Mars. Once a dream, a mere figment in our imagination. Our ancestors stared at space, aware of its vast potential, but inside they knew that they could never reach it. The years have gone by fast, in the 21st century, a mission to Mars is now viable. NASA and Obama had affirmed a pledge to send humans to Mars by the 2030s. Elon Musk,a prominent figure that has redefined the industry standards, has put a mammoth effort into the revival of such a large space programme. SpaceX launched the Falcon 9, a transport system ahead of its time, utilising unique reusable booster to ensure that the 225 million kilometre journey is no longer impossible.
Interest in space exploration has increased significantly, with many movies centering around the theme of space travel. Most interestingly being The Martian, based on the novel by Andy Weir. The movie itself demonstrates a realistic scenario as to how humans can get to Mars, and displays technological advances accordingly to this. Whilst the technology that they have envisioned is ahead of us, the rate at which our technology is advancing at, could supersede it quickly. Donald Trump has signed a bill that updates NASA’s mission to add exploration of Mars, and has authorized a budget just $500,000 shy of $20 billion. This the first authorization bill in 7 years, sparking a new fresh interest in a mission to Mars. However Elon Musk has been quick to rain on the bill’s parade, and has stated it makes no impact to NASA interests, and there is no added funding for the Mars mission.
Boeing is another contender in the space race, and confidently stated that they believe the first person to step foot on Mars will do so on a Boeing rocket. The company has a contract with NASA to build the Space Launch System (SLS), capable of sending up to 20 metric tons to Mars. Boeing has a close relationship with NASA, and has helped engineer the International Space Station. The SLS will play a large role in the blueprint of a mission to mars, it will be the most powerful rocket ever made. SpaceX has plans to launch the Falcon Heavy in the Summer of 2017, a rocket capable of lifting 13 metric tons to Mars. It is certain that the process will be long and complex, Musk himself has stated that there will be a high risk of death, however the leap that human civilisation will make, will be huge and of a large magnitude.
It was in the 20th century when two superpowers competed for the title of supremacy in the art of spaceflight. The Soviet Union and the United States embroiled into a cold war, one that lurked dangerously close to a major catastrophe. The aim of the space race was to launch artificial satellites, and it began on August 2nd 1955. On this day the Soviet Union announced their plans to launch a satellite, in response to the statement made by the US of the same intentions, just four days previously. However it was not until October the 4th 1957, when the USSR launched the Sputnik 1,effectively beating the US in the race. The sputnik 1 was a huge development technologically, and it proved extremely useful in space research. The USSR went one step further and sent the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April the 12th 1961. The space race itself did not peak until the US on the 20th of July 1969, sent humans to the moon with the Apollo 11. After this mammoth achievement, the space race eventually declined.
However in the 21st century, Musk’s SpaceX programme seems to be igniting a space race Elon Musk has toyed with the idea of “internet satellite”, using 4,425 satellites in a non-geostationary orbit. The satellite network would deliver data directly to individual devices or smaller base stations. The idea itself is not new, with Motorola having attempted a similar programme, but it ended in misery due to lack of investment. Despite this, there is now more interest in the technology, and there is a lot more potential - an era of 5G technologies could most likely bolstered by a global satellite network. Companies such as OneWeb and Boeing have suggested a plan with a “constellation” of satellites.
The risks of such a project have the same magnitude as the benefits of it. The cost has been estimated a staggering 6 billion dollars at the very least, should the network have a larger scale the cost will inflate further. At the moment funding and regulations are the largest obstacles, the project could very well bankrupt the companies, and FCC regulations could stop it before it can even start. Elon Musk himself has been accused of “cuddling” up to Trump’s administration, but is it such a wrong act to have assistance from the White House in such a large matter? Whilst the space race for satellite internets is near, another larger mission looms. A manned mission to Mars, a subject that was the dreams of our ancestors. One thing is for sure that this space race will change the technologies that we use.
Ahead of the annual Geneva Motor show, Land Rover debuted a mid-sized SUV named the Velar. The audience left stunned as the veil was removed. This move by the Indian owned British manufacturer, intends to place the Velar between the coupe-esque Evoque and the highly praised Range Rover Sport. With the Velar, Land Rover debuted a refreshed design, targeting aerodynamic efficiency in a relatively small form factor: however aside the design, the spotlight has been focusing on the technological capabilities of the vehicle. Deployable door handles, Matrix Laser-LED headlights and smart functions are the new additions, but arguably the biggest change was the new Touch Pro Duo infotainment system. Inside the vehicle, is a virtual cockpit, spanning 12 inches, as well as two 10 inch touchscreens.
The lower touchscreen is reconfigurable and was shown to be able to allow the user to change the temperature of the AC, or put the vehicle into sport mode. Fresh controversy has arisen over the use of phones in cars, especially with new laws having been put into action on March the 1st. Now using a phone whilst driving will result in a £200 fine and 6 points on your licence. This will result in new drivers losing their licence if they are caught. Drivers in the UK are not allowed to use their phones even for a moment, with the alternative being a hands-free phone. The most common habit that drivers have is texting on their phones, now with the introduction of touch screens in cars, is there any difference between texting and fiddling with touch screens for basic commands. There is a fear that distraction can lead to a fatal accident, one that could be prevented should their not be a touch screen for basic commands, such as changing the AC settings.
Elon Musk’s Tesla is responsible for creating some of the most technologically advanced and future proof cars, in this day and age, the vision of the company is much focused on the electric future. Inside the Model X and the Model S, a 17 inch infotainment has been praised for revolutionising how smart cars have become. The system can also allow browsing on the internet whilst on the go, something has come to the attention of many as to how safe it is. Whilst the screens are debatable issues, there is no doubt that touchscreens are the way forward, it is only a matter of how safe they are, and whether they will increase the amount of accidents. Toyota has placed a touch screen lock whilst the car is on the move, which in no doubt is to ensure the safety of the user whilst they are driving.