Tech Digest daily round up: Four astronauts blast off on SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule


French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and three crewmates are set to blast off Friday morning aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule for a six-month stay at the International Space Station. The European Space Agency veteran joins two Nasa astronauts – mission commander Shane Kimbrough and pilot Megan McArthur – along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide for a 24-hour ride to the ISS, which orbits some 400 kilometres above Earth. The launch, from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, follows a decade-long hiatus of Nasa’s Space Shuttle programme, during which astronauts were forced to hitch rides aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket in order to reach the ISS. RFI 

The world’s “most powerful tidal turbine” was launched in the UK on Earth Day yesterday. The 74-metre 680-tonne Orbital 02 entered the River Tay in Dundee on Thursday and will be towed to Orkney where it will use currents to generate enough energy to power up to 2,000 homes, said Orbital Marine Power, its Scotland-based developer. Once active it will become the world’s most powerful operational tidal turbine, the firm said. Orbital chief executive Andrew Scott said it was a “huge milestone”. He said: “The O2 is a remarkable example of British cleantech innovation and the build we have completed here is an inspiring display of what a UK supply chain can achieve if given the opportunity – even under the extraordinary pressures of a pandemic.” Yahoo! News 

Doctors may be just a few years away from tracking your vital signs via electronic skin worn on the body. Researchers in Japan say they have developed an ultra-thin, lightweight e-skin that is stuck to the chest area using water spray and can be worn for a week at a time. The technology was developed by Takao Someya, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering. It has yet to undergo clinical trials, but Someya says he has started working with partners to develop manufacturing processes. Made from a flexible material — polyvinyl alcohol — with a layer of gold, the e-skin is a wearable sensor that can pick up signals such as heartbeat and electrical impulses from muscle movement. CNN

The West is faced with a “moment of reckoning” when it comes to technology and security, the head of intelligence agency GCHQ has told the BBC. Jeremy Fleming said there was a risk that key technologies on which we rely will no longer be shaped by the West. “We have to keep evolving our approach if we’re going to keep up,” he said of the growing challenge from China. So-called smart cities, which will collect large amounts of data, are just one example, he added. “The risk is that the technology is implemented in a way in which we can’t assure its security,” he warned. The UK is a “big beast” when it comes to technology but “we can’t take that for granted”, the GCHQ director warned, saying this was a moment when we had to decide if we were going to continue to evolve and compete with our adversaries. BBC

The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said. The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move. In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions. The Guardian

Chris Price
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