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Opportunity realized and lost: an ode to a friend in space

NASA’s Opportunity rover is now considered permanently out of commission. Officials attribute this death to a dust storm that ended communication with the rover in the summer of 2018.

Opportunity landed on Mars 15 years ago in 2004 and was expected to last only 90 days. Astoundingly the rover sustained and survived for 5,111 days for more than 1.5 decades. It is immortalized by a selfie it took to mark its 5000th Martian day. It has set a number of records on its 28-mile journey across Mars and has lasted longer by far more than any other Mars rover in history.

Six months ago, Opportunity encountered one of the most ferocious Martian sandstorms that blocked its solar panels. This meant the rover couldn’t draw power perpetually from the sun anymore, and could only rely on its power cell to run.

“My battery is low and it is getting dark.”

That was the last message from Opportunity. It was heard on 10th June, 2018. Opportunity went dark a long time ago, but NASA were waiting on it, hoping it would resurface. But now, an emotional NASA stuff has informed that they sent over a thousand messages to Opportunity trying to get it to respond. They considered Opportunity as a family member and had given it the nickname of Oppy.

Artwork by: @isalleyokay and @teh_doodler

The weather on Mars is expected to face an extended cold spell which would destroy the powering components on Opportunity. In the end, Opportunity lived up to the title bestowed upon it, providing mankind with the opportunity to uncover a few more secrets of the vast reaches of space. Its mission completed, Opportunity will rest at the edge of Perseverance Valley.

See you, space cowboy.

Does Tesla and Elon Musk need an intervention?

As awesome as Tony Stark is, sometimes he needs friends to help him get through the day. That can include fighting aliens and rogue AIs or helping him recover from alcoholism and get his company back to speed. Perhaps, it’s time for Elon Musk to get the same kind of help, too.

Tesla’s shares slid by more than six percent on Friday, after Musk smoked weed during a live interview with Joe Rogan. This is the kind of behavior that, while not entirely unexpected from a man who launched a car into space, is also rarely seen from CEOs who run companies worth 45 billion dollars.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

2018 hasn’t been easy, for both Musk and Tesla. It has consistently missed production targets for the Model 3. Musk has amped up production since last year, a process that he has termed “production hell”. In a radical move, he attempted to automate most of the production line. One such production robot, affectionately dubbed the “fluffer bot”, was so ineffective that it repeatedly stalled production. He eventually had to replace it by human workers.

Then came the Thailand rescue saga, where Musk accused a diver of being a pedophile. He doubled down on these accusations in August, wondering why the diver, Vernon Unsworth, didn’t feel confident enough to sue Musk. Unsworth happily obliged.

Last month also saw Musk teasing about taking Tesla private. NYSE shorts Tesla among one of the most commonly shorted stocks. And Musk has often accused Tesla short sellers of actively trying to sabotage Tesla. However, he changed his mind after apparently securing funding from a Saudi Arabian fund. The SEC is also investigating Tesla for Musk’s initial “funding secured” tweet.

Should Musk Head Towards Greener Pastures?

elon musk tesla

Musk admitted, in a tearful interview for the New York Times, that 2018 has been the most stressful year of his life so far. He constantly uses Ambien and is open to hiring another executive at Tesla to help him tide over the constant challenges. Earlier, Azalea Banks also alleged on Instagram that she was in Musk’s house while he tweeted about taking Tesla private when he was on acid.

Musk’s latest stunt triggered two exits. His chief accounting officer, Dave Morton, is leaving Tesla after just a month on the job. Apparently, his expectations about the pressure and environment have been thoroughly exceeded, especially given the level of public attention being placed on the company. He and HR chief Gaby Toledano join a list of thirty executives who have departed Tesla since 2016.

Musk reshuffled his executive deck by announcing a series of promotions through a company-wide email. It should be noted that these were not new hires, and thus long planned before the resignations on Friday.

Musk’s antics put the investors in a tough spot. Tesla’s stocks are down by fifteen percent so far; compared to the all-time high last year, it’s a further degradation of thirty percent. There’s much to rejoice for within Tesla, with the SolarCity acquisition and plans for semi-trucks targeted towards corporate buyers. In fact, Tesla is forecasted to turn a profit for this year’s fourth quarter and expected to hold speed for the entirety of FY 2019-20.

However, now investors can’t help but wonder if Musk doesn’t just need another hand as a COO, but if he should step down as CEO entirely. Possible alternatives for Musk include ex-Ford CEO, Alan Mullaly.

SpaceX, for instance, is faring much better than Tesla, where Musk has a well-regarded CEO in Glynne Shotwell. Shotwell has been at the company since 2002 and was made COO in 2008.

Are Musk and Tesla Inseparable?

elon musk tesla

In Tesla, Musk’s influence is much more singular than in SpaceX. He constantly spends time with engineering problems. During a routine factory tour, Musk was visibly annoyed when the assembly line stopped moving. Although it was a standard safety precaution, he stated that wished the cars to keep moving anyways and didn’t see how the process could hurt him, head-butting a car to demonstrate his confidence.

It is, indeed, true that people are out to get Tesla. Andrew Left, an activist short seller, is suing Tesla and Chairman Elon Musk for actively inflating the company’s stock price. “In response to Musk’s tweets,” Left said in his official complaint, “many Tesla short-sellers were forced to cover their positions at artificially high prices, losing approximately $1.3 billion in a single day.”

It’s tempting to compare Musk to both Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes when it comes to brilliance, charisma and a bluster that may signal his eventual downfall. “People are always telling him he can’t do it,” explained Christopher Davenport, the author of Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos. “But he doesn’t like to hear it can’t be done. He categorically rejects that. It’s all about, ‘How can we do it?’”

“Starting a space company from scratch is simply not done. People warned him against it time and time again, and Elon’s friends even staged an intervention. But he had a commitment to his ideas and a passion and a vision and belief that he saw an opening there — a real business opportunity where, from a technology standpoint, there hadn’t been a lot of advancement.”

“The reason Elon seems to attract drama is that he is so transparent, so open, in a way that can come back to bite him,” said Kimbal Musk, Mr. Musk’s younger brother, to New York Times. “He doesn’t know how to do it differently. It’s just who he is.”

Why Musk Prefers Sleeping on Floors over Cursed Vacations

Elon Musk tesla

The problem with Musk, perhaps, is that he is too confident and firm in his belief in himself. He leads from the front, like the engineering version of Alexander the Great. Often found sleeping on factory floors or under his office desk. “A C.E.O.’s most important job is to build a great team around you,” said Bill George, a Goldman Sachs board member. “He shouldn’t be sleeping on the factory floor. I’d rather have him sleeping at home.”

Musk’s legendary work schedule is well known. He works one hundred and twenty hours a week, dividing his time between SpaceX and Tesla. He nearly missed his brother’s wedding in Spain this summer. “I got there two hours before the ceremony,” he said. “I left directly from the factory. And then I went straight back.”

As committed as Musk is, he is only human. We need humans like Musk, now more than ever. In a world where the youngest billionaires run the gamut from Mark Zuckerberg to Kylie Jenner, Musk is working on genuine problems to create solutions that benefit society, and civilization, at large.

“Launching a business is hard, particularly when you have a vision to change the world like Tesla,” wrote Amy Nelson, founder, and CEO of The Riveter, which creates work and community spaces. “I applaud Musk for his authenticity and I believe it is important for founders to share with one another and the world what starting a company is like…Musk, I hear you. This is really wonderful and really hard. You’ve got a few more years of running a company under your belt, but trust me: I feel your pain.”

Musk hasn’t taken a vacation since 2001. Vacations are cursed, he thinks. You can’t blame him. In 2000, he was ousted from Paypal by the board and replaced by Peter Thiel. Later, he contracted malaria in Brazil and almost died. However, for his own sake, and for ours as well, perhaps Musk should try taking more time off than he usually does.
The truth is, we can all try staging an intervention to bring Musk down to Earth. But interventions haven’t worked for Musk in the past, and they probably won’t work now, either.

A farewell to The Expanse: the last bastion of spacefaring Sci-Fi TV

Pop quiz. Right now. What is the last truly great Sci-Fi TV show that you all watched? If your answer is a resounding Battlestar Galactica, you would be right on the money. You would also be guilty of missing out on a masterfully carved gem that is just as profound and intelligent. And dare I say it evokes the same sense of grandeur that only shows like BSG could command. Or should I say it DID?

The Expanse, Sci-Fi’s greatest hurrah of the last decade, has fallen. The show has been cancelled in the midst of its third season run.

Being in the spectrum of any given fandom is not always easy. We put the love all our hearts can muster in the pedestals of artisans and creators who bring us great characters and imaginative worlds. But behind the curtain lies the bitter truth of corporate backing, boardroom meetings and the pure math of profit margin of giant corporations. The Expanse is just the latest in a long line of show business victims. But today should not be about grief. Today we look back and celebrate an exquisite television artistry that might become a bigger cult classic than Firefly down the line.

James S.A. Corey’s (Corey is, in fact, a shared pseudonym for authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) popular series of space novels are the basis of the Expanse. The show imagines a future 200 years from now, where the premise of political tension among Earth, a colonized Mars and a ring of blue-collar space stations called the Belt is ripe for great storytelling. Between Earth’s larger army and Mars’ better one, the Belt accommodates the solar system’s lowest social class and is in both planets’ crosshairs because of its rich resources.

The show’s narrative is three-pronged, which it handles effortlessly. We have Captain Jim Holden (Steven Strait) and his ragtag crew aboard the stolen Martian warship Rocinante, a police detective named Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) who is obsessed with a missing girl named Julie Mao and the sketchy proceedings of a savvy U.N. leader Chrisjen Avasarala (Shoreh Aghdashloo) to keep the shaky peace between Earth and Mars intact. The way The Expanse shifts its perspectives from the grand theater of an escalating cosmic Cold War to the very personal interrelationships of its characters is just a pleasure to watch. The crew of Rocinante resonate the spirit of Firefly; the political intrigue of BSG permeates the whole show and Detective Miller’s noir mystery thread is just a page out of Blade Runner. This is a formula that just works. On top of that, the more the story progresses, the more it branches out and introduces new characters, ices some old ones and holds some truly great surprises.

Of course, a great setting and an engaging story can go only so far without three dimensional characters that will make us invest in said setting and story. Arguably, this is where The Expanse shines the brightest. Packed with characters with different motivations and agendas, The Expanse spares no time to put them in high stakes situations where every choice can be their last. From the square-jawed leadership of Holden to the tortured portrayal of Miller, this show crafts a character driven journey that is bound to get you hooked. You cannot but treasure all the scene-stealing moments Avasarala or Amos just sparingly sprinkle around you. Of all its awesome aspects, there is one single truth that binds The Expanse as a whole. At its core, The Expanse is all about people responding to fear- fear of each other, fear of the unknown, fear of inequality, fear of death. And the actors expertly bring those struggles to life with nuance and passion. Also the writers have reached a point where you can tell they feel completely confident in the world they’ve created and can do whatever they choose within it. Sadly we will not see what could be in store for these awesome characters in the future.

One of the biggest strengths of this show is its complete attunement to hardcore science fiction. The Expanse is not Star Wars. There are no space knights and space wizards. Nor it is Star Trek with “alien of the week”. This is a show that is grounded on established science while extrapolating a few hundred years. FTL (Faster-Than-Light) travel, while taken for granted elsewhere on the Sci-Fi genre, does not exist in this show. There are no laser shields or weaponry because nothing beats trusty old ballistics. Travelling in high-g requires passengers to sit in “crash couches” which pumps them with drugs to keep them awake and not crush under extreme pressure. The commitment the writers have bound themselves to in maintaining such staggering authenticity amounts to a gritty take on an already engaging universe.

Many years from now, we will look back upon The Expanse and be amazed at its majestic contribution to Sci-Fi. But it will always sting to not be able to see this show grow to be something even more special and reach its true potential. I guess we fans are all Belters now- a tribe without a country. While the production company is still trying for continued life of the series, it isn’t looking hopeful. But let us not despair. Keyboard warriors among us, now is your time to shine. Spam that #SaveTheExpanse hard to make some noise. Let the noise split the corporate boardrooms asunder!

Yam Seng Beltalowda!

Ground stations receive BS-1 signal

According to the state minister for ICT, Junaid Ahmed Palak, the ground stations situated in Gazipur and Betbunia have received test signals from Bangladesh’ first ever satellite, the Bangabandhu Satellite -1. The signal was received at 4.25 AM local time, on the 12th of May.

The payload attached to the Falcon 9 was detached to its geostationary orbit 33 minutes after launching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Within 3 minutes of that the satellite had been successfully deployed, Palak noted. It has been reported that the European built satellite will settle into its orbital slot after 11 days.

The first 36 minutes of the launch of the Falcon 9, the vehicle that took the BS-1 to space, was observed by a contingent of Bangladeshis. Lead by the Prime Minister’s ICT adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy, the Bangladeshis watched on from the KSC visitor’s area. Besides Wazed and Palak, the contingent was led by the state minister for information, Taran Halim. They were accompanied by junior officers, family members and a number of non-resident Bangladeshis who live around Florida and the rest of North America. Everyone came together on the day to mark a proud achievement for the nation.

The satellite is expected to be operated by its makers, Thales Alenia Space, for the first year of its operation. During this time, Bangladeshis will be trained to take control of the satellite. They will take full control of the satellite by the third year of operation. The satellite is expected to have a lifespan of 15 years, during which time Bangladesh will share the satellite with a multitude of different SAARC countries to cover for its initial costs.

The Bangabandhu-1 is a first of its kind. Bangladesh has had satellites up before, but not one that was uniquely its own. Until now the country has had to share satellite bandwidth by renting it from various other countries. It will no longer be the case as the satellite becomes operational for commercial use by next week. Bangladesh is currently paying 14 million USD per year renting foreign satellites for VSAT and DTH services. Now, with the Bangabandhu-1 Bangladeshi’s can have uninterrupted television broadcast and smooth, cheap international communication. Not to mention that this will also be a great source of revenue for the government as 50 transponders are already planned to be rented out to Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines. Indonesia and other countries for 50 million USD. The BS-1 will also provide many areas of the country with internet and VoIP where it was previously very difficult to do so.

The Bangabandhu-1 is a national achievement that all Bangladeshis are, and should, be proud of. Yet it is only the first step. Thecountry has only now reached space for the first time, more than half a century after the USA and Russia. Bangladesh’s entry into the space race may be late but no one said they can’t put a man on the moon in the near future.

Bangabandhu-1 satellite all set for 5th May launch date

Bangladesh is all set to reap the benefits of putting its own satellite into space with the Bangabandhu-1, a geostationary communications satellite to be operated by Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Limited (BCSCL), as part of a project being implemented by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

Designed and manufactured by French-Italian aerospace company Thales Alenia Space, the satellite is scheduled for launch on May 5th from Florida’s Cape Canaveral launchpad in the US, with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Block 5 rockets delivering it into orbit.

The satellite, with an expected lifespan of 15 years, will have major applications in Direct to Home (DTH), Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) communications, backhaul and trunking, network restoration, and disaster preparedness and relief.

It will be the first full-size satellite in operation for Bangladesh, and will be a potential source of savings and eventual income for the nation – currently, Bangladesh spends nearly $14 million a year on renting satellite services from other nations. Once operational, BTRC is expected to rent out satellite services to Nepal and Bhutan, among others, using 20 of the 40 transponders on board.

Two ground stations at Gazipur and Rangamati will control the satellite functions locally.

SpaceX had previously planned to launch the satellite December 16th of 2017, but the launch was postponed due to damage from Hurricane Irma.

The brightest star of cosmology

Stephen William Hawking, an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist and renowned author of the book, “A Brief History of Time”. He was the greatest cosmologist and theoretical physicist of his time, the first to set out a theory of cosmology explained by a union of general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Born on 8th January, the date Galileo Galilei passed away, Stephen Hawking is arguably the most important scientist of the century, bridging cosmology, theory of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Ties to Oxford

Born in Oxford, Stephen’s parents moved to St Albans for frugal living. In there, he attended Byron House School in London. From there, after changing schools a few times, he finally completed high school from St Albans School. In there, Hawking found a close group of friends with whom he enjoyed playing board games, manufacturing aeroplanes and fireworks. With them, he used to discuss religion and extrasensory perception, later on building a computer from clock parts, a telephone switchboard and several other recycled materials with the help of Dikran Tahta, his mathematics teacher.

With taking job prospects in mind, his parents suggested him to study medicine as he felt there were fewer jobs for mathematics graduates. However, Stephen wanted to study Mathematic inspired by his teacher, Tahta. However, his father wanted him to study in University College, Oxford; but the degree was not available in Oxford at the time. Hence, he settled for physics and chemistry, getting an entrance into the university with a scholarship.

Hawkings studied about 1,000 hours in College, which led for him to believe his study habits were unimpressive. He took it upon himself to decide if he got a first class, he would pursue his dreams by studying cosmology in University of Cambridge, otherwise remaining in Oxford. He was awarded a first-class Bachelor in Arts degree, and decided to finish his graduate work in Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Controversial times

Hawkings began his graduate work in a time when the physics community was just wrapping it’s head around the Big Bang theory and Steady State theories. In this time, Hawking challenged the work of noted cosmologist, Fred Hoyle at a lecture in 1964. At the time however, Stephen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, falling into depression as doctors had predicted that he had only two years to live.

Regardless, Stephen went on to write book such as The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with George Ellis. In 1973, Hawking moved onto Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Gravity. He was, however set aback when he discovered in 1974 that black holes emit particles, as this contradicted his second law, eventually leading him to show that black holes emit radiation. Eventually however, Hawking mixed his research with arguably the biggest question of science; does God exist? A question Hawking discussed in his famous book, A Brief History of Time.

Science for everyone

Stephen Hawking’s best-selling book A Brief History of Time was adapted into a film, produced by Steven Spielberg, premiering in 1992. Eventually, Hawking started writing for the masses in an attempt to bring science to a wider audience, writing A Briefer History of Time. In 2007, Hawking and his daughter Lucy published “George’s Secret Key to Universe”, a children’s book, aiming to explain theoretical physics in an accessible fashion. During his career, Hawking supervised 39 successful Ph.D students. Hawkings helped launch Breakthrough Initiative, an effort to search for extraterrestrial life. At the turn of century, Hawkings accepted his mantle of role model for disabled people. He and eleven other luminaries signed an appeal to governments for preventing disabilities and recognizing and protecting rights for the disabled. In 2014, he accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge, an activity to promote ALS and raise contributions for the research.

The legacy, continued

Stephen Hawking’s children are Robert Hawking, Lucy Hawking and Timothy Hawking. Lucy Hawking studied Journalism in City University and started writing children’s books, among which is the famous series “George’s Secret Key To The Universe”. Lucy is also the vice president of the National Star College, an institution dedicated for people with disabilities to realize their potential. She is also a trustee of the Autism Research Trust. Lucy’s interest in this subject peaked after Stephen was asked by a friend of Lucy’s son on what would happen if he entered a black hole; to which Stephen responded “ you would turn into spaghetti”; realizing how easily theoretical science can be explained to children.

After a celebrated life and unforgettable contribution to science, Stephen Hawking will forever be remembered for his research and his progression on promoting an advanced level of thoughts and helping evolve humankind to a higher level.