Tech

Daily Authority: Virgin grounded 🚨

2 hours ago

🔋 Hi there! Battery recharged, and thanks to Nick for covering. With Monday’s Labor Day holiday, I’ll send a shorter and sweet-as-ever version to start the week.

Virgin Galactic’s core spaceship, SpaceShipTwo, is now grounded pending investigations (Reuters).

Why? Well, it seems to stem from “The red warning light on Richard Branson’s space flight,” according to a detailed New Yorker report published this week on the famous/infamous Virgin Galactic flight earlier this year that took billionaire Richard Branson to the edge of space, beating out Jeff Bezos.

It’s a scathing report because it seems … unsafe, at best? In short, it’s reported that the flight didn’t go to plan, which isn’t wildly unexpected given the various firsts being achieved. 

  • But the VSS Unity veered off course during its ascent, invoking warnings. 
  • It flew in unsanctioned airspace, and the spaceplane failed to reach its intended trajectory.
  • That risked a hazardous descent and landing, with a red warning light: Virgin Galactic pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci were aware of the problem.

Details:

  • First, a yellow light: a “warning to the pilots that their flight path was too shallow and the nose of the ship was insufficiently vertical,” writes author of the piece, Nicholas Schmidle. “If they didn’t fix it, they risked a perilous emergency landing in the desert on their descent.”
  • Then the red light: an “entry glide cone warning,” described as a “big deal.”
  • During a meeting in 2015, the report says Mike Masucci himself said this red warning light “should scare the crap out of you.”
  • “According to multiple sources in the company, the safest way to respond to the warning would have been to abort. (A Virgin Galactic spokesperson disputed this contention.)
  • “Aborting at that moment, however, would have dashed Branson’s hopes of beating his rival Bezos, whose flight was scheduled for later in the month, into space. Mackay and Masucci did not abort. Whether or not their decision was motivated by programmatic pressures and the hopes of their billionaire bankroller sitting in the back remains unclear.
  • An F.A.A. spokesperson confirmed that Virgin Galactic “deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance” and that an “investigation is ongoing.”

The New Yorker report further questions the safety culture of the company, which Virgin Galatic denied in various statements.

  • Anyway, tickets are $450,000!

📸 Samsung may add OIS, a flagship camera feature, in its mid-range and value Galaxy A series phones in future (Android Authority).

📺 Amazon could launch its own Alexa-powered TV in the US very soon, made by TCL, but Amazon is making one itself… (Android Authority).

🎧 Why you should care about lossless Bluetooth audio (and why you shouldn’t) (Android Authority).

👉 Microsoft may have just revealed Android app support for Xbox, which would be interesting (Android Authority).

💸 WhatsApp cops whopping $267 million fine for breaking privacy laws in Ireland, but Facebook will appeal (Android Authority).

🍎 New details about Apple’s AR headset and its SoC suggests it’ll leave a lot of the processing to a connected iPhone, but will have unique focuses on “compressing and decompressing video,” and “transmitting wireless data between the headset and the host.” Which makes a lot of sense (Ars Technica).

🍏 Huge leak gives away tons of Apple Watch series 7 secrets, including details on the new bigger sizes, and even new watch faces (Android Authority).

🤔 After the iPhone 13, the future of Apple’s iPhone Mini hangs in the balance (CNET).

📉 GM suspends production at North American plants amid ongoing chip shortages (Engadget).

👉 A brief overview of IBM’s new 7 nm Telum mainframe CPU with 256 cores (Ars Technica).

🔴 Second time’s the charm: NASA’s Perseverance drills Mars rock, again, and it seems to have worked (Wired).

💰 Please enjoy r/ReallyShittyCopper, a subreddit devoted to Ea-Nasir, “an Iraqi merchant circa 1750 BC, who sold exceptionally shitty copper,” which stems from the oldest known complaint ever made(Wikipedia)

🤔 “Can it be possible that the microphone in your phone is listening to you for targeted ads?” (Lots of interesting discussion, though the answer is no) (r/nostupidquestions). By the way, Reddit might launch an IPO? (Reuters).

Moonfall has been announced, a movie coming early next year. Moonfall is a disaster movie about the Moon falling(The Verge).

  • No really: “A mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it.” It seems to be loosely based on a book of the same name?
  • It’s made by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012, etc.) which tells you it’s over the top and fun and probably a bit silly.
  • Aside from general enthusiasm for fun disaster movies, this has also had people clamoring for a movie or TV series based on Seveneves, which is the sci-fi book about the moon blowing up.
  • You can read the first 26 pages of that book by Neal Stephenson, here.

All the best here on Earth,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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