Technology The latest Technology news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:35:02 +0000 en hourly 1 $350M+ Spent on NASA Tower Project That Never Took Off Tue, 16 Dec 2014 23:59:58 +0000 ABC News pd nasa mt 141216 16x9 608 $350M+ Spent on NASA Tower Project That Never Took Off


There is a rocket tower in Mississippi that’s ready to test NASA engines powerful enough to propel a rocket to the moon and to Mars.

There’s one problem: NASA canceled the rocket it planned to use to take man to the moon and Mars in 2010.

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Despite that, Congress ordered the agency to keep building the tower anyway. The entire cost of the program totaled $350 million. And that wasn’t all.

Congress also ordered NASA to keep the tower in working condition at an additional cost of $700,000 a year.

“My view of this test stand is that it is a sort of a classic example of the space program now being more about jobs and people’s districts than about the very exciting purpose of NASA,” said Lori Garver, a former NASA deputy administrator. “We shouldn’t be directed by just a couple of contractors and individuals to do self-serving programs like this one.”

ABC News met with Sen. Roger Wicker, whose Mississippi congressional delegation saved the tower, to ask Wicker whether the tower was about saving the largest employer in the county — the John C. Stennis Space Center — or to advance space travel.

Wicker told ABC News that he hoped the tower proved to be “good money well-spent.”

“The country will benefit from it,” Wicker said. “It is an investment and I do believe a decade or so from now we’ll look back on it and say, ‘It is money well-spent because the program has been revived.’ That is the hope.”

The program has not yet been revived and the Obama administration has no plans to test the rockets.

“I hope the question is not so much why we continued building a partially built facility,” Wicker said. “I hope the question also becomes why did the president decide to cancel this program when science and technology has given us so much information and so much research. … That ought to be the question. Was the decision of the Obama administration ill-founded? And I believe it was.”

ABC News’ Jim Avila contributed to this story.


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NASA’s Big Stakes With Orion Test Flight Include Mars Plans Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:51:12 +0000 Clayton Sandell HT nasa orion jt 141128 16x9 608 NASAs Big Stakes With Orion Test Flight Include Mars Plans

The processing of Orion and its United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket remains on course for a launch, Dec. 4, 2014, on the first flight test of the spacecraft design. NASA/Kim Shiflett.

NASA Administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden says there’s a lot riding on tomorrow’s $370 million test flight of the new space capsule known as Orion.

If all goes according to plan, the unmanned Orion capsule will launch Thursday morning atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and make two loops around Earth over 4 ½ hours.  The craft will test a variety of technologies for spaceflight beyond Earth orbit, including a heat shield that must protect future crews from a scorching re-entry at 20,000 mph.

But in an era of already tight budgets, any stumbles during tomorrow’s launch and test flight could derail NASA’s long-range hopes to land humans to the red planet.

“What’s most important is that you perform. Tomorrow morning is a very critical mission for us,” Bolden said today in an interview with ABC News. “We will have accomplished a major milestone of this program of sending humans, one of these days, to Mars.”

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Getting to Mars is only part of the problem. Last month, NASA’s inspector general said the space agency does not currently have the money to build the landing craft needed to actually fly people from Orion down to the Martian surface.

“Given the time and money necessary to develop landers and associated systems, it is unlikely that NASA would be able to conduct any manned surface exploration missions until the late 2030s at the earliest,” the inspector general wrote.

Orion will eventually ride to orbit on the Space Launch System ( SLS), an expensive new launch vehicle that–without a specific mission–has led critics to dub it the “rocket to nowhere.”

Congress originally mandated that SLS and Orion should fly by 2016. NASA says a test launch scheduled for December 2017 will slip to no later than November 2018, although Bolden refuses to rule out an earlier flight.

“There’s always a chance,” Bolden said. “We’re scheduled to launch in 2018. Internally we have a date that’s in 2017 and we always go for our internal date. So there’s always a chance that we’ll be better than we think we are.”

NASA eventually hopes to use Orion and SLS to send astronauts to a captured asteroid, a mission that has been widely criticized by Congress and many scientists who believe it would pose an unacceptable cost and technical risk.

The NASA Advisory Panel, a group of outside experts that advises the space agency, said in an August letter to Bolden that NASA may be biting off more than it can chew.

“The mismatch between NASA’s aspirations for human spaceflight and its budget for human spaceflight is the most serious problem facing the Agency,” the panel wrote.

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Your Facebook Wall Just Got More Interesting Mon, 13 Oct 2014 18:54:27 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb ht facebook stickers mt 141013 16x9 608 Your Facebook Wall Just Got More Interesting

(Image Credit: Facebook)

Facebook’s emoji-like stickers, which have been a hit in private and group messages, can now be used in wall posts, comments and events.

The update is expected to be rolled out within the next day, according to Bob Baldwin, a Facebook engineer who worked on the project.

If you’re eager to try it out the update, just tap the smiley face icon in the bottom right of any comment field, choose your favorite sticker and post to your heart’s content.

Baldwin said the idea was born during a hackathon — and grew into a larger project after he saw how popular it was.

“You can now easily show your excitement for a post with good news, cheer up a friend who’s feeling down, and express a variety of more nuanced reactions,” he said.

Now, your stale old message of “let’s do lunch” can be so much more interesting when paired with the smiling burger and fries sticker.


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Gates Praises Boost in Philanthropy, Pledges $50M Ebola Aid Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:35:27 +0000 ABC News As the world lauded Bill Gates’ foundation for its largest humanitarian pledge ever — $50 million to help in the fight against the spread of Ebola in West Africa — the wealthiest man in America expressed excitement over the rise of philanthropy among the young, rich and successful.

“I see more and more [philanthropists] every year. … You know, our view is that you shouldn’t wait until you’re just on your deathbed,” he told ABC News, “you should use your talent to help. … To be smart about philanthropy.”

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Gates, ranked by Forbes recently as the wealthiest man in the US for the 21st straight year with a net worth of $81 billion, called the $50 million donation the foundation’s “biggest emergency grant ever.”

“It is a very tough situation we’re in right now — an infectious disease gets into an urban area,” he said. “You have the horrific fact that people are dying of Ebola but also the whole health system is shut down. … So it’s going to take a while there, first getting on top of Ebola, and then restoring a good health system.”

Gates said he hoped the move, coupled with the US response and aid, would help the medical community finally get hold of the epidemic.

At least 2,909 in West Africa have died from the Ebola virus and at least 3,000 more have been infected, according to the World Health Organization.

The US government committed at least $175 million and the US military plans to give $500 million in “humanitarian assistance” that would be redirected from its budget.

In addition, almost 3,000 American troops have been mobilized to offer support to field hospitals and training facilities for health employees.

With the $50 million pledge, monies are expected to be released in “flexible funds” to UN agencies and global organizations that can purchase medical supplies and support facilities treating the outbreak.

“Everybody’s stepping up — the UK, France — but the US most of all,” Gates said. “A lot of countries. A lot of people. A lot of heroes [are] stepping up to help out.”

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Twitter CEO Burns President of Iran in 140 Characters Thu, 25 Sep 2014 18:27:42 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb Twitter CEO Dick Costolo took on Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani the way he knows how to best:

In 140 characters or less.

Rouhani has been a prolific tweeter since he arrived in New York for an annual United Nations General Assembly. However, the website remains banned in his home country.

As of this afternoon, Rouhani had yet to respond to Costolo’s tweet.

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What Mysterious Cloud Over St. Louis Turned Out to Be Tue, 23 Sep 2014 19:16:11 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb HT national weather channel mar 140923 16x9 608 What Mysterious Cloud Over St. Louis Turned Out to Be

(Image Credit: U.S. National Weather Service)

A mysterious cloud that appeared on weather radar over southern Illinois and Central Missouri last week turned out to be a swarm of monarch butterflies.

Meteorologists from the National Weather Service analyzed the shape-shifting cloud that was moving toward Mexico to figure out what exactly it could be.

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“We think these targets are Monarch butterflies.,” the National Weather Service said in a Facebook post. “A Monarch in flight would look oblate to the radar, and flapping wings would account for the changing shape!”

With the mystery solved, the fine folks at the NWS wished the butterflies “good luck and a safe journey” on their trip south for the autumn and winter.


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Apple CEO Tim Cook Surprises Fans Waiting in Line for iPhone 6 Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:58:15 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb

It’s a big day for Tim Cook, too.

The Apple CEO surprised iPhone enthusiasts who were lined up outside an Apple store today in Palo Alto, California, waiting to buy the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Cook posed for selfies with Apple enthusiasts and cheered alongside them when it came time to open the doors at 8 a.m.

The phones, which were unveiled at a Sept. 9 media event in Cupertino, California, are already shaping up to be one of Apple’s biggest successes to date. Pre-orders for the smartphones have broken all previous benchmarks, according to the tech giant.

Cook has called the plus-sized devices the best phones Apple has ever produced.

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gty tim cook apple store customer jc 140919 16x9 608 Apple CEO Tim Cook Surprises Fans Waiting in Line for iPhone 6

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Meet the Spinosaurus: Only Dinosaur Known to Swim Thu, 11 Sep 2014 21:00:14 +0000 Alyssa Newcomb AP Swimming Dinosaur ml 140911 16x9 608 Meet the Spinosaurus: Only Dinosaur Known to Swim

(Image Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

If you think sharks are terrors in the water, wait until you hear about the Spinosaurus.

Fossils from Morocco have provided the most complete skeleton of the aquatic dinosaur, which roamed the waterways during the Cretaceous period, according to research published in the journal Science.

The most complete skeleton of the Spinosaurus was discovered by a research team in Morocco recently, according to the journal.

The 50-foot-long carnivorous predator was larger than the T-Rex and had adaptations that allowed it to swim in water and roam on land, according to researchers.

Among those evolutionary features were feet like pedals, a nostril on the far back of the head and hippo-like bone density.


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Jony Ive, the Man Behind Apple Watch Design, Says Device Has ‘Millions’ of Versions Wed, 10 Sep 2014 00:06:37 +0000 Lauren Effron

The Apple Watch, which was unveiled today in Cupertino, California, has “millions” of different versions, Apple Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive told ABC News’ David Muir in an exclusive interview.

“When you actually do the calculations, it’s millions and millions,” Ive said. “We’ve always tried to make products that people don’t begrudgingly use but want to use, and I think that the bar for that is very high when it’s something that you wear and it’s something that you’re going to wear all day, every day.”

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It was Ive’s voice that narrated the pre-recorded video demonstration for the smartwatch during today’s big unveiling at the Flint Center in Cupertino.

The watches, Ive said, come in three collections and a range of faces, which can differentiate between a touch and a press.

“The way that we treated this from a design point of view was that you had hardware and then software,” Ive said. “Our experience as customers, as users, is they’re the same. They’re one and the same. So in terms of this, we designed the user interface, gave people multiple choices.”

The watch is also customizable. Users can choose watch faces that include minute and second hands, digital time and more options for personalization. For people who don’t wish to wear a large device, Apple developed a smaller watch, 38 mm in height compared with the 42 mm option, with matching smaller straps.

“We worked extremely hard to make it an object that would, one, be desirable but to be personal because we don’t want to wear the same watch,” Ive said. “One of the reasons it takes us a long time [is] because, I think, people are very discerned. A lot of people don’t wear a watch, at the moment.”

 Jony Ive, the Man Behind Apple Watch Design, Says Device Has Millions of Versions

(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

ABC News’ Alyssa Newcomb contributed to this report

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly framed the meaning of Jony Ive’s quote to say that the Apple Watch went through “millions” of different versions before it was unveiled, when in fact, Ive was saying that the Apple Watch has “millions” of different looks and combinations.

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ABC News’ David Muir Gets 1st Look at Apple Watch with Tim Cook Tue, 09 Sep 2014 23:15:26 +0000 Lauren Effron

ABC News’ David Muir spoke with Apple CEO Tim Cook moments after he introduced the new Apple Watch and got an exclusive first look at the company’s latest device.

The watches, which come in three collections and a range of faces, can differentiate between a touch and a press, said Apple senior vice president of design Jony Ive in a pre-recorded video. While talking with Muir, Cook was sporting an Apple Watch with a white band.

“You can do a lot with your wrist,” Cook said. “A lot more now.”

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During his demonstration on the Flint Center stage in Cupertino, California, Cook said the watch is a customizable timepiece. Users can choose watch faces that include minute and second hands, digital time and more options for personalization. For people who don’t wish to wear a large device, Apple developed a smaller watch, 38 mm in height, compared with the 42 mm option, with matching smaller straps.

“[The wrist is] a very interesting place because it’s, you can obviously glance with it, you can’t glance at a lot of other places on your body,” Cook told Muir. “You can measure a lot of things from there and you can just get, honestly, a tidbit today of what all it can do. But I think it’s huge.”

In addition, the watch will have the newly-introduced payment system Apple Pay. It uses a new chip embedded in the device called the Secure Element, which stores users encrypted payment information and allows them to pay for items with a simple swipe.

“It’s incredibly safe,” Cook said. “I feel incredibly certain that it’s very secure — the most secure thing out there.”

Cook made today’s big unveiling announcement from the same stage where the company’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, unveiled the Mac computer 30 years ago. When asked if he felt like a revolutionary, Cook brushed off the notion, saying it was the work of the company as a whole he was proud of.

“It’s such a privilege to get to work with all the people I get to work with,” Cook said. “So the work you saw out there is the culmination of everybody’s efforts and so that’s the lens I see it through, and I’m just proud as I can be to stand up there and show their work.”

Apple Watch, which starts at $349, will be available in early 2015.

ABC News’ Alyssa Newcomb contributed to this report

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