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Elon Musk: Starship could make migrating from Earth to Mars affordable

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starship test hopper stainless steel spacesuit actual photo boca chica brownsville texas launch site elon musk twitter january 2019 DwmagBZX4AEbUN enlargedSpaceX’s “test hopper,” an experimental stainless-steel ship, in Texas. The person at the bottom is for scale.Elon Musk/SpaceX via Twitter

  • SpaceX is designing a new rocket ship, called Starship, to send about 100 people to Mars at a time.
  • Elon Musk, the rocket company’s founder, said on Twitter that Starship could be 10 times cheaper than the least-expensive rocket today.
  • Musk added he is “confident” Starship may be cheap enough for most people to “sell their home on Earth & move to Mars if they want.”

Elon Musk is trying to make it a no-brainer for you to move to Mars.

Musk, the founder of SpaceX, shared his thinking on cost-effective space travel on Twitter over the weekend.

“I’m confident moving to Mars … will one day cost less than $500k & maybe even below $100k,” Musk tweeted on Sunday, “low enough that most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth & move to Mars if they want.”

He added that if anyone decides they don’t like Mars (there are plenty of reasons to hate it), a “return ticket is free.”

The comments came after Muk revealed new details about his rocket company’s truck-size rocket engine, called Raptor, and the launch system it’d propel to the moon and Mars, called Starship.

On Sunday, Musk said the Raptor engine has been fired more than half a dozen times at a SpaceX facility in McGregor, Texas. He also shared technical data from those tests, including the engine’s efficiency, chamber pressure, other details.

Raptor engines are crucial to making Starship work. Up to six of the engines will power the roughly 18-story Starship. Meanwhile, the system’s 22-story rocket booster, called Super Heavy, may use up to 31 Raptor engines.

SpaceX plans to fix the first Raptor engines onto a “test hopper” prototype at a site near Brownsville, Texas, then launch it on short “hops” up to a few miles high.

How Musk plans to make space travel cheap with Starship

big falcon rocket bfr spaceship bfs mars colony colonization illustration spacexAn illustration of spaceships of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket system, or BFR, helping colonize Mars.SpaceX

Musk’s ultimate goal for the future of Starship and SpaceX is to enable human life on Mars. He began sharing that vision in 2015, saying he wants to back up the human race like hard drive in case something terrible befalls Earth.

Since then, Musk has worked toward replacing SpaceX’s mainstay rocket, called Falcon 9, with a larger yet dramatically lower-cost system. (Currently, that’s Starship, though it has gone by other names — most recently “Big Falcon Rocket.”)

“This will sound implausible, but I think there’s a path to build Starship / Super Heavy for less than Falcon 9,” Musk said.

SpaceX currently charges about $62 million per launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, which can carry up to 25 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit. On Sunday, Musk predicted that Starship would be “at least 10X cheaper” to send up the same mass of payload.

Starship is designed to take about 100 tons of cargo and 100 people to Mars. Part of the reason Musk expects it to be so cost-effective is the system’s size — launching more at once can lower costs.

But the biggest reason Starship could be so much cheaper is that it’s designed to be fully reusable. This prevents losing multi-million-dollar hardware after a single use (a typical practice in the rocket-launch industry) and limits launch costs to refilling fuel and refurbishing parts. Starship’s reusability may also allow it to refuel on liquid methane and oxygen once it has landed on Mars (Musk says this fuel can be manufactured on the red planet’s surface) for a return trip to Earth.

Musk also confirmed on Sunday that a recent and “radical” shift in the design of Starship will be a “big factor” in keeping costs down. Instead of making the rocket ship out of lightweight yet super-strong carbon-fiber composites, Musk has asked his engineers to use low-cost stainless-steel alloys.

Read more: Elon Musk says SpaceX has built a stainless-steel rocket ship in Texas that looks ‘like liquid silver’

Steel costs about $3 per kilogram, Musk told Popular Mechanics in December, while carbon-fiber can cost about $200 per kilogram — a 66-fold difference. Musk tweeted in January that using steel could counterintuitively make Starship lighter, allowing it to carry more cargo at a time.

SpaceX’s “aspirational” goal is to launch the first cargo mission to Mars in 2022 — just three years from now. Then in 2023, Musk hopes to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and a crew of artists on a trip around the moon. If all goes well with those two launches, he wants to send the first crewed Starship missions to Mars in 2024.

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Canadian tech diversity and inclusion in the spotlight

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Diversity and inclusion are hot-button issues, but for all the attention they get, there’s still work to be done in the tech sector, according to a recent Gartner blog.

Citing a range of challenges that include pay inequity, lack of diversity in corporate management, and difficulty recruiting diverse talent, the blog suggests three possible remedies for organizations trying to become more diverse and inclusive: having a long-term plan but focusing on one aspect that will make the most benefit, setting targets and making leadership accountable, and committing resources.

The call for such strategies finds support in a report from the Brookfield Institute revealing that Canada’s technology sector has a disappointing track record when it comes to inclusion and equity, with women “four times less likely to be employed in the sector than men, and earning on average $7,300 less than men in technology jobs.”

The findings are just as grim in a January 2020 report funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. According to this document, despite corporate commitments to diversity, “decades of initiatives designed to advance women in technology have scarcely had an effect: The proportion of women in engineering and computer science in Canada has changed little in 25 years.”

And women are not the only disadvantaged group, says the report. “The under-employment of skilled immigrants and under-representation of women and other groups in the ICT industry suggests that recruitment and retention policies and practices of the very firms complaining about this [skills] gap may be contributing to the problem.”

Until we do a better job of addressing inclusion and diversity, career opportunities will continue to be limited for women, internationally educated professionals, racialized minorities, First Nations, Inuit and Métis people. In addition to being a very human issue, this is also one that perpetuates the ICT skills gap by failing to tap into a supply of well-qualified labour.

On the bright side, there are technology companies and organizations across Canada that are truly determined to create opportunities for those who are under-represented in the digital talent pool. There is also an opportunity to recognize their efforts during Channel Innovation 2021: Adapting to the New Customer Experience, a 2.5-hour, virtual event on April 28, 2021.

A showcase for independent software vendors (ISVs) and Canadian channel innovators, the Channel Innovation 2021 celebration will take place on CIA-TV, a unique ITWC platform that allows the audience to take in the show, download related content and videos, and network in live breakout rooms. There are six award categories, including the C4 Award for Diversity and Inclusion. Nominating is simple. Whether a self- or third-party nomination, there are only two main questions to answer and an opportunity to include a supporting document or image.

Winning entries will be announced during the celebration and profiled in the Channel Daily News Magazine and in Direction Informatique, ITWC’s French-language publication devoted to the Quebec marketplace. They will also receive a digital badge for use on their websites and on social media to help gain industry-wide recognition and end-user exposure.

The media attention and recognition are reason enough to vie for this honour, and we always need things to celebrate during a global pandemic, but the real value in awards for diversity and inclusion is in setting an example for others to follow. The news is full of the ways we are falling down when it comes to equity in the IT sector. Let’s take some time to highlight the success stories and encourage other tech innovators to step up.

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Leading Canadian tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar to give virtual keynote in Peterborough on March 9

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In celebration of International Women’s Day, one of Canada’s leading female tech entrepreneurs will be giving a virtual keynote for residents of Peterborough and the Kawarthas on Tuesday, March 9th at 7 p.m.

The Innovation Cluster is hosting Saadia Muzaffar as part of its ‘Electric City Talks’ series.

Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur, author, and passionate advocate of responsible innovation, decent work for everyone, and prosperity of immigrant talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She is the founder of TechGirls Canada, a hub for Canadian women in STEM, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, a group of business people, technologists, and other residents advocating for innovation that is focused on the public good.

In 2017, Muzaffar was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada. Her work has been featured in CNNMoney, BBC World, Fortune Magazine, The Globe and Mail, VICE, CBC, TVO, and Chatelaine.

Muzaffar’s March 9th talk, entitled ‘Redefining Term Sheets: Success, Solidarity, & The Future We Want’, will inspire women to achieve success in all areas of life, including in business by providing strategies for obtaining funding.

“It is impossible to explain how women only get 2.2 per cent of funding for their ventures while we constitute a majority of the population, without acknowledging long-standing structural and systemic bias,” Muzaffar says, describing her talk. “Women know these odds in our bones because we feel them in too many boardrooms, banks, media advertisements, and venture competitions — yet women are the fastest-growing demographic in new businesses.”

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ARK’s Cathie Wood joins board of Canadian tech firm mimik

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ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood is joining the board of Canadian technology company mimik.

Vancouver-based mimik is an edge computing company that effectively turns devices like phones into private cloud servers. It has already teamed up with Amazon Web Services and IBM on edge computing – two of the bigger players in the space.

The AWS partnership gives software developers access to mimik’s cloud platform. Together, edge devices including smart phones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) products can act as extensions of the AWS cloud. With the IBM partnership, mimik’s technology will be included in automation and digital transformation across manufacturing, retail, IoT and healthcare.

All of mimik’s business lines fit in with Wood’s broad ‘next generation internet’ thesis, one of her big five investment themes. The company itself is private and Wood is not an investor. 

However, as Citywire noted in January, Wood has hinted in interviews that ARK is exploring the launch of a private markets strategy. 

Wood joins a relatively high profile board at mimik. Other members include  Allen Salmasi, a pioneer in mobile technology who was previously with Qualcomm, and Ori Sasson, managing director of Primera Capital, who was an investor in VMWare and other technology companies.

‘I’ve always believed in backing founders who are at the forefront of innovation,’ Wood said in a statement on her decision to join mimik. ‘At mimik, [they] have built a foundation for the next generation of cloud computing.’ 

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