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GM and Honda Partner to Push Cruise Self-Driving Car

General Motors Company (GM) and Honda Motor Company, the world’s fourth and eighth largest car makers, have announced a partnership to jointly develop autonomous road vehicles or self-driving cars based on the Chevy Cruise, all-electric crossover.

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Dearborn, MI, United States (4E) – General Motors Company (GM) and Honda Motor Company, the world’s fourth and eighth largest car makers, have announced a partnership to jointly develop autonomous road vehicles or self-driving cars based on the Chevy Cruise, all-electric crossover.

GM and Honda will market a “purpose-built autonomous vehicle” to be developed by Cruise LLC, GM’s self-driving division. As part of the deal, Honda made a $750-million Honda investment in Cruise, boosting the company’s market cap to $14.6 billion. In addition, Honda will invest $2 billion over 12 years.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the partnership will enhance GM’s vision of a world with “zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” all of which are personally important to her.

GM acquired Cruise in 2016 for about $1 billion. A recent joint investment from GM and Japan’s SoftBank boosted the valuation of Cruise to $11.5 billion. The investment by Honda followed.

Cruise CEO Kyle Vogt said the autonomous bolt will arrive in 2019.

“With the backing of General Motors, SoftBank and now Honda, Cruise is deeply resourced to accomplish our mission to safely deploy autonomous technology across the globe,” Vogt said in a statement.

“The Honda partnership paves the way for massive scale by bringing a beautiful, efficient, and purpose-built vehicle to our network of shared autonomous vehicles.”

Analysts said the GM-Honda partnership will transform Cruise into a global scale operation. GM and Honda are already partnering in a battery development business.

“This is the logical next step in General Motors and Honda’s relationship, given our joint work on electric vehicles, and our close integration with Cruise,” said Barra.

“Together, we can provide Cruise with the world’s best design, engineering and manufacturing expertise, and global reach to establish them as the leader in autonomous vehicle technology – while they move to deploy self-driving vehicles at scale.”

The deal has led to the development of a fully-integrated autonomous electric car. Self-driving technology is already being built into Chevy Bolt electric vehicles (EVs). These Bolts are currently being fleet-tested in San Francisco, Detroit, and Phoenix. Tests in New York City will begin later this year

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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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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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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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Massive SpaceX Ride Share Mission Finally Blasts-Off

Finally, after a delay of three weeks to avoid a spectacular failure, SpaceX has successfully placed 64 small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

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Cape Canaveral, FL, United States (4E) – Finally, after a delay of three weeks to avoid a spectacular failure, SpaceX has successfully placed 64 small satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission dubbed SS0-A: Smallsat Express was originally set to launch on Nov. 19.

The company called the mission largest-ever “rideshare” mission by a U.S.-based launch service provider. Interestingly, SS0-A is the third voyage to space for the same Falcon 9 first-stage re-usable rocket booster. This achievement is another milestone for SpaceX’s re-usable rocket technology that has significantly slashed the cost of space travel.

The Falcon 9 blasted-off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 18:34 GMT on Dec. 5 carrying satellites from 34 different companies, government agencies and universities. It carried cube satellites (CubeSats) and microsatellites (microsats).

This spacecraft range in size from a refrigerator to those as small as a smartphone. The missions of this odd assemblage of spacecraft are even more diverse. There are cutting-edge technology demonstrators for communications and Earth observation.

Also on the manifest are advanced propulsion systems; formation flying spacecraft; university experiments; high school projects; art and even tomatoes. There’s also a capsule containing the cremains (cremated remains) of a 100 persons that will be buried in LEO.

This space burial mission called “Star II Mission” from San Francisco-based Elysium Space will involve lifting into LEO a representative sample of cremains for 100 people from around the world. Star II is called a “memorial spacecraft.” Elysium said Star II will be the first dedicated satellite ever launched for space burials.

After the launch, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster returned to Earth, landing on a ship off the coast of southern California. The Falcon 9’s payload fairing missed a landing net on the barge and splashed into the ocean.

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