NASA to SpaceX – Man on Mars by 2020?

Three days ago, on the 21st July 2011, the last Space Shuttle landed for the last time, bringing to a close the programme that lifted the first shuttle in 1981. I have always been fascinated by the shuttle, especially by its ability to go and do its business in space and then land on a runway like a giant bird. So that’s a dream gone ablast – watching it lift off one day from Cape Canaveral.

The last mission was STS-135 and it shuttled more than 4,260Kg worth of supplies to the International Space Station. The supplies are vital to sustaining America’s part of the international mission in space. The ISS was first designed as a laboratory in space, developing an understanding of how the human body reacts to long-term exposure away from Earth. This will help to build knowledge on whether colonies of humans staying away from Earth will ever be possible. The space agencies of USA (NASA), Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe participate in mission control from Earth.

The long and short is that NASA will continue to participate in low Earth orbit through a contract of 12 missions with the SpaceX Falcon9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft.

The big question is when will SpaceX be able to operate a manned craft in space? Following the success of an unmanned launch and the succesful return of the capsule to Earth in December 2010, the company was awarded a further contract of $75 million to evolve their technologies such that the Dragon spacecraft can carry astronauts.

“With NASA’s support, SpaceX will be ready to fly its first manned mission in 2014.” says Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. Until then, American astronouts will have to hitch a ride on Russian Soyuz capsules!

Musk (SpaceX CEO) is also cofounder of PayPal. In an interview to Fora.tv he told Michael Malone that SpaceX will “try” to put humans on Mars by 2020. What does the man who built the future of online payments have to do with spaceflight?! Nothing. He is just terribly smart.

I am confident that someone who can build SpaceX with its three launch vehicles (Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy) and the Dragon spacecraft in eight years (since 2002), can also put a man on Mars given one and a half times that (2020). NASA’s FAQ page on the Space Shuttle puts the cost of one mission to $450 million. A mission with SpaceX will cost $133 million. On the SpaceX updates webpage Elon Musk makes it clear that: If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)  How’s that for trusting the man?

Inside Facebook Insights

Previous posts on How to build a succesful Social Network and Social Media Campaign Fundamentals both stress the importance of understanding how to measure the effectiveness of the network and campaign used to build it. Facebook Insights is one of the tools provided specifically for the purpose.

But Insights are not easy to interpret and I am glad that the Product Guide for Facebook Page Owners is an excellent document for anybody who wants to make sense of the numbers.

For example, one would ask: how well am I doing with the increase in people who “like” my page? Where are they coming from? You can tell how many people liked your page after they found it linked on another person’s profile (who already “likes”your page). You can tell how many people arrived directly to your page, and so understand how effective the link in your email signature, or on your blog, actually is. There are other monitored sources such as stories displayed in people’s news stream, ads, suggestions people make to their friends and recommendations made by FB.

But “likes” are hardly the only important thing! What is the conversion rate to page views and active interactions? How do you know if activity is happening on your page or outside and does it matter for you? Do you want to bring followers and fans closer to you – directly to your page? Then maybe you should be considering ways of growing your Facebook page following.

Good luck! Post this post to your Facebook and encourage people to comment!

A few last words to Star.

Star made it to the international media after it was found shot and buried alive near Ghar Hasan in Malta on the 19th May. A dog of mixed breed, Star fought for its life but succumbed to the horrific act of cruelty a few hours ago.

Star is not the only victim of animal cruelty. The international media picked up the story not because it’s unique, but because this dog had survived to tell a tale. Now that Star is dead, the story should not also die. To the contrary, the hero of this story should certainly remain remembered to remind everybody that cruelty on any living creature is barbaric and condemned by all civilised people around the world.

Many of us would think that cruelty exists predominantly in war-torn nations. Maltese people will tell you that our history is a proof of our civilisation – so much that our 7000-year-old temples made it on to CNN’s “9 hidden man-made wonders of the world”! Instead, I wonder more how anybody can live to remember that s/he has committed this cruelty. And, a monument of remembrance to Star should stand high to remind us of this for many years, even if maybe it won’t survive as long as the free-standing temples of Hagar Qim and Ggantija.

Sony Network Breach and Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

The first law suit that hit Sony after the network breach comes hours after it revealed users yesterday that the Playstation Network and Qriocity experienced unauthorised access between the 17 and 19 April. The suit was filed on the grounds that Sony did not take reasonable care of its users data and that it took the company too long to inform its clients of the breach.

The law suit happens at the same time that Barack Obama is pushing a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. The White House is worried that economic growth is being slowed by the trust that people have of Internet services. Breaches like that of Sony surely do not help to secure trust and in fact harm the whole climate… but could it have been avoided? Is it true, as is claimed by the law suit filed by Kristopher Johns, that Sony did not take “reasonable care to protect, encrypt, and secure the private and sensitive data of its users”? Whatever the case, I agree with Barack Obama’s statement that enhancing trustworthiness and privacy will boost businesses’ and customers’ confidence and lead to growth and innovation, online and across the economy in general.

Share iPhone 4 Internet connection with your iPad

Have you tried to tether your iPhone 4 internet connection to share it with your iPad? It’s not possible. But now that iOS 4.3 software update is out and downloadable through iTunes, iPhone 4 users are offered a new function called Personal Hotspot. Apple’s website says… “Enable Personal Hotspot and share your mobile data connection with your Mac, PC, iPad or other Wi-Fi-capable device. You can share your connection with up to five devices at once over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB.” Thanks Apple…. it’s been a long while coming but we’re all grateful that this basic feature is finally here.

In my post on iPad 2 of the 14 March I had mentioned the Piper Jaffray survey that found that 65% of those who bought an iPad 2 on its US launch date already owned an iPhone. Now, I ask, will any iPhone user buy an iPad 2 with 3G? Probably not. It will be interesting to look at the trends of purchases following Apple’s release of Personal Hotspot on iOS 4.3.

How to build a succesful Social Network

In my post Social Media Campaign Fundamentals I spoke about how to start the journey and how to monitor the success of that journey. Enhancing the chances of success of that journey is the purpose of this blog post. A journey in social media is as succesful as one’s “social” capabilities – the art of living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups[1].

Let’s figure that you start a Facebook page and start posting interesting content. Naturally, you will speak about with your friends and they will come and visit. They will like your page. And they will return every now and again to monitor what you’re saying, because your activity alerts others when you post. This is presumably not the only thing you want because as we go along in time only the friends who are really interested in your area of activity will come and visit.

What you want is social networking and thus, to put together the largest possible following from the extended community around you. This is where your friends, and then their friends, bring others and your online community extends beyond those people that know you directly. Use your activity in the community to indirectly bring in members of that community to you by linking to your page and building your own succesful social network:

  1. Do not spam or harass people as this is counterproductive.
  2. If you are active in the online community already, it’s easier. But if you aren’t, you will easily integrate especially if you are already known offline. Join the online communities that matter – ask yourself and your friends which are the relevant existing pages or groups on Facebook; people you should link with on LinkedIn and Twitter; blogs that already discuss the subject.
  3. Become active by commenting positively on other people’s activity, contributing useful content you find on the web, and posting links to your blog (if you set one up). You may be recognised as an expert in your physical community and this gives you an edge on a newcomer to the area because you will know how to tackle an argument and building a followup. It will be a challenge to extend or replicate this on the Internet, just like building a community of followers on any open broadcast medium like TV. Be selective and sensitive to the nature of a blog when deciding what to say in your contribution to it because you are doing this to attract (not push away) people to your own page or blog.

Good luck building your social network!


[1] Definition thanks to Princeton WorldNet – a lexical database for English

googlegoesgaga… Lady Gaga does it again!

In my post of Feb 9th, I compared Obama to Lady Gaga. She had 8 million followers then, a number which increased at the rate of over 20,000 every day to count 8,831,651 as I write. Lady Gaga hasn’t been sleeping on her online success and followed on the steps of Obama / Biden’s “Transition Project” (December 2008) which allowed any registered user to make or vote on questions that the Whitehouse then answered.

Since then YouTube put together the Worldview Channel and Barack Obama was back to answer questions in January 2011, followed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US Parliament Speaker Joe Boehner and now… Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lady Gaga’s official YouTube channel now allows people to ask questions and vote for the most popular ones which she will answer. This Gaga project is open till the 18th March and, with this degree of openness, the star has joined a league of world leaders conquering web 2.0 tools to engage with her fans! The woman does not stop there with social media! She accepts questions also over Twitter with any tweet tagged #GoogleGoesGaga being syndicated directly to the channel and qualifying for voting. And in her own words…

Millions must be searching for “Lady Gaga” on Google as that term scores 69/100 in Query Popularity on Alexa. This especially when compared to “Barack Obama” (52/100); “Obama” (57/100); and “Whitehouse” (40/100).

The question submission and voting uses Google Moderator. It was launched in September 2008 and first used with a bang the following December in the Obama / Biden Transition Project – “Open for Questions”. Since then Change.gov, the project’s website, has now closed. Google Moderator continues to make crowd-sourcing a reality and is now a freely available API.

iPad 2 first sales statistics from the US

Ten days ahead of the lines that we expect outside of the Apple store on Regent Street and Covent Garden in London, we have access to the first statistics on the sales of the iPad 2 in the United States. Piper Jaffray, the investment bankers and Deutsche bank, the leading global financial services company are both reported by CNN to have found that authorised retailer sold out their stocks on the first day. Piper Jafrray report sales of between 400,000 and 500,000 iPad 2s in the United States.

The photo below shows queues reported by the Daily Mail last September, of people waiting to buy iPhone 4s “which they can sell for vastly inflated profits to customers in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia where the phone is not yet on sale”.

Is this what we should expect with the iPad 2? Here is a picture of 5th Avenue in New York on the 10th March – the launch date of the iPad 2.

Piper Jaffray are reported to have found that 70% of iPad 2 buyers were new to iPad. This is a stark reality when compared to the  23% of of buyers who were new to iPhone 4 on its launch. The same report finds that 65% of the iPad 2 buyers on its launch date already owned an iPhone.

The iPad 2 is clearly the most wanted tablet. Changewave interviewed over 3000 customers in a survey and their research found that 82% of those who planned to buy a tablet wanted the iPad. This is supported by the Piper Jaffray survey mentioned above which found that 78% of people who bought the iPad 2 considered nothing else!

Looking forward to the launch in Europe…

Troubleshooting Bluetooth Internet Tethering on iPhone 4

Many seem to have problems getting to share their 3G internet connection over bluetooth between their iPhone and their Mac. It’s called Tethering. And if you look up this issue, many posts will just tell you to forget it because your carrier probably doesn’t allow it.

Persistence brought me to a solution. Macbook was telling me the pairing was successful. iPhone was telling me Tethering was ON, but that my Macbook had been discovered and “Not Connected”. The solution lies with fixing the Bluetooth PAN settings on the Macbook. But first remove all links that the iPhone and Macbook created between them during previous pairing attempts.

Here’s the blog post from @Peaz2.0 that tells you how to reconfigure Bluetooth PAN. When you’ve done it you can tether your iPhone 4’s internet connection with your Macbook. You will know that it’s working because a blue bar will appear on your iPhone just like the one below.