Tech Digest daily round up: Ingenuity helicopter takes flight on Mars


A helicopter has made the first-ever flight on another planet, NASA has said. The Ingenuity helicopter took to the Martian skies this morning, the space agency said. It marks NASA’s first attempt at a powered, controlled flight on another planet. Data from the flight will return from Mars to Earth in a few hours’ time. NASA’s Perseverance rover provided support during flight operations, taking images, collecting environmental data, and hosting the base station that enabled the helicopter to communicate with mission controllers on Earth. The original flight date of 11 April was postponed as engineers worked on pre-flight checks and a solution to a command sequence issue. Sky News 

Two men have been killed after they crashed into a tree in a Tesla electric car which “no one” appeared to be driving. Local police in Texas said the car, a 2019 Model S, had been travelling at high speed and had failed to navigate a turn, crashing and bursting into flames.  Harris County precinct constable Mark Herman said authorities were “very confident just with the positioning of the bodies after the impact that there was no one driving that vehicle”. One victim had been found in the front passenger seat and the other in the back of the vehicle. It was unclear whether the autopilot feature had been engaged at the time of the crash, and investigations were continuing yesterday. Telegraph 

Facebook’s plans to roll out encryption across its messaging services could jeopardise ongoing work to combat child abuse, the Home Secretary is to warn. Such encryption means only the sender and recipient can read messages. “We cannot allow a situation where law enforcement’s ability to tackle abhorrent criminal acts and protect victims is severely hampered,” Priti Patel will tell a charity-hosted event. Facebook says its plans for wider encryption protects users’ privacy. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which invited Ms Patel to speak, has claimed that private messaging “is the frontline of child sexual abuse”. Encrypting messages by default could lead to the easier spread of child abuse imagery or online grooming, it has said. BBC 

Google and other companies could be contributing to significant misunderstanding of legal terms with conflicting meanings such as “enjoin,” according to research due to be presented at an academic workshop on Monday. Google’s translation software turns an English sentence about a court enjoining violence, or banning it, into one in the Indian language of Kannada that implies the court ordered violence, according to the new study. “Enjoin” can refer to either promoting or restraining an action. Mistranslations also arise with other contronyms, or words with contradictory meanings depending on context, including “all over,” “eventual” and “garnish,” the paper said. Reuters 

Huawei was able to eavesdrop on all conversations taking place on one of the Netherlands’ largest mobile networks, according to a Dutch newspaper report. Huawei staff both in the Netherlands and in China were able to eavesdrop on all mobile numbers on the KPN network, according to an internal report from 2010, including then Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Chinese dissidents living in the Netherlands. The allegation will raise fresh fears over the use of the Chinese company’s technology in mobile networks around the world. The report, which was obtained by Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, suggested that publishing these findings could severely damage KPN’s reputation. The operator had 6.5m subscribers at the time. Telegraph 

Chris Price
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