Connect with us


White House orders NASA to get American astronauts back on the moon



NASA is going back to the moon — somehow, someway. The White House has ordered the agency to put American boots back on the lunar surface. The major unknowns at this point include the when, how, scale of the operation and cost. Also unclear is what exactly NASA would accomplish with such a mission and how it might affect plans for a human mission to Mars.

NASA put 12 astronauts on the moon between 1969 and 1972. With the death Friday of Apollo 16’s John Young, only five of those astronauts are still alive, and they range in age from 82 to 87. No human being has been beyond low Earth orbit since the end of the Apollo program.

NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot told The Washington Post that the agency will partner with other countries in the return to the moon, but he did not say which ones. He said the moon plan will be a public-private partnership, but did not name any companies that might be involved. Details will emerge with the president’s annual budget request to Congress, he said. He provided no specifics about the architecture of a moon program.

“We have no idea yet,” Lightfoot said.

NASA is trying to do this without additional funding or a permanent administrator — another top science position that hasn’t been filled in the Trump administration. NASA’s ongoing challenge in recent years has been reconciling the orders of politicians with the hard realities of flat budgets and the immutable laws of physics. This is the third time this century that NASA has been ordered to make a major shift in the focus of its human spaceflight program.

“We’re always asked to change directions every time we get a new president, and that just causes you to do negative work, work that doesn’t matter,” former astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station in his last spaceflight mission, told The Post. “I just hope someday we’ll have a president that will say, ‘You know what, we’ll just leave NASA on the course they are on, and see what NASA can achieve if we untie their hands.’”

Scott Hubbard, former director of the NASA Ames Research Center, said he has heard grumbling in the space community about this latest change in NASA strategy. He said people are saying, “Please don’t push the reset button again, because you’re just going to waste billions of dollars of previous investment.”

NASA’s long-term human spaceflight strategy still includes a Mars mission in the 2030s, starting with a mission to orbit the planet and return home, followed by landing astronauts on Mars at an unspecified future date. Hubbard said that’s still doable — “but not if NASA does a major re-pivot and goes all-in on a base on the moon. Then clearly Mars is pushed way off into the future.”

But Lori Garver, the NASA deputy administrator during President Barack Obama’s first term, said the people who don’t want to see changes at NASA are “whiners.” She has experience with implementing a major strategic shift, because after she and her fellow political appointees arrived at NASA headquarters in 2009, they upended the plans of George W. Bush for a return to the moon.

“This is a democracy,” she said. “Elections matter.”

She noted that NASA is already building a jumbo rocket and crew capsule that could be used in a moon program. And she said NASA hasn’t built anything yet that’s specifically designed for a Mars mission.

“Mars was more of a talking point,” she said. “It’s out there as an aspirational goal.”

NASA is a $19 billion agency that does far more than just launch people into space. It spends roughly $5 billion a year on science missions, including robotic exploration of Mars and other planets. But the human spaceflight program has always been the heart of the agency and the foundation of its political support in Congress. The truism on the Hill has always been “No Buck Rogers, no bucks.”

Continue Reading


Here are a few Marvel comic arcs that might be adapted for the MCU



When the MCU launched 10 years ago, the universe was grounded by our own rules of reality. Each film installment introduced us to alternate planes of existence, the depths of space, and even the subatomic scale.

Only just scratching the surface on 60 years’ worth of comic book history, the publisher has often relied on crossover events to anchor the interconnected stories of each character and team. As Phase 3 nears completion, as well as a Fox merger in negotiation, we have explored some of the story arcs and crossover titles that could be adapted for the silver screen.

Secret Wars 

In this 1984 story, a cosmic entity called The Beyonder abducts the superheroes and transports them to a “Battleworld” to face off against Marvel’s most infamous villains. There was sort of a followup in 2015, where the collapsing multiverse was saved by Dr. Doom, who combined all realities and timelines into one combined existence.

While Thanos credits balance as the motive behind his finger-snap, there may be outside forces at work. If he is playing some sort of dangerous game with the cosmic entities, Marvel has the opportunity to combine every iteration of their characters from all studios and properties – multiple Spider-Men on screen at once type of stuff.

Kree-Skrull War

A story released in 1971, an immense galactic war between the Kree and the Skrulls spills into the Earth’s proximity. This story arc frees the original Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell from a dimension called the Negative Zone. The Kree hero exposes Carol Danvers to his technology in the process.

Kevin Fiege stated the plot of Captain Marvel is heavily inspired by the Kree-Skrull war. Taking place in the ’80s, we should see an early S.H.I.E.L.D. team working alongside Jude Law’s Captain Marvel. We’ve seen much of the Kree race around Marvel films and TV, but never any Skrulls. The heroes are likely to have beat them into hiding.

House of M

Wolverine wakes up as a guard to Magneto and his royal family in this alternate universe. Along the way he realizes Scarlett Witch has made Mutants the general population, with regular humans being the minority.

Mutants don’t yet exist in the MCU, but this could be how the X-gene comes into existence. As Fox’s Marvel properties are on the brink of acquisition, Deadpool 2 raking in big numbers at box office, as well as a slew of successful television shows, let’s hope the world of mutants can soon join MCU canon.

New Avengers

After the events of Civil War, writer Brian Michael Bendis relaunched the team. Comprised of the heroes who did not sign to work for the government, this new roster included a few heroes including Bucky as Captain America, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Clint Barton, Wolverine and Luke Cage.

At this point, we know that the MCU’s founding Avengers are at the end of their contracts. Whether this is the team that saves the day in the untitled Avengers movie, a new team will indefinitely assemble, and Captain Marvel will play a big role in the team.

Secret Invasion

Since the Kree-Skrull War, the Skrulls have set their sights on Earth, placing sleeper-agents to infiltrate the planet. Some of these infiltrators have been genetically modified with various superpowers as well, making formidable foes.

Assuming this is catalyzed by the events of the 1980-based Captain Marvel, some of our favorite characters may have been shapeshifting sleeper-agents the whole time. This story turned the heroes against each other, but only time will tell who could be part of the alien takeover.

Dark Reign

After the world watched Norman Osbourne kill the Skrull queen and end the invasion, Osbourne is entrusted by the people as Earth’s protector as well as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., establishing a new agency called H.A.M.M.E.R. in its place.

A whole cabal of villains are tapped to take over the mantles of the heroes, and the former Green Goblin pursues his own agenda. Over time the team rebels due to his insanity. Fiege claims the following Phase 4 will be completely different — maybe the MCU is in for some dark times.

Future Imperfect

After two nuclear wars and the span of a century, an alternate version of the Hulk has aged into the Maestro. He possesses the intellect of Bruce Banner, and has been driven insane by radiation over the years. Seizing control of the planet, a younger Hulk travels through time to contest him.

Fiege and Mark Ruffalo have spoke about exploring a small Hulk story arc throughout the next phase of films. After Avengers: Infinity War, Bruce Banner cannot transform into the Hulk. Recently-released concept art raises the question, is it a suit that allows Banner to transform? Does the suit go awry in the process? Regardless, hopefully we see a genius Hulk causes ruckus in the MCU.

Continue Reading


Amazon Is Banning Customers For Making Too Many Returns



Amazon may be expanding to services such as facial recognition systems (Rekognition) and virtual assistants (Alexa), but the heart of the business still lies at its limitless online shopping platform, which has been lauded for its convenient shipping and lax return policy. Or so it seems. Amazon has been banning customers from shopping on the site for making too many returns. Some shoppers have even reported that their gift cards were taken away, too.

According to The Wall Street Journal, one customer named Nir Nissim recently received an email in March notifying him that his account had been closed due to his return activity. “You cannot open a new account or use another account to place orders on our site,” Amazon wrote. He said he returned just one item this year — a computer drive — and four items last year, and had “contacted them almost every day for a week or two” following the ban. His $450 USD gift card was also taken away. Another customer in NYC named Shira Golan said her account was shut down without explanation earlier this month. After she called and emailed Amazon several times she received a response saying her account was permanently terminated. She said she didn’t receive any warnings.

This isn’t anything new; customers have been taking to Twitter and other social media platforms to complain about Amazon’s banning. “We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time,” an Amazon spokesman said to the WSJ. “We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers.”

Check out some of the complaints from ex-customers below and share your thoughts in the comments below. In case you missed out, Amazon recently raised its Prime membership fee to $119 USD.

Continue Reading


Apple Signs Deal to Launch Self-Driving Shuttle Service



Apple and German automotive company Volkswagen are set to launch a new partnership for Apple’s campuses and locations in San Francisco. The new program will see Volkswagen’s T6 Transporter models used as self-driving shuttles for Apple’s employees, taking them to, from and around the various campuses. Apple has been working on its self-driving program for years, with Tim Cook confirming the technology was in development last year.

The vehicles themselves will be provided by Volkswagen — after negotiations with BMW and Mercedes-Benz broke down — while the autonomous functions will be entirely driven by Apple’s own self-driving technology. There’s no news yet on when the program will be launched, although it is reportedly behind schedule and, according to the New York Times, “consuming nearly all of the Apple car team’s attention.” Keep an eye out for Apple’s latest self-driving cars to hit the Bay Area roads sometime in the future, but it doesn’t look likely that the service will be expanded to the general public soon.

Continue Reading