Astro-nots and zero-turn parkingMay 4, 2023 | By Joshua Farrington
Around one in ten Americans have their doubts about humans having ever landed on the moon, and sometimes, it’s easy to understand why they’re so skeptical.
It’s because doing things with rockets is really hard.
Recent attempts to slip the surly bonds of Earth have proven that when it comes to reaching the final frontier, things rarely go to plan — and sometimes that leads to explosive results.
April saw the much anticipated launch of the largest rocket ever built, SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy, an event that started impressively but ended quickly high above the Texas coastline, with the rocket disintegrating in what SpaceX called a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” — which if nothing else marks great progress in the field of euphemisms.
While SpaceX said the test flight was just that — a test — and that an explosion was always a more likely outcome than reaching orbit (as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk put it afterwards, a rocket with 33 engines is something like “a box of grenades”), concerns have been raised in the aftermath about the environmental impact of the program. In addition to destroying the concrete launchpad — the takeoff scattered chunks of concrete across a huge blast radius — dust and particulate matter fell across the town of Port Isabel, some six miles away from launch site.
On top of the breaking windows and shaking homes, environmentalists are concerned about the impact on local wildlife, which includes rare birds, ocelots and nesting sea turtles. “We are not against space exploration or this company,” Jared Margolis, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, told CNBC. “But while we are looking to the stars, we should not readily sacrifice communities, habitat and species.”
The SpaceX team members aren’t the only frustrated stargazers. Japanese company ispace attempted the first private moon landing last month, a project that ended with less of a bang than a whimper — in fact, with total silence. As reported by Sky News, contact was lost with the Hakuto-R lander before it even touched down on the lunar surface.
The failure is unlikely to deter other private moonshots, as companies look to find ways to commercialize outer space, and the report notes that other launches are already lined up, whatever the odds of success. Slowly but surely, we’re heading back to the stars — one giant leap forward, and two small steps back.
Park and ride
“They can put man on the moon, but they can’t fix …” is the refrain of many frustrated people who bemoan how scientists seem to focus on the wrong things. Sure, they can solve space travel, but why can’t they figure out challenges in terrestrial travel? Like parking cars.
The promise of self-driving vehicles is all well and good, but we all know the pain of finding a parking spot and realizing it’s just slightly too small to get into. Even the best robot driver can’t help with that.
That is, unless we’re using the recently revealed e-Corner tech, developed by Hyundai Mobis, the parts division of the South Korean automotive giant. The new technology, shown off in a video from the company and covered by Business Insider, allows all four wheels of a car to rotate 90 degrees so they can travel directly sideways — slipping into parallel parking spots with inches to spare.
Hyundai Mobis calls this “crab driving,” a term that might not catch on, but many drivers will be happy to swap U-turns for “zero turns,” where the swiveling wheels allow cars to turn on their own footprint, perfect for tight driveways and alleys.
This concept technology is possible thanks to the rise of electric vehicles, making use of added motors on the axles and within the wheels themselves. However, desperate drivers may have to wait a while for this help to arrive — there’s no news on when, or even if, e-Corner will actually make it to market. But it’s great to know that the tech is there when we need it.
Heart to heart
We might be left waiting for new driving tech, but wearables are already here and becoming more and more popular.
As the BBC recently found, new wearable technology is even becoming a feature in weddings, with some couples now opting to say “I do” by ditching traditional gold bands in favor of high-tech rings that let you feel your spouse’s heartbeat.
The jewelry in question is called the HB ring, developed by Czech firm the Touch and starting at $499. Each time one half of the couple touches the ring, it pulses with the other’s heartbeat, letting them feel connected wherever they are — as well as keeping tabs on their exercise habits.
One early adopter of the new gadget is Jiri Vedral, who told the BBC, "We were never into gold and diamonds. We wanted something different, so we liked the idea that this was something new. We feel like pioneers in this."
Who needs to head to the stars when innovation can be so close to your heart?