So long, Voyager 1…

Voyager 1 has crossed a new frontier, becoming the first spacecraft ever to leave the solar system, NASA said Thursday.  Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth on a tour of the outer planets, the plutonium-powered probe is more than 11 1/2 billion miles from the sun, cruising through interstellar space — the vast, cold emptiness between the stars, the space agency said.  Voyager 1 actually made its exit more than a year ago, according to NASA. But it’s not as if there’s a dotted boundary line or a signpost out there, and it was not until recently that scientists with the space agency had enough evidence to say that the probe had finally plowed through the hot plasma bubble surrounding the planets and escaped the sun’s influence.  voyagerWhile Voyager 1 may have left the solar system as most people understand it, it still has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years to go before bidding adieu to the last icy bodies that make up our neighborhood.  Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe littered with ancient star explosions and radio the data back to Earth, where the Voyager team awaits the starship’s discoveries.  The interstellar ambassador also carries a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photos, just in case it bumps into an intelligent species.

Voyager 1’s odyssey began in 1977 (when Atari launched the 2600!) when the spacecraft and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a tour of the gas giant planets of the solar system. After beaming back dazzling postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s shimmering rings, Voyager 2 hopscotched to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto.

Voyager 2 trails behind at 9 1/2 billion miles from the sun. It may take another three years before Voyager 2 joins its twin on the other side. Eventually, the Voyagers will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.

Pirate Bay introduces Web browser to elude censorship

The Pirate Bay has introduced its own browser, which can be used to circumvent censorship and blockades.  The PirateBrowser is a simple, one-click, pre-configured Firefox browser that makes The Pirate Bay and other blocked sites instantly available and accessible in countries where the site is blocked, the torrent search website said in a blog post over the weekend.  pirate_bay_logoPirateBrowser uses Vidalia, a cross-platform graphical controller for the Tor software that allows users to start and stop the Tor anonymizing network.  This client is bundled with Mozilla’s Firefox portable browser with the FoxyProxy addon, a set of proxy management tools for Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer that bypass content-filtering in certain countries.  Combined with some custom adjustments, the PirateBrowser allows users to “circumvent censorship that certain countries such as Iran, North Korea, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Italy, and Ireland impose onto their citizens,” according to the PirateBrowser site.  The launch of the browser that celebrates the 10th anniversary of The Pirate Bay is only intended to circumvent censorship, The Pirate Bay said. PirateBrowser is available for Windows on piratebrowser.com. Linux or Mac versions were not announced.

Ubisoft – Tom Clancy’s The Division…

I have been a longtime Splinter Cell player on the PC and really enjoy the action and story-lines that series has to offer.  Even though Blacklist has just launched, I was looking for something “different but the same.”  I know that sounds weird but I need something more than Sam Fisher can give me right now.  I’m sure I’ll come back to Splinter Cell soon enough but for now I’m intrigued by ‘The Division’.  Due to be release Q4 2014, the Division is a multiplayer third-person tactical shooter action role-playing video game developed by Ubisoft Massive under the Tom Clancy brand for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows.  The Division is inspired by Operation Dark Winter and Directive 51, real-world events which “revealed how vulnerable we’ve become”; society has become “fragile” and “complex”. In the game, a disease that spreads on Black Friday causes the United States to collapse in five days.  The player is part of a group called “Strategic Homeland Division (SHD)”, called “Division” for short. This group was established to combat the threat and do whatever it takes to “save what remains” in a massive multiplayer online situation, putting them against friends, AI, and other players.  The basic plot from the game site goes like this:

“A devastating pandemic sweeps through New York City, and one by one, basic services fail. In only days, without food or water, society collapses into chaos. The Division, a classified unit of self-supported tactical agents, is activated. Leading seemingly ordinary lives among us, The Division agents are trained to operate independently of command, as all else fails. Fighting to prevent the fall of society, the agents will find themselves caught up in an epic conspiracy, forced to combat not only the effects of a man-made virus, but also the rising threat of those behind it. When everything collapses, your mission begins.”

Cool.  Not only does that sound like the perfect environment for a massive online tactical shoot-em up, but could also be good practical training for the everyday citizen given the way things are going under Obama’s watch.  Think about it… I’m really looking forward to this game.  The story, art and game play look rich and I’m sure will provide a first-rate experience.  Kudos to Ubisoft Massive.

UPDATE – 06/28/14 – Watch the E3 CGI Trailer

Rocket Science is Cool again!

spacex_grasshopperEven if Rockets & Space Exploration isn’t your thing, you’ve got to admit, the SpaceX Grasshopper is pretty cool.  Grasshopper is a 10-story, reusable launch vehicle designed to return to a launchpad for a vertical landing, instead of burning up upon reentering the Earth’s atmosphere.  In a recent test, which was about a minute long at the company’s facilities in McGregor, Texas, The rocket fires up its engines, blasts off, and then hovers in the air – swaying from side to side before returning to the launch pad and landing.  Checkout the video.  A reusable system could mean big savings in developing and operating rockets. The closest example of a reusable launch system is the retired space shuttle fleet, spacecraft that were only partially reused after a tedious months-long overhaul.  Another cool thing is that this isn’t NASA.  By that I mean Government and all the red tape, fraud, waste and abuse that goes with it.  This is an excellent example of a free-market economy both creating jobs, contributing to society and I’m sure, making a $hit-load of cash from their contracts.  SpaceX, good on ya…

UPDATE – 10/14/13 – A new video shows Grasshopper, SpaceX’s re-usable rocket, setting a height record for that model, soaring 744 meters above the arid landscape of Texas.

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