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Israeli moon mission SpaceIL to launch on SpaceX rocket





spaceil beresheet lunar lander private moon mission illustration 1An illustration of “Beresheet,” a 1,300-lb robotic lunar robot that could make Israel the fourth country ever to land on the moon’s surface.SpaceIL

  • SpaceX is about to launch a Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the first-ever private moon mission.
  • SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization based in Israel, designed and built the 1,300-pound lunar lander called “Beresheet,” which means “in the beginning” (the first words in the Bible).
  • SpaceIL started as a Google Lunar XPrize team and is backed by South African billionaire Morris Kahn.
  • If the Beresheet lunar mission works, it’d make Israel the fourth country ever to pull off a moon landing.

SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, is about to launch the first private lunar lander.

Whether or not the moon mission succeeds, the effort will carry lasting significance to Israel and the country’s nascent space industry. But if everything works as planned, Israel will become the fourth nation ever to land on the lunar surface. (Japan, India, and Europe have crashed probes into the lunar surface but not gently set down any robots.)

The $100 million mission is headed by a nonprofit called SpaceIL (the “IL” in the name stands for “Israel”), which designed and built a 1,300-pound robotic spacecraft called “Beresheet.” That’s Hebrew for “in the beginning,” which is the first phrase in Genesis in the Bible.

Beresheet — which is equipped with cameras, magnetic sensors, and transmitters to relay data to and from to Earth — now awaits launch inside the top of a Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX’s rocket should lift off on Thursday evening at 8:45 p.m. EST, barring technical glitches and bad weather. (The US Air Force predicted an 80% chance of launch as of Wednesday.)

Morris Kahn, a South African-born entrepreneur and billionaire who lives in Israel, is the biggest funder of the SpaceIL mission. In an interview with Business Insider, Kahn said he’s shouldered about $43 million of the $100 million that has been spent on development and on the SpaceX rocket launch.

“I wanted to show that Israel — this little country with a population of about 6 or 8 million people — could actually do a job that was only done by three major powers in the world: Russia, China, and the United States,” Kahn said. “Could Israel innovate and actually achieve this objective with a smaller budget, and being a smaller country, and without a big space industry backing it?”

This week, the world will find out.

‘Without money, you’re not going to get anywhere’

spaceil beresheet lunar lander private moon mission illustration 2An illustration of SpaceIL’s “Beresheet” moon robot deploying from a rocket above Earth.SpaceIL

In early 2011, Kahn attended an international space conference in Israel, where a presentation by three young Israeli engineers — Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari, and Yonatan Winetraub — caught his attention.

“They said that they were going to participate in a Google competition. It was an XPrize competition to put a spacecraft on the moon and win a $20 million prize,” Kahn said. “They seemed very proud of themselves, and I thought that this was rather neat.”

That competition was the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which started in September 2007. It dangled tens of millions of dollars in prize money with the hope of spurring a private company to land a robot on the moon by 2014.

After the SpaceIL presentation, Kahn — who at the time had a net worth to close $1 billion — asked the group’s leaders if they had any money.

“They said, ‘Money? Money, what’s that for?’ I said, ‘Without money, you’re not going to get anywhere,'” Kahn said. “I said to them, ‘Look, come to my office, I’ll give you $100,000 — no questions asked — and you can start.’ And that was how I innocently got involved in this tremendous project.”

Kahn said “the project really began to chew up money” early on, so he asked for a budget. The team came back with estimate of $8 million for research, development, and testing, and about $5 million for a rocket launch — “quite a lot of money,” Kahn said. But he initially agreed to pay for the rocket launch.

“I don’t want to be the richest man in the cemetery. I’d like to feel that I’ve used my money productively,” Kahn said. “I’d also like to see that I’ve used it in a way that I enjoy. I enjoy this process.”

939962_2_10 07 Israel SpaceIL Google_standardIsraeli officials look at a model of SpaceIL’s Beresheet spacecraft.Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Over time, the organizers of the Google Lunar XPrize kept pushing back the contest’s 2014 deadline, but the competition was ultimately shuttered in January 2018 without a winner.

Nevertheless, SpaceIL was intent on moving ahead, and Kahn kept supplying cash.

“Slowly, I sucked myself into this project and I had no idea where it was going to take me,” Kahn said. “Today I know. It’s taken us roughly $100 million. That’s a tremendous amount of money.”

He also helped fundraise from other sources, including roughly $2 million from the Israeli government. Kahn said it was not easy to raise the money, but he appealed to the national pride of Israelis.

“Putting a spacecraft on on the moon is a little bit of a kind of a weird project,” Kahn said. “It almost seems un-doable, and even if it was doable, it takes somebody with imagination to actually see why you would do it.”

Read more: NASA’s first moon landings in nearly 50 years may happen in 2019. The agency thinks these 9 companies can get it to the lunar surface.

Still, $100 million is a pittance compared to the $469 million that NASA spent in the 1960s on seven similarly sized Surveyor lunar landers. When adjusted for inflation, that sum is roughly $3.5 billion today — about $500 million per mission.

How SpaceIL will use SpaceX to land on the moon

spacex falcon 9 block 5 rocket launch es hail 2 november 15 2018 32040174368_1cb3d93808_oThe Es’hail-2 mission launches toward space aboard one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets on November 15, 2018.SpaceX/Flickr (public domain)

The moon is about 239,000 miles away from Earth, but the biggest challenge in getting there is harnessing enough energy to climb out of our planet’s gravity field. For example, sending three Apollo astronauts, a small space capsule, and a two-person lunar lander vehicle required a 36-story Saturn V rocket filled with millions of pounds of fuel.

To achieve a lunar landing on a tight budget, SpaceIL claims its robot “will be the smallest spacecraft to land on the moon to date.” Beresheet is just shy of 5 feet tall when tucked into position for launch, making it relatively easy to squeeze aboard a rocket. Because the spacecraft was built to be light, it has no cooling system and will overheat in the blistering sun on the moon after perhaps three days.

The robot is also cutting costs by not launching alone. It will instead “piggyback” into space with a much larger payload: an Indonesian communications satellite called “Nusantara Satu” or PSN 6.

On SpaceX’s end, the plan is to launch both spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket with an already twice-used booster. Launching the refurbished booster for a third time could net SpaceX millions (if not tens of millions) of dollars.

Read more: Elon Musk beat a world record for rocket launches in 2018. Here’s every history-making SpaceX mission of the year.

SpaceIL declined to share how much it’s actually paying for the launch. But pricing tables from the company in charge of arranging the rocket rideshare, called Spaceflight Industries, suggest that Beresheet’s launch may cost about $22.5 million — far less than the $62 million list price of an exclusive ride on a Falcon 9.

To lower Beresheet’s weight and launch price, SpaceIL also chose a roughly 2.5-month trip from launch to landing. (By comparison, it took Apollo astronauts just four days after launch to land on the moon.)

“Once it disengages from the launch rocket, the spacecraft will begin orbiting Earth in continuously larger elliptical orbits, ultimately covering a total distance of 9 million kilometers [5.6 million miles],” SpaceIL said. “This long and complex course was chosen as it will allow completing the journey to the moon with minimal fuel consumption.”

About 75% of Beresheet’s mass is made up of fuel, which will propel it into lunar orbit — a trip that will take the probe about six weeks. Once the moon’s gravity captures the robot around April 4, it will shrink its orbit over the next week.

A final burn of Beresheet’s rocket engine on April 11 will bring it down to the lunar surface in about 15 minutes. The probe will navigate its lunar landing using autonomous software and a computer about as powerful as a smartphone. A set of 3D-printed legs will cushion the last 16 feet of its free-fall.

“The spacecraft will use various sensors to measure its location and height in relation to the moon’s surface,” SpaceIL said. “The ground team will not be able to intervene during the landing process.”

During its descent and after landing, the lander is supposed to record video and panoramic photos while beaming footage to a control room at Israel Aerospace Industries in Yehud.

“It will be possible to operate all the spacecraft’s systems from this control room,” SpaceIL said.

What the first private lunar lander will do on the moon

beresheet israeli moon lander robot payload close up spaceilThe “Beresheet” lunar robot designed and built by SpaceIL. If it lands successfully, the robot could make Israel the fourth country ever to softly land on the moon’s surface.SpaceIL

The planned landing site for Beresheet is Mare Serenitatis, or the “Sea of Serenity,” in the northern hemisphere of the moon. It’s a dark lava-covered site of an ancient volcanic eruption. The area is also a source of magnetic and gravitational anomalies, and — in popular culture — the left of of the “man in the moon.”

Until it overheats, Beresheet will take measurements of the moon’s magnetic field there using an instrument supplied by the University of California, Los Angeles. SpaceIL plans to share the data it collects with NASA and other space agencies.

Read more: The American flags on the moon are disintegrating

Kahn says the scientific mission is not as important as what Beresheet’s landing would symbolize, true to the meaning of its name.

“This project of ours will take Israel into deep space. I think this is a new frontier and actually what we’re doing — this is the first nongovernmental project to go to the moon,” Kahn said. “I think others will follow us. In fact, I’m sure others will follow us.”

Retired NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski also sees the mission as stepping stone to a larger future for Israel’s space industry.

“Israel is such a incredible technological powerhouse. And so I think it’s extraordinary that now, non-space-faring nations — in other words, those that don’t have the capacity to necessarily launch their own astronauts — are now able to launch major payloads like this,” Parazynski told Business Insider. “Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, they will be able to also launch their own astronauts.”

Kahn said there is “no guarantee” the mission will succeed — “It just takes one little glitch and we’ll actually fly off into space and lose control,” he added.

But even if it fails, he thinks the “Apollo effect” of encouraging young Israelis to dream big about their futures in science and engineering is already a success.

“We’ve actually gotten to more than a million young students and we excited them about space,” Kahn said. “That objective, I think, we’ve actually already achieved.”


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Trudeau Government Should Turn to Sustainable Floor Heating In Its New Deal





A consortium has been chosen by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to manage the $1.1-billion overhaul of five heating and cooling plants in the National Capital Region. However, this decision has been met with a lot of disapproval by the country’s largest federal public service union.

Early June, the department announced that Innovate Energy has been awarded the 30-year contract “to design, retrofit, maintain and operate the plants,”winning the bid over a rival group that included SNC-Lavalin.

Minister of Environment, Catherine McKenna, said the federal government was “leading by example” in its bid to drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. McKenna noted that by supporting this project, they’re utilizing heating and cooling infrastructure to promote a more environmentally friendly option.

“We’re very proud that our government is working with partners like Innovate Energy to modernize this critical infrastructure,” she said during the announcement at one of the facilities that will be upgraded, the Cliff Heating and Cooling Plant in downtown Ottawa.

The plants would be known as the district energy system and would heat 80 buildings in the area with steam. It is also expected to cool 67 of these buildings with chilled water through more than 14 kilometres of underground pipes.

Under the Energy Services Acquisition Program, PSPC will be tasked with modernizing the outdated technology in the plants to lower emissions and supportgrowth in the eco-friendly technology sector.

During the first stage of the overhaul, the system would be converted from steam to low temperature hot water and then switched from steam to electric chillers—with the estimated completion date being 2025. PSPC notes that the project will reduce current emissions by 63 per cent, the equivalent of removing 14,000 non-eco-friendly cars off the road.

Afterwards, the natural gas powering the plant will then be replaced by carbon-neutral fuel sources, which according to estimated will reduce emissions by a further 28 per cent. The renovation project is bound to save the government an estimated fee of more than $750 million in heating and cooling costs in the next 40 years.

Furthermore, the implementation of radiant floor heating in Ottawa by the federal government would be an additional step in driving its agenda for a more eco-friendly state.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website, radiant floor heating has a lot of benefits and advantages over alternate heat systems and can cut heating costs by 25 to 50 per cent.

“It is more efficient than baseboard heating and usually more efficient than forced-air heating because no energy is lost through ducts,” the website states.

Radiant floor heating provides an equal amount of heat throughout a building, including areas that are difficult to heat, such as rooms with vaulted ceilings, garages or bathrooms. Consideringit warms people and objects directly—controlling the direct heat loss of the occupant—radiant floor heating provides comfort at lower thermostat settings.

“Radiators and other forms of ‘point’ heating circulate heat inefficiently and hence need to run for longer periods to obtain comfort levels,” reports the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNet).

Radiant heating is a clean and healthy option—a perfect choice for those with severe allergies—as it doesn’t rely on circulating air, meaning there are no potentially irritating particles blowing around the room. Additionally, it is more energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing with wall radiators or floor registers and virtually noiseless when in operation.

“They draw cold air across the floor and send warm air up to the ceiling, where it then falls, heating the room from the top down, creating drafts and circulating dust and allergens.”

It is important for the leadership in Ottawa to equally drive the adoption of radiant floor heating as doing this would lead to increased usage in residential buildings—and even government-owned buildings.

However, in October, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), a representative body of employees of the plants,began a campaign target at the government against their decision to use a public-private partnership (P3) for the retrofitting project, citing concerns about costs and safety.

According to the union, outside employees won’t be bound to the same health and safety standards of government workers and that typically P3 projects cost a lot more than traditional public financing deals.

The union demands that the government scraps the proposed project and meet PSAC members and experts to brainstorm on a new way forward that would ensure federal employees continue to operate and maintain the plants.

However, parliamentary secretary to public services and procurement minister, Steve MacKinnon said that the union officials have consulted him but that after conducting an analysis, the P3 option was still the best for the job.

“We didn’t have (to) sacrifice on safety or health — we didn’t have to sacrifice on job security,” he said.

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Steps to becoming a Data Scientist





Data science has become one of the most in-demand career paths in this century, according to Business Insider. With the amount of information being circulated online, it has created a huge demand for storing, interpreting and implementing big data for different purposes—hence the need for a data scientist.

Today, there too much information flying around for regular people to process efficiently and use. Therefore, it has become the responsibility of data scientists to collect, organize and analyze this data. Doing this helps various people, organizations, enterprise businesses and governments to manage, store and interpret this data for different purposes.

Though data scientists come from different educational backgrounds, a majority of them need to have a technical educational background. To pursue a career in data science, computer-related majors, graduations and post graduations in maths and statistics are quite useful.

Therefore, the steps to becoming a data scientist are quite straightforward.  After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in an IT related field—such as computer science, maths or physics—you can also further your education by obtaining a master’s degree in a data science or any other related field of study. With the necessary educational background, you can now search for a job and obtain the required experience in whichever filed you choose to invest your acquired skills.

Here are the necessary steps to be taken to become a data scientist.

Step 1: Obtain the necessary educational requirements

As earlier noted, different educational paths can still lead to a career in data science. However, it is impossible to begin a career in data science without obtaining a collegiate degree—as a four-year bachelor’s degree is really important. However, according to a report by Business Insider, over 73% of data scientist in existence today have a graduate degree and about 38% of them hold a Ph.D. Therefore, to rise above the crowd and get a high-end position in the field of data science, it is important to have a Master’s degree or a Ph.D.—and with various online data science masters program, obtaining one is quite easy.

Some institutions provide data science programs with courses that will equip students to analyze complex sets of data. These courses also involve a host of technical information about computers, statistics, data analysis techniques and many more. Completing these programs equips you with the necessary skills to function adequately as a data scientist.

Additionally, there are some technical—and computer-based degrees—that can aid you begin a career in data science. Some of them include studies in, Computer Science, Statistics, Social Science, Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Applied Math. These degrees will imbibe some important skills related to data science in you—namely, coding, experimenting, managing large amounts of data, solving quantitative problems and many others.

Step 2: Choose an area of specialization

There rarely exists an organization, agency or business today that doesn’t require the expertise of a data scientist. Hence, it is important that after acquiring the necessary education to start a career as a data scientist, you need to choose an area of specialization in the field you wish to work in.

Some of the specializations that exist in data science today include automotive, marketing, business, defence, sales, negotiation, insurance and many others.

Step 3: Kick start your career as a data scientist

After acquiring the necessary skills to become a data scientist, it is important to get a job in the filed and company of your choice where you can acquire some experience.

Many organizations offer valuable training to their data scientists and these pieces of training are typically centred around the specific internal systems and programs of an organization. Partaking in this training allows you learn some high-level analytical skills that were not taught during your various school programs—especially since data science is a constantly evolving field.

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Artificial intelligence pioneers win tech’s ‘Nobel Prize’





Computers have become so smart during the past 20 years that people don’t think twice about chatting with digital assistants like Alexa and Siri or seeing their friends automatically tagged in Facebook pictures.

But making those quantum leaps from science fiction to reality required hard work from computer scientists like Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton and Yann LeCun. The trio tapped into their own brainpower to make it possible for machines to learn like humans, a breakthrough now commonly known as “artificial intelligence,” or AI.

Their insights and persistence were rewarded Wednesday with the Turing Award, an honor that has become known as technology industry’s version of the Nobel Prize. It comes with a $1 million prize funded by Google, a company where AI has become part of its DNA.

The award marks the latest recognition of the instrumental role that artificial intelligence will likely play in redefining the relationship between humanity and technology in the decades ahead.

Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science and one of the most talked-about topics in society,” said Cherri Pancake, president of the Association for Computing Machinery, the group behind the Turing Award.

Although they have known each other for than 30 years, Bengio, Hinton and LeCun have mostly worked separately on technology known as neural networks. These are the electronic engines that power tasks such as facial and speech recognition, areas where computers have made enormous strides over the past decade. Such neural networks also are a critical component of robotic systems that are automating a wide range of other human activity, including driving.

Their belief in the power of neural networks was once mocked by their peers, Hinton said. No more. He now works at Google as a vice president and senior fellow while LeCun is chief AI scientist at Facebook. Bengio remains immersed in academia as a University of Montreal professor in addition to serving as scientific director at the Artificial Intelligence Institute in Quebec.

“For a long time, people thought what the three of us were doing was nonsense,” Hinton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought we were very misguided and what we were doing was a very surprising thing for apparently intelligent people to waste their time on. My message to young researchers is, don’t be put off if everyone tells you what are doing is silly.” Now, some people are worried that the results of the researchers’ efforts might spiral out of control.

While the AI revolution is raising hopes that computers will make most people’s lives more convenient and enjoyable, it’s also stoking fears that humanity eventually will be living at the mercy of machines.

Bengio, Hinton and LeCun share some of those concerns especially the doomsday scenarios that envision AI technology developed into weapons systems that wipe out humanity.

But they are far more optimistic about the other prospects of AI empowering computers to deliver more accurate warnings about floods and earthquakes, for instance, or detecting health risks, such as cancer and heart attacks, far earlier than human doctors.

“One thing is very clear, the techniques that we developed can be used for an enormous amount of good affecting hundreds of millions of people,” Hinton said.

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