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 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?


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.

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…