Connect with us

Published

on

Virgin Galactic acknowledged on Tuesday that billionaire founder Richard Branson never rode a bicycle to the launch site of his space flight on Sunday, as depicted in a highly publicised video included in the company’s webcast of the event.

The video clip showed Branson riding his bike toward New Mexico’s state-owned Spaceport America near the town of Truth or Consequences, flanked by two SUVs, and handing his safety helmet to an assistant upon arrival.

Branson, 70, is then seen greeting crewmates dressed in their flight suits with a hug, with one of them, Beth Moses, the company’s chief astronaut instructor, telling him, “You’re late, hurry up.”

On Tuesday, a Virgin Galactic official, speaking anonymously, affirmed to Reuters by text that the video in question was filmed on July 5, the Monday before the flight, and that Branson did not ride his bike at all the day of the launch.

“The footage of Sir Richard Branson shown during the event Sunday was prerecorded and misidentified in the broadcast. We regret the error and any confusion it may have caused,” the official said in a text message.

It was unclear whether the disclosure that the Sunday cycling ride was fictional would complicate Virgin Galactic’s cross-promotional deal with Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle. Trek had claimed that Branson rode one of its custom-made bikes to the spaceport on launch day.

Representatives of Trek were not immediately available to comment on the matter.

Branson has touted his rocket plane ride, the company’s first fully crewed test flight of the vehicle to space, as a precursor to a new era of astro-tourism, with the company he founded poised to begin commercial operations next year.

The purported Sunday bike ride seemed to typify his public persona as the adventuresome business executive whose Virgin brands – from airlines to music companies – have been associated with ocean-crossing exploits in sailboats and hot-air balloons.

The bicycle video clip was posted to Branson’s Twitter feed shortly before Sunday’s launch. Virgin also broadcast the clip, with the tagline “earlier today,” during its livestream presentation of the flight.

Branson, himself, made mention of the bike ride from the stage of a post-flight celebration back at the spaceport, telling a crowd of supporters, “It’s so awesome to arrive on a bicycle, across this beautiful New Mexico countryside.”

Reuters, along with many other news outlets, included the videotaped account of Branson’s bike ride in some of its launch-day coverage on Sunday. Reuters dropped the bicycle ride from its story when doubts about its timing emerged early on Sunday.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


Continue Reading

Science

NASA to Provide Training to Indian Astronauts for Joint Mission to ISS

Published

on

By

NASA to Provide Training to Indian Astronauts for Joint Mission to ISS

NASA will soon provide advanced training to Indian astronauts to send a joint mission to the International Space Station this year or shortly thereafter, US envoy to India Eric Garcetti has said. Garcetti made these remarks while speaking at the “US-India Commercial Space Conference: Unlocking Opportunities for US & Indian Space Startups,” hosted by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) and the US Commercial Service (USCS) in Bengaluru on Friday.

“NASA will soon provide advanced training to Indian astronauts, with the goal of mounting a joint effort to the International Space Station, hopefully, this year or shortly thereafter, which was one of the promises of our leaders’ visit together,” Garcetti said.

“And soon we will launch the NISAR satellite from ISRO’s Satish Dhawan Space Center to monitor all resources, including ecosystems, the Earth’s surface, natural hazards, sea level rise, and the cryosphere,” Garcetti said, according to a USIBC press statement issued here.

NISAR is a joint Earth-observing mission between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

“You see whether it’s the pursuit of peace and the peaceful use of space, things like the Artemis Accord, we are hand in hand, arm in arm. When it comes to prosperity and jobs, which is a big part of this conference today, it can be produced by startups in this sector, good-paying, high-tech jobs for Indians and for Americans. Space is right there,” Garcetti said.

The Artemis Accords lay out a framework for collaborating nations’ safe exploration of the moon and beyond.

The day-long event in Bengaluru saw the participation from senior officials from both the US and Indian governments, including Garcetti, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman Dr. S Somanath, representatives from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Government of India, as well as prominent leaders from the commercial space industry, industry stakeholders, venture capitalists, and market analysts.

“I must salute the visionary leadership that we have in both nations in India and the US for engaging in such an accord which looks at the moon as a sustainable place for all of us to come and work together,” Somnath said in his remarks.

“The connection between the Indian partners and also the US partners in critical technologies and specifically in the space sector is really becoming stronger. And I’m very happy about that type of engagement and the options available to the industries and the US business indigenous to connect with India in the emerging space sector as well,” he said.

Expressing optimism about the prospects of US-India collaboration in space, USIBC president Atul Keshap described it as a new chapter in the US-India space partnership. This week has been particularly fruitful, with USIBC and USCS joining forces to champion these two iCET space deliverables, he said.

“The conference highlights the deepening synergy between our two free nations in pioneering space exploration and innovation by the leading democracies. Through strategic alliances and collaborative efforts, we’re on the brink of achieving extraordinary milestones and expanding the horizons of space exploration beyond what we once imagined,” Keshap said.

The US-India Commercial Space Conference underscores the importance of fostering strategic partnerships to drive innovation and propel the space industry forward,” said USIBC managing director Alexander Slater.

“This is the next step in USIBC’s continued commitment to fostering bilateral cooperation among leading companies and startups from both countries to unlock new opportunities for economic growth, job creation and technological leadership. It builds on our work in February when we hosted the second edition of INDUS-X in New Delhi, which promoted similar opportunities for innovation and cooperation in new and emerging defence technologies,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior defence officials from India and the US have met in Washington to discuss opportunities to strengthen space cooperation and identified potential areas for collaboration with the American industry.

Meeting for the second annual US-India Advanced Domains Defence Dialogue (AD3), the officials discussed a wide range of bilateral cooperation.

The American team was led by Vipin Narang, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Space Policy, and the visiting Indian delegation was led by Vishwesh Negi, India’s Joint Secretary for International Cooperation.

During this year’s Dialogue, Narang and Negi discussed opportunities to strengthen space cooperation and identified potential areas for collaboration with US industry, said Department of Defence Spokesperson Cmdr. Jessica Anderson.

Among a group of US and Indian defence officials, the two co-chaired the first US-India principal-level tabletop discussion that explored areas to enhance cooperation in the space domain.

They agreed to advance AD3 through regular working group discussions.

The visiting Indian Government delegation also engaged with the US Space Command, the Joint Commercial Operations Cell, and artificial intelligence experts from across the US Department of Defence, Anderson said.

Continue Reading

Science

Profluent Unveils AI DNA Editor Generator OpenCRISPR to Cure Diseases

Published

on

By

Profluent Unveils AI DNA Editor Generator OpenCRISPR to Cure Diseases

Profluent, a California-based artificial intelligence (AI)-first protein design company, announced its AI model that can generate CRISPR-like proteins that do not occur in nature on Tuesday. CRISPR or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats is a complex containing important proteins that scientists can use for precise gene editing in organisms. The company claims the usage of AI can create a vast number of such proteins that can help in creating bespoke cures for diseases which, at present, remain incurable.

Ali Madani, the founder and CEO of Profluent announced the AI model in a series of posts on X (formerly known as Twitter). The company has also made a blog post detailing the initiative and a pre-print version of its research paper has been published on bioRxiv. Besides announcing the DNA editor-generating AI model, the company also launched OpenCRISPR-1, one of the AI-created gene editors, as an initial open-source release licencing it for both ethical research and commercial uses.

Why OpenCRISPR AI Model matters

While CRISPR is a major focus of scientists, the research is limited due to the protein Cas9, which acts as a gene editor, and its equivalent being only available in nature. As a result, scientists spend a significant amount of time discovering different types of gene editors and their impact. Profluent claims its AI model, which is powered by an in-house large language model (LLM) trained on “massive scale sequence and biological context”, can now generate millions of diverse CRISPR-like proteins that do not occur in nature. In theory, these synthetic gene editors can play a pivotal role in finding cures for diseases previously thought to be incurable.

In its blog post, the company said, “OpenCRISPR-1 gene editor maintains the prototypical architecture of a Type II Cas9 nuclease but is more than 400 mutations away from SpCas9 and nearly 200 mutations away from any other known natural CRISPR-associated protein.”

What is CRISPR

CRISPR, put simply, is a complex or system found in bacteria and some other unicellular organisms. This complex contains the Cas9 (or similar proteins like Cas12 and Cas13) proteins that have a specific ability to make precise cuts in gene strands of DNA to enable editing. It was first discovered in 1987, and ever since scientists have been researching it extensively. The technology has vast applications and has already been used to artificially create crop variants that have a higher yield, are resistant to diseases, and are drought tolerant.

It is also used to change the DNA of mosquitoes so that they cannot spread diseases like malaria. Experiments are being conducted to cure patients suffering from diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia. It is also theorised that the technology can be used to edit the DNA of the embryo to create babies who are naturally resistant to diseases and possess genes that promote higher physical and mental abilities.


Affiliate links may be automatically generated – see our ethics statement for details.

Continue Reading

Science

Watch Boston Dynamics’ New Atlas Robot Show Off Superhuman Movements

Published

on

By

Watch Boston Dynamics’ New Atlas Robot Show Off Superhuman Movements

Boston Dynamics unveiled the next generation of its humanoid Atlas robot on Wednesday. The announcement came just a day after the company retired the hydraulic Atlas robot. The new Atlas is fully electric and comes with several upgrades over the predecessor, including a superhuman range of motion. In a video, the slender and more athletic robot was shown moving in ways that defy human anatomy. The robotics giant claims it will be able to lift and manoeuvre a wide variety of objects.

In a video posted on YouTube, Boston Dynamics introduced the electric Atlas robot designed for real-world applications. Based on the demo, the new robot now has an entirely different design. It no longer possesses a heavy torso plate or carries a wider upper body. The new Atlas has a slender, metallic torso, longer and straighter limbs, no externally connected cables, and a ring light circling its head.

The demo begins with Atlas lying on the ground. As it boots up, the humanoid robot twists and folds its legs backwards over its body and then stands up as it twists its waist by 180 degrees as if a creature from a sci-fi horror movie. In the next few moments, it rotates its head a couple of times showcasing its head that appears to be a large camera lens and walks away taking straighter and concise strides.

In less than a minute, the video demonstrated that the new Atlas robot is not only more agile and flexible, it might also potentially move heavier objects given its larger limbs. Explaining its vision, Boston Dynamics said in a press release, “We designed the electric version of Atlas to be stronger, more dexterous, and more agile. Atlas may resemble a human form factor, but we are equipping the robot to move in the most efficient way possible to complete a task, rather than being constrained by a human range of motion.”

Currently, the electric Atlas is in testing and it will stay that way for the next few years. In this period, the company plans to explore multiple new gripper variations to enable the robot to perform a diverse set of tasks. The testing phase will include a limited number of customers, with Hyundai being the first in the line.


Affiliate links may be automatically generated – see our ethics statement for details.

Continue Reading

Trending