about their possible exposure to the virus.
But Mariano said legal and privacy considerations have prevented the WHO from committing to such a feature yet. He expressed concern about the many businesses pitching proximity tools turning around and using any personal data they gather to generate revenue later.
“We want to make sure we ring-fence all the risks around it,” he said.
Apple and Google have said their system will not use any data for other purposes and will be stopped when the pandemic ends.
The WHO plans to release guidance as soon as next week on issues countries should consider as they weigh their own proximity tracing apps.
To reach people with limited internet access, the WHO is working to deliver information via text messages. In March, it launched an account on Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp to provide users with information about the coronavirus, and it partnered with the company’s Free Basics program to make some information available without users incurring data charges.
The WHO also plans to release an app next week to inform health workers globally about best practices for donning protective gear, washing hands and treating the virus. The organization already has a general app, WHO Info, that largely mirrors its website.

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Google announces company holiday on May 22 to stem virus burnout – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it has asked employees to take a day off on May 22, to address work-from-home-related burnout during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai announced the move in a memo to employees on late Thursday, which was first reported by CNBC.
Google said it would begin reopening more offices globally as early as June, but most Google employees would likely work from home until the end of this year.
Facebook Inc also said on Friday it would allow workers who are able to work remotely to do so until the end of 2020.
The virus, which has infected more than 3.9 million people globally so far, has forced strict lockdowns in most countries and changed the way businesses function, with work from home emerging as the new norm.
 

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From bunting to the big picture: Isle of Wight becomes UK’s virus app test bed – Benchmarking Change- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

COWES, England (Reuters) – The coronavirus outbreak put paid to May Day festivities on the Isle of Wight this week and brought the spotlight to the island for a very different reason: it has been designated a testing ground for a tracing app aimed at stemming the virus’s spread.
Walking down the unusually quiet High Street in Cowes, where visitors usually step off the ferry from the south coast of England, local councillor and health service employee Anni Adams said her home town would have been preparing street parties.
“It would have been all down here, with bunting. It seems like yesterday we were meeting, umming and ahhing over whether to go ahead.”
Instead, Adams is one of the health service workers and council staff who on Tuesday became the first cohort to start downloading to their smart phones an app the British government hopes can help limit transmission of the virus, which has now infected more than 3.5 million people worldwide.
It is Britain’s answer to the kind of software which, along with wider testing and tracking, is seen as key to easing restrictions on movement that have paralysed economies.
Using it will be voluntary, giving the option to anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test, to enter their details to start the tracing process.
Unlike similar projects in other European countries, Britain has chosen to process data centrally rather than on the devices themselves, where a higher level of privacy can be guaranteed.
Adams says she thinks she is one of many people to have had concerns about privacy, but Britain’s Tempemail Health Service – a unit of which developed the app – has experience of handling data, and anyway “it’s about a bigger picture at the moment.”
“If we can help get out of lockdown on the island and help save lives that’s more important to me than whether a person on the end of a phone knows I went to Waitrose yesterday,” she said, referring to a British supermarket. 
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that data privacy and security were paramount in the app’s development.
The island was chosen for the project partly as national health services for all its 140,000-strong population are run by one single entity.
Ideally, more than half the population will download the app, its developer said on Monday, but takeup by 20 percent or more would give important insights into how the virus was spreading.
The rest of the island’s citizens will be invited to download the app from Thursday.

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