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Google’s Special China Search Engine can Censor and Track Users

“Google Dragonfly,” a self-censoring mobile search engine being developed by Google exclusively for use in China, is a lot scarier than first thought. China will use this tool to suppress dissent.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Mountain View, CA, United States (4E) – “Google Dragonfly,” a self-censoring mobile search engine being developed by Google exclusively for use in China, is a lot scarier than first thought. China will use this tool to suppress dissent.

When news about Dragonfly first broke in August, it was revealed this search engine will have the ability to update a list of search words banned by the Chinese government. These words might nclude subjects terrifying to the communist dictatorship like “human rights,” “Jesus Christ” and even “Winnie the Pooh.” The banned word list on Dragonfly can include any word or phrase Chinese communists find offensive or a threat to their dictatorship.

New media leaks have revealed this search engine can inflict far more damage. It turns out Dragonfly can also link its users’ mobile phone numbers to the search terms they’re using.

Tech pundits note this frightening feature will place millions of Chinese citizens at increased risk of government repression, and likely imprisonment, if they search for topics the communist government deems politically sensitive. Dragonfly will allow the communists to do just this.

Dragonfly is a joint venture between Google and a Chinese-based company. It was exposed in August by The Intercept, a news website dedicated to what it calls “adversarial journalism.”

Dragonfly will be launched amid what Human Rights Watch calls a “broad and sustained offensive on human rights” by Chinese president Xi Jinping. A Chinese cybersecurity law implemented in June 2017 placed additional restrictions on internet freedom, including bans on disseminating news on social media without a permit.

Under Xi, China is championing “cyber sovereignty” that pushes for countries to maintain control over how its population uses the internet within its borders. It’s another definition of censorship. This repressive Chinbese policy contravenes the free and open internet most often supported by democratic nations.

Several Google employees have quit to protest Dragonfly. More than 1,400 employees signed an internal letter demanding more information from Google about the company’s return to China. This country is demanding Google perfect Dragonly as the price for Google’s return to the lucrative Chinese market.

Human Rights Watch assailed Google for not only walking away from what she called a “principled approach” in 2010 but to “snuggle right up” to the Chinese government. It said Google should be insisting on the highest possible standards instead of helping the Chinese government build a better “mouse trap” that will lead to mass arrests.

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SpaceX Breaks World Record for Most Commercial Launches in a Year

SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – SpaceX has broken the world record for most commercial rocket launches in a year, with 20 successful launches thus far in 2018. It still has one more launch remaining on its 2018 manifest.

SpaceX also broke its own record for the most orbital rocket launches by a single company in a year. The company set the old record (18 launches over a single calendar year) in 2017. United Launch Alliance held the title prior to that with 16 commercial rockets launched in 2009.

This has been SpaceX’s best year yet for rocket launches. The 20 successful SpaceX missions sent dozens of payloads into orbit. It also took two experimental Starlink internet satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and even hurled a red-colored Tesla Model X with a dummy driver past the orbit of Mars.

In May, Musk was feeling good enough about SpaceX’s 2018 progress that he said the company might “launch more rockets than any other country.”

That didn’t pan-out since China successfully launched 35 of its Long March orbital rockets in 2018, and will still launch a few more rockets before the year ends.

The 20th SpaceX mission on Dec. 5 was a successful re-supply mission to the International Space Station.

The 21st and last SpaceX mission for 2018 will loft the U.S. Air Force’s GPS IIIA-01 satellite into LEO on Dec. 18. This sat will improve global positioning coverage for the U.S. military.

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U.S. Has Two More Astronauts Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Mojave, CA, United States (4E) – The United States has two new astronauts and they come from space tourism company, Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic pilots Mark Stucky and “Rick” C.J Sturckow earned their U.S. astronaut wings by flying the rocket-powered spacecraft named Unity to an altitude of 83 kilometers or 51.4 miles. The flight on Dec. 13 was Virgin Galactic longest rocket-powered flight ever.

Stucky and Sturckow are also Virgin Galactic’s first astronauts.

The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots that have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. The Federal Aviation Administration said both pilots will receive their commercial astronaut wings at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. early 2019.

“Many of you will know how important the dream of space travel is to me personally,” said Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson. “Ever since I watched the moon landings as a child I have looked up to the skies with wonder. This is a momentous day and I could not be more proud of our teams who together have opened a new chapter of space exploration.

Slung underneath the jet-powered mothership named Eve, Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Eve released Unity upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet.

Stucky and Sturckow then piloted Unity in a thunderous boost that lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it roared into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line, which is the boundary where space begins.

After doing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program.

Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. NASA said the four technology experiments will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement.

In October, Branson said Virgin Galactic was “more than tantalizingly close” to its first trip to space.

“We will be in space with people not too long after that so we have got a very, very exciting couple of months ahead,” he said.

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China’s Lunar Probe Will Take a Month to Land on the Moon

A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Beijing, China (4E) – A launch vehicle carrying a Chinese lunar probe that will attempt mankind’s first-soft landing on the Dark Side of the Moon blasted-off Dec. 8. Its payload spacecraft will reach the Moon by Jan. 1, 2019 at the earliest.

The puzzling question is why will it take a month for this probe named Chang’e-4 to land on the Moon when it only took U.S. astronauts of the Apollo Program only three days to make the same journey?

China hasn’t given an official explanation, but Western scientists have their theories. The Smithsonian Institution said the Chang’e-4 space craft will make a few course corrections along the way to prepare for a landing at the Von Kármán crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

Chang’e-4 will consist of a lander and a rover. The lander will deploy a ramp to allow the rover to access the lunar surface. The rover has dimensions of 1.5 × 1.0 × 1.0 meters and has a mass of 140 kg.

The Chang’e-4 lander will carry scientific payloads to study the geophysics of the landing site. Among the more intriguing payloads on the lander is a 3 kg container with potato and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds (among others), and silkworm larvae (or eggs) to test if plants and insects can hatch and grow together.

Chinese scientists hope that if the eggs hatch, the larvae will produce carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the germinated plants will emit oxygen through photosynthesis. The plants and silkworms will together establish a simple synergy inside the container. A camera will take pictures of this experiment.

This will be the first time humans have tried to grow plants and raise insects on the Moon.

The lander will also deploy the Lunar Lander Neutrons and Dosimetry (LND), a neutron dosimeter developed by Kiel University in Germany.

If China can pull it off, it will become the first country to land a probe on the Dark Side of the Moon. The South Pole-Aitken Basin is a vast basin in the southern hemisphere of the far side. It extends from the South Pole to Aitken crater.

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