February 19, 2018
When SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket debuted this month, China’s aerospace community was mostly envious, noting that their equivalent rocket, the Long March 9, would not be ready for another decade. One story in state media observed that “to put it more bluntly, this time the Americans showed us Chinese with pure power why they are still the strongest country in the world.”
China and Europe love SpaceXs new Falcon Heavy rocket. Does NASA?
The head of Europe’s space program watched the US company launch its enormous, largely reusable new rocket, and was also inspired.
“Totally new ideas are needed and Europe must now prove it still possesses that traditional strength to surpass itself and break out beyond existing borders,” wrote Jan Wörner, director general of the European Space Agency, on his official blog. He expressed dismay that rockets now being built by Europe’s space company, Arianespace, won’t be reusable, which puts them at a deep cost disadvantage to SpaceX. He called for a re-thinking of Europe’s rocket program.
This attitude didn’t last long. A few days later, Wörner wrote an apologetic sequel to his post, emphasizing that Arianespace’s current rocket plan was correct and would be completed as intended. He was merely exercising his prerogative as head of the continent’s space agency for “turning our minds to systems still far off in the future,” he said.
Reading between the lines, the abrupt about-face can be attributed to the stakeholders of contractors and government policymakers, who weren’t pleased with Wörner’s public fretting. This speaks to space exploration’s tendency to become industrial policy, more about jobs than science, which is a key reason why 1970s space visions of lunar bases and enormous space stations aren’t a reality.
If China and European officials are envious of the new American rocket, the US space program is decidedly more circumspect about its future.

Rocket rivals
While NASA praised the Falcon Heavy’s debut and its own critical role enabling SpaceX to develop the rocket, its acting administrator’s future plans for the rocket is simply “the integration of a new class of launch vehicle into our Nation’s space program.” Before the rocket flew, Scott Pace, the executive director of the National Space Council, said large rockets would always be “strategic national assets, like aircraft carriers,” not commercial services.
Discussions to fly a NASA test payload on the risky first flight never got past informal talks. Lori Garver, a former NASA executive who helped develop the public-private partnerships behind SpaceX’s success, wrote last week that NASA does—and should—see the new rocket as competition for its own projects.
Consider that SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy was built to help realize Elon Musk’s dreams of a multi-planetary civilization. When deployed in its final form later this summer—perhaps in June, to launch some experimental hardware for the US Air Force and NASA—it is expected to be able to deliver some 70 tons to low-earth orbit, or less than 20 tons to Mars, while costing around $150 million per mission. According to Musk, the rocket cost somewhere north of $500 million to develop.
Then look at the Space Launch System (SLS) being built under NASA’s instruction by Boeing, also to explore the solar system. According to the new NASA budget released last week, it will fly for the first time in 2020, capable of carrying some 77 tons to low earth orbit at a cost of about $1 billion a flight. The total costs of the program are tough to estimate but exceed $10 billion; last year, NASA spent $2 billion on the rocket, and expects to spend a similar amount annually for the next five years.
SLS will be more powerful, but the Falcon Heavy is here now, and costs less. It’s the nature of disruptive companies to produce a less capable, much cheaper alternative to the status quo—which in this case is a blank space where a bigger rocket should be. Today, the Falcon Heavy should compete handily with largest rocket currently built in the US, the Delta IV produced by the Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance, which costs more than $350 million a launch.

National assets?
When the rocket launched a Tesla roadster into a solar orbit earlier this month, the “marketing wheeze,” in Wörner’s words, was the biggest event in the space world for years. While the stunt attracted both criticism and applause, it was a shot across the bows of the space establishment: If a private company can put a car up there, what else can they do? One Chinese state newspaper put the argument in terms that might be echoed at NASA’s Marshall Space Center: “what our country has to desperately catch up with is actually a private U.S. enterprise.”
Boeing spacecraft executive John Mulholland has argued that the Falcon Heavy is not big enough for Mars missions, and the space establishment’s skeptical line on the new rocket was perhaps best expressed in a back-handed compliment from German astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently training for a mission to the International Space Station. He told Ars Technica’s Eric Berger “let’s not confuse that with a ‘Journey to Mars,'” the term NASA adopted for its space ambitions under the Obama administration. (Musk appears to have come to the same conclusion, putting his hopes for multi-planetary civilization in his next rocket, the BFR.)
The Trump administration has determined that the US should re-orient itself toward lunar exploration, and its first step will be funding the development of a piece of space hardware called the “power and propulsion element,” which will be placed in orbit around the moon in 2022 as the cornerstone of a human outpost, possibly by a privately owned rocket like the Falcon Heavy. Meanwhile, this year China plans to land a robotic mission, Chang’e-4, on the far side of the moon—something no other space power has done.
It’s not clear what role the new Falcon Heavy will play in helping US space exploration in the near term; to be sure, it may take time for space project managers to work the long-delayed vehicle into their plans, if they are willing to do so. A meeting of the National Space Council on Feb. 21 —already fraught with jockeying between rival rocket-makers—may shed more light on NASA’s plans. The White House has asked for $100 million to fund public-private partnerships to send robotic explorers to the moon, and it is possible the Falcon Heavy will be a vehicle for some of these experiments.
But America’s “Journey to Mars” has been pushed into a nebulous future; the phrase doesn’t even appear in NASA’s new budget, because NASA can’t afford to go to Mars. At least, not with its current rocket.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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