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From Africa To Mars

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Man’s return to the moon

NASA is set on landing the first American woman and next American man at the South Pole of the moon by 2024, followed by a sustained presence on and around the moon by 2028.

This is according to the NASA Strategic Plan for Lunar Exploration.

Using Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology, she encapsulates their path to the Moon as the name of their program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024.

“When they land, Artemis astronauts will step foot where no human has ever been before: the moon’s South Pole,” NASA says.

READ MORE | Mysterious Object Under Moon’s Largest Crater Found By Scientists

Their plan is to conduct ground-breaking decadal science, commercialize space development, extend human presence into deep space, develop technologies for long-term survival, and sustainable and affordable human and robotics programs.

With advanced technologies, and recycleable rockets, this shouldn’t be too hard as space travel has become more affordable.

But, one question remains, after all these years, why hasn’t there been another trip to the moon since?

“Houston, we have a problem”

Conspiracy theorists have famously argued that the moon landing may not have even taken place at all.

The History Channel identified some of these conspiracies.

In the documentary, it argued that the moon landing was fake because the American flag looked like it was flapping in the wind, stars could not be seen, and the shadows looked disfigured.

Some have gone as far as saying the moon landing was filmed in a hidden studio.

READ MORE | Crazy Aviators: The Eerie Similarities Between Billionaire Howard Hughes And Elon Musk

Temidayo considers people who don’t believe in the lunar mission to be “flat earth believers”.

“I think it is an insult on science and an insult on the thousands of people who were directly and indirectly involved in making it happen… And usually, people that come up with these conspiracy theories are non-scientists; that is why no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion,” he says.

At the time that America was planning its space voyage, the Soviet Union was also in competition to land man on the moon, but failed.

As a result, they denied ever attempting, according to news reports.

Temidayo is of the opinion that there is no need for man to go back to the moon. “Another trip to the moon might not be a good investment,” he says.

“The question is if we are going back to the moon, what we are going there for?”

Temidayo believes we have gained enough insight from the moon that another trip there isn’t necessary.

Instead, man should be looking at newer space conquests, perhaps something a little closer to home.

From the moon to Mars

Mars, the red planet, has been on the radar of space enthusiasts for years now.

The planet, which is closest to Earth, is most visible in our skies at night.

Admired for its beauty, it could also mean profit.

Billionaires, governments and private companies are all in the race to colonize it, and it seems that the red planet is a prized potential possession, a sought-after destination for the richest on Earth. South Africa-born tech entrepreneur, Elon Musk, has grand plans for getting humanity to Mars.

“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about.

“It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars,” Musk said on SpaceX.com.

READ MORE | Tesla’s $675 Million Loss Pulls Elon Musk Back To Earth After Stellar SpaceX Launch

The SpaceX CEO is planning the first private lunar passenger flight and a cargo mission to Mars.

“The objectives for the first mission will be to confirm water resources, identify hazards, and put in place initial power, mining, and life support infrastructure,” says the company.

SpaceX has also planned for a second mission to the planet with both cargo and crew and its target is 2024 using a rocket called Starship.

NASA has set a date for its proposed Mars mission, expected to happen in 2030.

“Our sustainable Moon to Mars exploration approach is reusable and repeatable – we will build an open exploration architecture in lunar orbit with as many capabilities that can be replicated as possible for missions to the red planet,” it says.

Through the exploration of the moon, NASA plans to push the boundaries of human knowledge, answer the question of  ‘are we alone?’ and unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Despite many proposed missions for man to visit Mars, it is easier said than done.

According to researchers from NASA, the atmosphere on Mars is made of carbon dioxide and is extremely thin with no breathable oxygen.

“There’s no water on the surface to drink, either. The landscape is freezing, with no protection from the sun’s radiation or from passing dust storms. The keys to survival will be technology, research and testing,” it says.

NASA has since been constructing technology that will aid in facilitating a steady supply of oxygen on Mars.

However, it is very costly to do so as volumes of it need to be transported from Earth.

At the same time, the phenomenon of space mining is also an emerging trend.

Goldman Sachs sees it as the next frontier.

It predicts an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion.

Regardless of the cost, space travel promises to be big business.

What sounds like a dream now may soon become the reality of tomorrow where humans can visit family and friends on another planet, thus attesting itself as a spacefaring civilization. 

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Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus

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Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.

  • Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
  • Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
  • N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering  out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
  • Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.

Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government. 

“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.

Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.

Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.

News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.

Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News

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Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors

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Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.

  • Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
  • Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
  • Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
  • These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
  • While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.

What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.

Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.

Further Reading: So You’re Suddenly Working From Home And Want To Try Gaming? Here’s How To Get Started.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Innovation


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Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand

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Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

  • The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
  • Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
  • Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
  • Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for  grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
  • Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.

News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.

Matt Perez, Forbes Staff, Games

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