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NASA Prepares Equipment For Its Lunar Mission

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NASA
Photo: Guido Mastrangelo | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

In anticipation of the first crewed lunar mission since the 1970s, NASA made an announcement last Friday that it will send equipment to the surface of the moon in 2020 and 2021. The equipment will perform scientific investigations for the first ever project that is set to change human lives in the future.

Earlier this year, NASA made a promise to take some astronauts back to the Moon in 2024, and at the same time, planned to reach Mars by 2033. Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s Administrator, said that the only way to move up the Mars landing is to make the Moon mission as soon as possible.

The US Space Agency agreed with President Donald Trump to ace up the timetable for the crewed lunar mission. It was shortened by four years from 2020 despite Vice President Mike Pence’s suggestion to extend the said timeline for the space organization to prepare more for the project. 

Initially, the timeline for the Moon exploration is scheduled on 2028, but on May 13, Trump announced that his administration would upgrade the budget to “include an additional 1.6 billion dollars so that U.S can return to space in a BIG WAY.”

Today, NASA believes that the equipment will demonstrate advanced technologies for astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. Thus, the agency has chosen three American companies namely: Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and Orbit Beyond — to send the equipment and other necessary instruments to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program.

Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for lunar and planetary missions which based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will target “Lacus Mortis,” a large crater on the near side of the Moon by July 2021. However, it is still unknown yet what rocket it would choose to deliver the equipment.

On the other hand, Intuitive Machines plans to land by July 2021 in “Oceanous Procellarum” — a dark spot on the Moon which is visible from Earth. It chose SpaceX to carry out its equipment. Intuitive Machines is a private American company headquartered in Houston, Texas. It provides safe and reliable autonomous system solutions for industrial, drones, spacecraft, and spacesuit modeling services.

While Orbit Beyond builds extensible and scalable technologies for lunar operation. It will land in “Mare Imbrium,” a lava plain in a lunar crater by September 2020. For this mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets will be used to launch the said equipment. 

Each company has created lunar landers of different sizes and various shapes; one is believed to be taller, and the other two are more solid. These landers will deliver up to 23 small payloads of equipment provided by NASA. It will include materials that would gather information to help astronauts adjust, navigate, and protect themselves from radiation. Moreover, the potential payload will also comprise an instrument for conducting new research, and analyze what impact do human activities have on the moon.

As per the monetary award, NASA gave each company a sum of $77-97 million for further development of their landers. However, the agency’s standard should be met and materialized in the product, given the massive amount of money offered.

The last crewed mission happened 47 years ago, during the final year of Apollo mission. Apollo 17 took the 11th and 12th person to the surface of the moon and marked the end of the Apollo program, according to Space.com. This is why NASA, with the aid of the U.S government, wanted to come back on the lunar surface — not just to find more discoveries on the lunar surface but also to re-establish its name as the leading space agency in the world.

Knowing that China has landed twice on the Moon in recent years, last in 2013, and in January this year, the United States also wanted to take part in exploring the lunar surface. Although NASA regularly sent lunar probes into orbit, it is not enough to topple down China’s explorations. NASA has only two active missions today: the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the ARTEMIS probes.

On the other hand, China has currently sent out “Chang’e” probe and its motorized and most advanced robot called “Yutu-2.” They are the two probes that are active on the surface right now.

Despite pressures from competing agencies, NASA is confident to send their fundamental science and technology research on the lunar surface — which will help support sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon in approximately five years. For the three space robotics companies, Jim Bridenstine said that “investing in these commercial landing services also is another big step to build a marketable space economy beyond low-Earth orbit.”

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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‘Pavlok’ SmartTech Bracelet Stops Bad Habits with Electric Shocks

Need a stronger approach to stopping your bad habits? Pavlok is ready to zap you into good behavior. Click To Tweet

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Photo: Fitnish Media | Unsplash.com

Studies suggest that it takes 21 days to make or break habits. The truth is, it’s not the longevity that most people struggle with — it’s the consistency. Enter Pavlok, a wearable tech that uses aversive conditioning — a kind of negative reinforcement — to keep you from your bad habits now available in Amazon.

How does it work?

Pavlok is made of two parts: a one-size-fits-all wristband and an app that is available in Android and iOS. The band uses electric shocks, ranging from low to high setting, to enforce negative stimuli when you engage in your bad habits. It is the digital form of snapping your wrist with a rubber band when you bite your nails or sneak a quick cigarette break.

According to its Amazon webpage, Pavlok has sold more than 50,000 users since its official launch in 2015. Behavioral Technology Group Inc., the company responsible for the product, has since released two versions of Pavlok. It has also released a new product called Shock Clock, an alarm clock that zaps its user awake.

History of Pavlok

Maneesh Sethi, the CEO, and founder of Behavioral Technology Group, Inc. claims to have the idea for Pavlok when he created an experiment back in 2014. He shared in a blog post that he hired a girl from Craiglist to slap him whenever he went on Facebook. Based on his experiment, he increased his productivity and concluded that aversive conditioning worked for him.

In 2014, Sethi put up Pavlok on crowdfunding website Indiegogo to create their initial prototype. It targeted to get funding of $50,000 and walked away with more than $250,000 with a total of 1,763 backers.

Despite success in crowdfunding, Pavlok’s popularity soared only on May 20, 2016, when it was featured on the last episode of Shark Tank‘s season 7. Sethi refused Kevin O’ Leary’s offer because he doesn’t want to work with him. Even though Sethi’s venture on the popular hit show was amiss, he continued working on his digital aversive conditioning technique.

Mixed Reviews

Users on Amazon and blogs have mixed reviews with this unconventional wearable tech. Testimonials are available on Pavlok’s website, boasting success on breaking bad habits like nail biting, stopping cookie addiction, and eating too many sugary snacks.

While others swear by the results, others felt that Pavlok’s expectations fell short. With Pavlok 1, users have to manually zap themselves when they engage in a bad habit. Users reported that after some time, they learned to ignore the electric shocks or forget to zap themselves.

As an improvement, Pavlok included a feature which would allow your friends to zap you when they caught you red-handed. Aside from that, they integrated an IFTTT feature, which would allow users to input conditions for when they will receive their shocks. For example, if you are trying to remove your nail biting habit, you can simply input Pavlok to zap you when you lift your hand to your mouth. Of course, it only works when you use the hand which has the Pavlok device.

Future of Wearable Tech

Pavlok is just one of the hundreds of wearable tech designed to improve users’ quality of life. Apple is set to release Apple Watch OS 6, which includes a menstrual cycle tracker. It is a much-awaited update after the launching of Apple Watch Series 4 last September 2018.

Starkey, a company focused on producing hearing aids, launched Livio AI last year as well. It is a hearing aid marketed for people who do not need any hearing aids. It features integrated sensors to detect noisy environments and lessen them, thereby reducing the user’s exposure to noise pollution. It also boasts an almost perfect language translation app that lets you understand 27 languages.

With the rise in popularity of these products, wearable tech has a bright future.

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Facebook Live Fail: Pakistan Minister In Cat Filter

Another Facebook Live fail: Pakistan’s Minister of Information and three other officials turned into cartoonish cats when volunteer accidentally turns on Facebook’s Camera Effects feature.

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Facebook Live
Facebook Live was used to document Pakistani Minister's Press Briefing last June 14, 2019. Photo: Sticker Mule | Unsplash.com

A serious government press meeting has turned into the newest internet meme. Last Friday, Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, 10th Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s Minister of Information conducted a press briefing looking like a cat. Accidentally, a cat filter was applied on Press Trust India’s (PTI) Facebook Live session coverage.

Viewers saw various government officials with pink cat ears and cartoonish whiskers. It took a few minutes before the representatives of PTI realized the mistake, despite prompts from viewers via comments on the video. After the press briefing, PTI immediately deleted the video. However, screenshots of the incident have now gone viral.

Mr. Yousafzai addressed the amusing event through a statement to the AFP news agency. He says, “I wasn’t the only one – two officials sitting along me were also hit by the cat filter.”

PTI has since released a statement through Twitter, identifying that the mistake was done by a hardworking volunteer.

In Facebook Live, applying filters is one click away. Clicking on the magic wand at the lower left corner of your phone’s screen will enable different kinds of templated masks, borders, and other effects to your video. The first option on the screen would be the most recent filters you have used.

Facebook Live on Important Events

According to a report, there are nearly two billion users per month who watched Facebook Live sessions in 2017 from its launch in 2016. It has since then become a tool favored by users. Since then, users have used Facebook Live to share important events such as weddings, birthday parties, and family reunions.  

With this kind of user engagement, governments are also noticing Facebook Live’s potential in reaching out to their voters. The Pakistan Government is not the only one using Facebook Live to stream official proceedings. Local and National governments use this tool to engage with their constituents through broadcasting events such as the signing of a bill into law and debate proceedings in the US Senate, to name a few.  

Facebook has since then developed additional tools related to public policies. This is what Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Public Policy Director, presented in the 2016 Government Social Media Conference held in Reno, Nevada. During the event, Harbath also shared that a good number of viewers in a Facebook Live session about Canada’s budgetary hearings; something that wasn’t expected at that time. In the 2016 US elections, the live-streaming video of the Presidential race (Hillary vs. Trump) had 47 million live views reaching 1.7 million viewers

Facebook Live Fails

Going viral has been a big part of internet culture. The more you have a “fail,” the more infamous you can be. Pakistan Minister’s cat filter fail is not the only incident of Facebook Live fails that has turned into a meme. In 2018, Ted Cruz broadcasted a Facebook Live with his video in portrait mode with his camera phone set up horizontally.  

Brands, even with their social media teams, are also not immune to the internet fails. Buzzfeed had a major fail back in 2016 when they had a Facebook Live interview with the then-president Barack Obama. After a lengthy introduction by host Chris Geidner, while waiting for the President, their live video feed stalled and failed to capture the interview which disappointing 35,000 Facebook viewers. The live stream of the event on Youtube, however, went well.

Consequently, there are now Youtube tutorials to help guide users on how to optimize Facebook Live and avoid these fails.

Aside from Facebook Live fails, the social media giant has been under fire since due to violent or disturbing live streams that are surfacing in the platform. Facebook has issued stricter restrictions to lessen the spreading of such videos.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has called for support through his opinion piece in the Washington Post last May 30. He shared that Facebook, in collaboration with French officials, is creating an independent body that can help improve their content review systems. Through this initiative, Zuckerberg hopes that they can lessen, and in the future, eradicate harmful content.

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Editors' Pick

AMCA Breach: 20 Million Victims, 19 Class Actions

AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million. Click To Tweet

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AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million.
AMCA previously reported that there were only 200,000 victims in the recent breach but the company, but their partner labs said there were more than 20 million. Photo: cbgrfx123 | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

More than 20 million and not 200,000 have fallen victim to a massive data breach that has seen medical clients using the services of healthcare billing company, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), to pay for their laboratory tests in different blood testing labs across the U.S. were confirmed by the SEC filings of affected medical institutions amidst the earlier claims of AMCA that there were fewer victims.

The data breach was a result of a cyber attack that aims to phish for financial information from the website of the AMCA. The exposed data belongs to Americans who paid laboratory services at several clinical and blood testing labs and institutions and used the AMCA billing portal.

What happened in the AMCA breach?

Data that were stolen from the victims include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details. The said information was auctioned off by the hacker in several financial hacking forums.

According to DataBreaches.net, the organization who first reported about the incident, AMCA officials, following the notification of the breach confirmed that their system has been compromised and has remained undetected for more than eight months. AMCA corroborated that the breach took place between August 1, 2018, and March 30, 2019.

Notifications have been sent by several of AMCA’s corporate partners and clients to their customers following the disclosure of the security breach that has seen information from millions of Americans compromised.

Related: Hospitals Only Spend 5% Of Its Budget For Cybersecurity Amidst 82% Of Them Reporting To Have Been Attacked

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

However, neither the AMCA nor its five clients have yet to notify ALL impacted citizens by the breach making them vulnerable to a lot of cyber crimes and their financial data could be used by anyone who gets hold of the information against the persons of those who still don’t know that their financial information is floating around the internet.

The companies involved in the breach are facing several lawsuits

Appropriately, the lawsuit came into the direction of AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp regarding the incident. More than 11 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their inability to protect consumer data. The 11 lawsuits were recorded at The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on June 3. Since then, eight more lawsuits were filed against the companies in federal courts from New Jersey, New York, and California.

According to litigation experts, “If many cases are filed in federal court, any of the lawyers on any of those cases can file a motion with the JPML [..] to centralize the various federal cases that have been filed by sending all of them to a single judge for coordinated pre-trial proceedings.”

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

“These companies, like Quest Diagnostics, know they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data. We will fight for justice on behalf of those impacted by this breach,” added Yanchunis.

Lawmakers are demanding an explanation

The U.S. government, led by attorneys general from Connecticut and Illinois has also opened an investigation on the matter. Furthermore, lawmakers and other politicians have sent letters to the responding companies to ask for an explanation of why an eight-month data breach remained undetected and to demand accountability from them.

In Washington, US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also sent a letter to Quest Laboratories demanding the company explain its vetting process for selecting AMCA as a billing vendor, and what requirements a third-party vendor has to pass. Democratic New Jersey Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez also sent letters to AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp, seeking official answers on how a breach of this severity went undetected for eight months.

“The months-long leak leaves sensitive personal and financial information vulnerable in the hands of criminal enterprises. Moreover, such breaches force victims to contend with identity theft that may lead to irreparable harm to their credit reports and financial future,” said the letter sent by the NJ senators.

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