In less than a week, SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk will finally explain how he plans to colonize Mars within the next few decades. It’s a goal that he has adamantly championed for years, though he hasn’t given many specifics about it. That will change on September 27th, when Musk is expected to talk about the vehicles and technologies needed to bring people to the Red Planet, and then build a long-term settlement there.
MUSK HAS BEEN VERY VOCAL ABOUT HIS DESIRE TO PUT PEOPLE ON MARS
For many, the lecture is long overdue. Musk has been very vocal about his desire to put people on Mars, arguing that it’s necessary for human survival. “I think there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multi-planetary in order to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen,” Elon toldAeon Magazine in 2014.
The announcement comes at an awkward time for SpaceX, though. The company recently suffered a major failure after one of its Falcon 9 rockets exploded on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX is now grounded from spaceflight as it tries to figure out what caused the accident, but the explosion hasn’t changed Musk’s plans to talk about his vision for Mars next week, the company told The Verge.
Musk has been vague about his Mars colonization architecture so far, though the internet rumor mill has been busy. Here’s what we know about Musk’s vision and what he may or may not reveal at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Guadalajara, Mexico. “I think it’s gonna seem pretty crazy, no matter what,” Musk told GQ in December.
What we kind of know
The Interplanetary Transport System, formally known as the Mars Colonial Transporter
Musk’s Mars plan hinges on two major elements: a monster rocket booster and a giant spaceship capable of carrying cargo and people to the Martian surface. The booster is supposed to launch the spaceship from Earth, and then the spaceship will continue the journey to Mars, according to Musk.
These two vehicles have often been referred to as the Mars Colonial Transporter, or MCT, though last week Musk jettisoned the name. Now dubbed the “Interplanetary Transport System,” Musk believes the vehicles will be capable of going “well beyond Mars.”
We don’t know much about these vehicles. But Musk has given us a few details over the years — all of which, of course, are subject to change.
The monster rocket that SpaceX wants to build has been codenamed the BFR, an acronym for Big Fucking Rocket. It’s a nod to the video game Doom, which had a giant gun called the BFG. The booster will have to launch a spaceship filled with 100 tons of “useful payload” to the Martian surface, Musk explained in a Reddit AMA in January 2015. That will be way more cargo than anyone has ever delivered to Mars at one time. So — as you likely guessed from the name — the rocket’s got to be massive, either similar in size, or bigger, than the Saturn V rocket that sent astronauts to the Moon. “The scale of everything is going to have to grow exponentially,” Bobby Braun, an associate professor of space technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, tells to The Verge. “To get a two-story house all the way to Mars, you’re going to need a very large rocket.”
We don’t know too many details about what the BFR will look like, but Musk has indicated that the vehicle will consist of a single massive rocket core. And the BFR will most likely be reusable — just like SpaceX’s Falcon 9. How will such a massive vehicle be built, and how much will it cost? We don’t know.
The BFR mostly serves the purpose of carrying a giant ship — codenamed BFS, for Big Fucking Spaceship — into space. This will be the main ride for passengers traveling to the Martian colony. But the structure of the vehicle and how it will operate is not yet known. Some have wondered if the BFS will spin to create artificial gravity for passengers, to minimize their muscle and bone density loss. And there has been speculation about how it will shield astronauts from deep-space radiation and solar flares.
But there’s another big concern, too: how will the BFS land on Mars? That will be tricky because Mars’ thin air provides less cushion to slow down incoming spacecraft, since its atmosphere is 1/100th the density of Earth’s. So large pieces of cargo run the risk of gathering too much speed en route to the surface, and slamming into it. This problem isn’t limited to SpaceX; NASA only knows how to land around 1 ton of cargo intact on Mars for now. (The Curiosity rover used a combination of parachutes and a sky crane to land.) But Musk will need to land up to 100 tons of people and cargo carried over by the BFS — about 100 times the weight of Curiosity.
MUSK HAS SAID HE HOPES TO LAUNCH THE FIRST BFS FILLED WITH PASSENGERS IN 2024
SpaceX won’t be relying on NASA’s methods to land its cargo, though. Instead, it will likely figure out a way of using rocket engines to lower a vehicle down to a planet’s surface, according to Braun. This is called supersonic retro propulsion, and SpaceX has used it to land its Falcon 9 rockets after launch. The company will likely scale up the technique for its Mars spaceship. However, it’s not clear if the entire BFS will be capable of landing on Mars, or if only a portion of it will ferry crew and cargo to the Martian surface.
A key component of both the BFR and the BFS will be the Raptor — a giant new engine that SpaceX has been developing since 2009. The Raptor will be capable of about 500,000 pounds of thrust at liftoff, according to Musk, making it about as powerful as the Space Shuttle’s main engines. It will also use liquid methane for fuel, unlike the kerosene-based Merlin engines used to power the Falcon 9 rockets. It’s possible that the choice to switch fuels is due to the fact that methane can be made on Mars, using subsurface ice and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to Braun. That means that the Raptor engines could be “refueled” with materials on the Red Planet.
A component for the Raptor rocket engine undergoing testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. (NASA)
A whole bunch of these Raptor engines — it’s unclear how many — are supposed to power the BFR, as well as the BFS, according to Musk. SpaceX has already made some significant headway on the engine’s development. The first full-scale Raptor was shipped to SpaceX’s McGregor testing facility in Texas earlier this year, according to SpaceX president and COO Gwynne Shotwell.
Much of the hardware needed for a Martian settlement will have to be sent over before people arrive. And once the colonists eventually get there, they’ll still need food and supplies coming from Earth — plus plenty of replacement parts in case equipment breaks or malfunctions.
Musk’s solution is a series of Red Dragon missions, which were announced earlier this year. In 2018, SpaceX plans to launch a version of its Dragon cargo capsule to Mars, to see if the vehicle can deliver supplies to the planet’s surface. The capsule will launch on top of the Falcon Heavy, the heavy-lift rocket SpaceX plans to fly for the first time next year. And once the Dragon reaches the Red Planet, it will use supersonic retro propulsion to land.
SpaceX plans to keep sending these Red Dragons to Mars every 26 months — when Earth and Mars are closest to one another on their orbits. The idea is to establish a reliable cargo route to Mars. These Red Dragon “shipments” will bring supplies and replacement parts to the Martian colonists.
What we don’t really know at all
There’s been a lot of speculation as to how the BFS will have enough fuel to get to Mars. Launching such a massive vehicle into space will probably use up a lot of fuel, meaning the spaceship will probably need to a refuel before it goes to the Red Planet. Additional rockets may have to bring propellant to the BFS, Braun suggests. “So you send up the structure and the bones of the spaceship,” he says, “and then you send up basically freighters that are full of propellant, transfer that into the ship, and then it’s off to Mars.”
Returning to Earth
Unlike the Mars One project — which supposedly promises a one-way trip to Mars — Musk’s plan will allow people to return to Earth. “You want to bring the spaceship back,” Musk said at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium in 2014. “These spaceships are expensive, okay, they’re hard to build. You can’t just leave them there. So whether or not people want to come back or not is kind of — like they can jump on if they want, but we need the spaceship back.”
“YOU WANT TO BRING THE SPACESHIP BACK.”
But exactly how the spaceship will return to Earth is still unknown — and no vehicle has ever returned to Earth from the Martian surface before. That’s because launching from Mars is considered an incredible feat; it involves landing a vehicle with engines and enough fuel that can take off from Mars and make it back to Earth. But if Musk is able to refuel his vehicle’s engines on Mars, it may be capable of launching and returning to Earth.
Habitat and keeping people alive
Musk has said very little about where exactly people are going to live on Mars. Colonists will need a life-support system to create breathable air, a way to clean and recycle water, and a way to feed themselves. Most experts agree that Martian settlers will eventually have to live off the land in some way.
“Providing enough food, water, and air is the number one requirement, and most people that have looked at it agree it’s very hard to do that for a long mission, unless you make these things on Mars,” Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, tells The Verge. “Maybe the first few years you can bring your own food, but eventually you’ll have to grow your own food.”
No one has ever tried doing any of these things on Mars — and there are a lot of challenges when it comes to supplying colonists with food. For instance, the soil on Mars is thought to contain salts known as perchlorates, which are toxic for humans. So if crops are going to be grown on Mars, they either need to be grown in soil from Earth or the Martian soil must be somehow cleaned. “It’s a difficult problem and no one has solved it,” says McKay.
ALL OF THESE ELEMENTS COULD WREAK HAVOC ON THE HUMAN BODY
Radiation levels on Mars are also higher than on Earth, the environment is a lot colder, and there’s about one-third the gravity. All of these elements could wreak havoc on the human body if not properly accounted for. But Braun says it’s possible we may not hear about solutions to these problems next week.
“SpaceX is a space transportation company, at least the way I think of them,” says Braun. “I think that what you’re likely to hear is mostly a discussion of the space transportation architecture. I would assume they’re going to partner with others on a lot of those technologies required to keep humans safe.”
Cost, who’s going to go, and more…
There are many other aspects of a Mars mission that need to be addressed, such as the types of people who will go and how the trip will be funded. And there could be even more challenges that crop up along the way. That’s because a Mars mission will be a massive undertaking, requiring a ton of engineering and problem solving that crosses multiple disciplines. “I think it’s extremely difficult,” Charles Miller, the president of NexGen Space LLC, a space consulting firm, tells The Verge. “I think it’s a very audacious goal worth dedicating your life to, and I share his belief in creating a second branch of human society. But it’s extremely difficult, and I kind of feel sorry for those who think it’s a lot easier than it is.”
We don’t really know which details Musk will reveal at the IAC. He could go into the minutiae of each leg of the trip, or he could just give an overall outline of the architecture. We’ll only know once Musk talks, and fortunately for those not going to Guadalajara, the whole thing will be streamed live. You can watch the stream here on The Verge along with our coverage, starting at 8AM ET on Tuesday.
BING AND YAHOO ARE SUGGESTING OFFENSIVE SEARCHES
Bing and Yahoo, which is powered by Bing, are both suggesting offensive content within their search features. How-To Geek spotted that Bing’s image search is serving up suggestions for related topics that contain racist terms, the sexualization of minors, and otherwise offensive content. The Verge then found that this problem extends to Yahoo: its homepage search box includes an autocomplete feature that populates racist phrases, and the results often prioritize the company’s Yahoo Answers posts that contain offensive material.
On Bing, the suggestions, called smart suggestion bubbles, appear in a line above the results after conducting an image search. Per How-To Geek’s screencaps, an example search for “Jews” on Bing Images gave smart suggestion bubbles like “dirty Jews,” and “evil Jews.” Clicking through one of those suggested searches recommended additional racist search terms.
Bing’s SafeSearch option is enabled by default, but it failed to block these offensive results. Turning SafeSearch off can deliver other offensive suggestions. Searching images on Bing for “black people are” with SafeSearch off returns suggested follow-up searches of “are stupid,” “are retarded,” and “monkeys.”
In some cases, the top images that are returned are also offensive. According to How-To Geek, the problem is prevalent in Bing’s video search as well. The Verge was able to replicate some of the results, but not all. The problem also extends to searches around other ethnicities.
How-To Geek says that Bing also recommended terms that sexualize minors. When searching for “gril,” Bing then suggested a search for “cute girl young 16.” Clicking through suggested searches for “little girl modeling provocatively,” “cute girls young 13,” and “cute girl young 10.”
These autocomplete suggestions don’t appear when making a regular search through bing.com. However, Bing also powers Yahoo’s search, and the same offensive suggestions that appear in Bing Images show up on Yahoo’s main page.
Additionally, since Yahoo appears to prioritize the community-driven question-and-answer website Yahoo Answers in its search results, the top result for an offensive search can come from an untrustworthy source. Upon searching the first auto-suggested phrase for “black people ar,” The Verge found that the top result is a Yahoo Answers page titled “Are Black People Born Stupid” that contains numerous racist comments. Yahoo then suggests a follow-up search, saying, “Also try: black people are stupid and violent.”
Other search engines like Google have had their brushes with inadvertently promoting offensive content. In 2016, Google addressed the very same issue of autocomplete suggesting “are Jews evil.” That same year, the company faced backlash when the top result for the query “did the Holocaust happen?” came from a white supremacist website. In response, Google changed its Search Quality Rater Guidelines in 2017 in order to tamp down on the spread of offensive or inaccurate search results. A few months later, Google came under fire again for highlighting an offensive meme in the search results for query “gender fluid.”
Google has outlined its policy on inappropriate content for autocomplete, along with a way to report violations. While Bing isn’t as forthcoming, a blog post from Bing in 2013 specifically states that its search auto-suggest tries to remove offensive content. “In addition to processing suggestions,” it says, “we are also running parallel algorithms that filter spam, detect adult or offensive content, check for spelling errors and classify the type of search you are attempting across categories.”
Last year, Bing added fact-checking labels to search results, and Microsoft (which owns and operates Bing) announced new AI features for Bing that are meant to, among other things, better recognize the content of images. The Verge has reached out to Microsoft for comment.
WITH WATSON, TECHNICIANS ARE EMPOWERED TO MAKE THE RIGHT REPAIRS. THE FIRST TIME. ANYWHERE.
Since 2014 Apple and IBM have been working with clients to usher in a new era of smart enterprise. The latest collaboration offers companies interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) a chance to be a part of the next big shift in enterprise mobile intelligence — by bringing the power of IBM’s Watson AI services and Apple’s machine learning framework, Core ML, to native iOS apps. IBM Watson Services for Core ML delivers native iOS apps that give developers access to vast amounts of data, both on their device and through the cloud. This means that users can access information and deep insights directly on their iPhone or iPad, even when it’s not connected to a network.
The Coca-Cola Company is always innovating across their technology landscape, and AI is a key focus area. When presented with the opportunity to explore the value of IBM Watson services and machine learning, they quickly engaged. With the Coca-Cola emphasis on quality, they are currently partnering with IBM, working on prototypes for how IBM Watson Services for Core ML may transform in-field capabilities. Initial functionalities being analyzed are visual recognition problem identification, cognitive diagnosis and augmented repair. Early exploration is promising, and Coca-Cola and IBM continue to determine next steps.
Challenges in the field
Field technicians are deployed to service and repair beverage dispensing machines at restaurants and venues around the world. Once on site, the tech must be able to diagnose and correct an enormous array of problems, relying ultimately on their personal expertise and experience. If the system is not one the technician is familiar with – an uncommon water filter, for example – then routine repairs can become frustrating and time-consuming. Adding to the challenges, many sites are in remote or rural locations with no data connectivity, meaning no access to support, and therefore limited ability to make repairs. In these cases, the tech would need to spend time searching through informational databases, product manuals, and might even need to call in or consult with a colleague or specialist – resulting in lost productivity and prolonged system downtime.
Enter Watson Services for Core ML
With the AI capabilities of IBM Watson and Core ML, relevant information is put directly into a tech’s hands the moment she needs it, allowing her to resolve the issue quickly. Coca-Cola used Watson Services for Core ML to build an app that leverages visual recognition and augmented reality to identify equipment issues, diagnose problems, and troubleshoot repairs.
Through the app, the tech can use their iPhone or iPad camera to diagnose system problems via a virtual overlay and guided instructions pulled from the cloud, with zero latency, and even in areas with no network connectivity. Watson Visual Recognition on the device helps the technician identify older or poorly differentiated systems, or unfamiliar parts, and pinpoint the problem right away. Then, Watson Discovery Service helps identify possible solutions for the specific systems and type of malfunction.
Using ARKit, an iOS framework with resources to help create augmented reality experiences for the iPhone and iPad, developers are able to integrate apps with augmented reality models that help the technician solve complex problems on less-familiar systems.
As the technician is working on the job, data is captured. That data is then sent to the cloud once the device is back on the network, so Watson can learn from the interaction and make the learning available to other technicians in near real-time. Using the guided repair system, the technician is empowered to solve the problem the first time, increasing productivity, and elevating customer service – all without needing to call for assistance or reschedule the repair.
MANAGING THE EVOLVING SKIES
Unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM), the key enabler
Aerial technology is transforming the way people perceive aviation. Elevated vehicles, including passenger and delivery drones, have the potential to address today’s urban congestion, improve logistics, and create new products and markets. With the growing demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) across commercial and non-commercial markets, the skies will get busier. An upshot would be to manage and maintain an increasingly diverse airspace, while keeping all the air traffic safe and efficient.
Unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) can play the role of a “key enabler” in the future of UAVs and presents significant business opportunities to main stakeholders. The global UTM market, valued at about US$538 million in 2018, is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 20 percent during the period 2019 to 2025.
Our study explores the challenges and solutions that are critical to the success of all UAV ecosystem stakeholders. It also discusses how a UTM system can ensure safe and efficient operations and is a critical requirement for the future of elevated mobility.
Read more: https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/energy-and-resources/articles/managing-evolving-skies.html?id=gx:2sm:3li:4UTM18::6Energy_and_Resources:20180717093000:Global&linkId=54344340