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Space is ‘running out of space,’ say experts – and it could end in war

Space
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With up to 100 lunar missions due to be launched within the next decade – many pumping satellites into orbit – the gap between the Earth and Moon is set to become overcrowded.

Far from being empty blackness, space is about to become busier than ever.

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And the battle for limited good spots could trigger conflict on Earth, experts fear. On top of well-known companies such as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin or Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic launching missions a host of other nations and private firms are also plotting trips to the Moon.

Experts predict the area between Earth and the surface of the Moon – known as cislunar space – will become increasingly strategically important…and rammed.

That could lead to greater competition over resources and satellite positioning as well as geopolitical conflicts.

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Plus there is a growing crash risk with 2,000 active satellites already orbiting Earth and another 3,000 dead ones littering space.

Both the US and China have ambitious lunar exploration programs in the works with plans to land astronauts on the Moon and build habitats and infrastructure in orbit.

Both the US and China have ambitious lunar exploration programs in the works with plans to land astronauts on the Moon and build habitats and infrastructure in orbit.

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South Korea, the UAE, India and Russia also have planned robotic missions to the Moon. While private companies in the US, Japan and Israel are also racing to the planet.

The European Union has admitted it is locked in a space race with the UK following the failure of the recent Virgin Orbit mission from Spaceport Cornwall to propel seven satellites into orbit.

The US and China are caught up in a separate sprint to space. Laura Forczyk, executive director of US consultancy Astralytical, said: It might seem like space is big but the specific orbits that we are most interested in get filled up fast. We’re already seeing this competing rhetoric between the US government and the Chinese government.

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The US is pointing to China and saying, `We need to fund our space initiatives to the Moon and cislunar space because China is trying to get there and claim territory’.And then Chinese politicians are saying the same thing about the United States.’’

She said rival space agencies and commercial companies looking to launch all want specific strategic orbits and trajectories – and some will be after the same ones.

The sudden increase in traffic is due to launch costs becoming cheaper thanks to better technology and more competition driving down the price of firing objects into orbit.

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Experts are also aware there appear to be resources in space that could help human missions whether it be ice deposits on the Moon or precious metals in asteroids.

Marcus Holzinger, an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Colorado, US, said: Once people started really thinking through that they realised that that water-ice can provide substantial resources or enable the gathering or collection of resources elsewhere in the solar system.’’

Water ice could help sustain human colonies on the Moon or be split into oxygen and hydrogen to fuel rockets heading into deep space. In 1967 110 nations signed the Outer Space Treaty declaring the cosmos should be used to benefit all humankind with no one country able to claim or occupy it.

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In 2020 the Artemis Accords established non-binding multilateral agreements between the US and more than a dozen nations to maintain peaceful and transparent exploration of space.

In November 2022 the US Government released its own strategy for inter-agency research on `responsible, peaceful and sustainable exploration and utilisation of cislunar space’.

But Holzinger said:Now we’re sort of seeing the rubber hit the road because all of a sudden there are potentially geopolitical interests or commercial interests.’’

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Jim Myers, of research organisation The Aerospace Corporation, said: “Unless we do this in a very thoughtful way, unless we plan, we’re going to run into all sorts of trouble.’’

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Foreign

US will act on China after balloon downing – Biden

Biden , abortion
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President Joe Biden vowed Tuesday he would not hesitate to defend United State interests against China after he ordered the downing of a suspected surveillance balloon but, delivering his State of the Union address, kept the door open to cooperation.

In the annual speech to assembled lawmakers, many of whom have pressed for a hard line on China, Biden called for US investment in the military, technology and alliances to take on the country widely viewed as the chief US competitor.

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“I’m committed to working with China where it can advance American interests and benefit the world,” Biden said.

“But make no mistake about it — as we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” he said to applause.

Biden said that “winning the competition” with China should unite Americans.

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“I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America stronger — investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future that China intends to be dominating.”

But Biden steered clear of hawkish language as he mentioned by name his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, whom he met at length in November in Indonesia.

Biden said he told Xi that “we seek competition, not conflict.”

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China was one of the few foreign policy issues mentioned by Biden in a more than one-hour speech that comes as he prepares for a likely run for a second term.

He also promised long-term support for Ukraine but made no mention of Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, North Korea or this week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

– Pentagon says China rejected talks –

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A US fighter jet on Saturday shot down what the Pentagon called a Chinese surveillance balloon after it crossed into the Atlantic Ocean, with the military saying it waited until a point when the debris could not hurt people on the ground.

The episode led US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a visit to Beijing aimed at reducing tensions as he accused China of violating US sovereignty.

Blinken said that he sought to maintain communication with China. But at the Pentagon, a spokesman said that China rebuffed a request to speak.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requested a secure call with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe immediately after the shootdown, Brigadier General Pat Ryder said.

“Unfortunately, the PRC has declined our request. Our commitment to open lines of communication will continue,” Ryder said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

China says the balloon was an errant weather observation aircraft with no military purpose. But Washington has described it as a sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle which reportedly traversed over several top-secret military sites.

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Austin and Wei met in Cambodia in November as Washington and Beijing sought to lower the temperature after a visit to Taiwan by then-speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that enraged China.

General Glen VanHerck, head of the US Northern Command, said a naval ship would map the debris field left by the balloon, which is expected to measure about 1,500 by 1,500 meters (yards) in the Atlantic.

The balloon itself was up to 200 feet (60 meters) tall and carried a payload weighing several thousand pounds that were roughly the size of a regional jet aircraft, he said.

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VanHerck said the balloon debris would be carefully studied.

“I don’t know where the debris is going to go for a final analysis, but I will tell you that certainly, the intel community along with the law enforcement community that works this under counterintelligence will take a good look at it,” he said.

AFP

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Mother dies after giving birth under earthquake rubble in Syria

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By Francesca Iwambe

A pregnant woman who was trapped under the earthquake rubble in Syria has been delivered of her baby.

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In a video on Tuesday, a man was seen bringing the baby out while another man threw a dusty blanket in the direction of the baby.

Sadly, the mother of the child has reportedly lost her life.

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Google To Release ChatGPT-Like Bot Named Bard

Bard, Startups
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Google said Monday it will release a conversational chatbot named Bard, setting up an artificial intelligence showdown with Microsoft which has invested billions in the creators of ChatGPT, a language app that convincingly mimics human writing.

ChatGPT, created by San Francisco company OpenAI, has caused a sensation for its ability to write essays, poems or programming code on demand within seconds, sparking widespread fears of cheating or of entire professions becoming obsolete.

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Microsoft announced last month that it was backing OpenAI and has begun to integrate ChatGPT features into its Teams platform, with expectations that it will adapt the app to its Office suite and Bing search engine.

The potential inclusion in Bing turned the focus on Google and speculation that the company’s world-dominating search engine could face unprecedented competition from an AI-powered rival.

Media reports said the overnight success of ChatGPT was designated a “code red” threat at Google with founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page — who left several years ago — pulled back in to brainstorm ideas and fast-track a response.

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The pressure to act was heightened by the poor earnings posted last week by Google-parent Alphabet, which fell short of investor expectations. The company last month announced that it was laying off 12,000 people as it put more emphasis on AI projects.

Google’s announcement came on the eve of an AI-related launch event by Microsoft, further that the two tech giants will do battle over the technology, also known as generative AI.

“Generative AI is a game changer and much like the rise of the internet sank the networking giants that came before (AOL, CompuServe etc.) it has the potential to change the competitive dynamic for search and information,” said independent tech analyst Rob Enderle.

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“Google still largely lives off the fact their search engine is the most widely used, this could change that relegating them to history,” he added.

‘High-quality responses’
In his blog post on Monday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google’s Bard conversational AI was to go out for testing with a plan to make it more widely available to the public “in the coming weeks.”

Google’s Bard is based on LaMDA, the firm’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications system, and has been in development for several years.

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“Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence, and creativity of our large language models,” Pichai said, referring to the technology behind ChatGPT-like AI.

“It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses,” he added.

Before the emergence of ChatGPT, which was released in late November, Google had been reluctant to launch its own language-based AI fearing the reputational risk of releasing technology that wasn’t ready.

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Pichai insisted that responses churned out by Bard would “meet a high bar for quality, safety and groundedness in real world information.”

And much like ChatGPT, Bard would also use a limited version of its base language model in order to reduce computing power and reach a wider audience.

Crucially for its looming duel with Microsoft, Google also said that users would soon see AI-powered features in its search engine.

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New-style responses would “distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats,” Pichai said.

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