Europe's Mars probe destroyed after plunging to surface

By Maria Sheahan

FRANKFURT Images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter indicate that a missing European space probe was destroyed on impact after plummeting to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of 2-4 km (1.2 to 2.5 miles), the European Space Agency said on Friday.

The disc-shaped, 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli probe, part of the Russian-European ExoMars program to search for evidence of life on Mars, descended on Wednesday to test technologies for a rover that scientists hope to send to the surface of the planet in 2020.

But contact with the vehicle was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time, leaving its fate uncertain until the NASA images were received.

"Schiaparelli reached the ground with a velocity that was much higher than it should have been, several hundred kilometers per hour, and was then unfortunately destroyed by the impact," ExoMars Flight Director Michel Denis told Reuters TV.

It was only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, after a failed mission by the British landing craft Beagle 2 in 2003.

The U.S. space agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the planet for about 10 years, took low-resolution pictures that show a bright spot that ESA believes is the 12-metre parachute that Schiaparelli used to slow down. (

They also show a fuzzy dark patch, around 15 by 40 meters in size, about 1 km north of the parachute, which scientists interpret as having been created by the impact of the lander following a longer-than-planned free fall.

ESA said it was possible that Schiaparelli's landing was accompanied by an explosion, as its thrusters' fuel tanks were probably still full.

The primary part of the ExoMars mission has, however, been a success so far, as the Schiaparelli lander's mothership has been brought into orbit around Mars, from where it will try to sniff out methane and other gases that might indicate the presence of life. It will also act as a data relay station for the rover, which is due to follow in 2020.


Landing on Mars, Earth's neighbor and at its closest some 35 million miles (56 million km) away, is a notoriously difficult task that has thwarted most Russian efforts and given NASA trouble as well.

That has not diminished its allure, with U.S. President Barack Obama recently highlighting his pledge to send people to the surface by the 2030s.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX is developing a massive rocket and capsule to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars with the ultimate goal of colonizing the planet.

ESA scientists have been poring over data that the Schiaparelli lander transmitted before its signal was lost, to look for clues as to what happened. They found that a heat shield and parachute intended to slow the craft down from a speed of 21,000 km per hour deployed as expected.

"But somehow the parachute was released a bit too early, and after that the engine functioned, but only for a few seconds, which was too little," ESA's Denis said.

The space agency said that NASA's orbiter would take pictures with its highest-resolution camera next week, which may provide further clues.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner said earlier that the ExoMars mission had been "96 percent" successful so far, despite problems with the lander, as the orbiter was functioning well and the experience with Schiaparelli would still provide valuable lessons for future attempts to land on Mars.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Mark Trevelyan)

Read More
5 Myths about Teaching Kids to Code

Since it has become clear that the digital revolution of our age is unstoppable, teaching the next generation to code has turned into a lucrative industry – just think about programming apps for kids, educational toys and robots, the related handbooks, testbooks, competitions, tutoring, etc.

Learning Programming: 10 Misconceptions That Are Not True

Learning Programming: 10 Misconceptions That Are Not True

There are plenty of misconceptions and myths surrounding the art of programming. Many view it as a job…Read more

What’s less evident though how the goal should be achieved – or if it needs to be achieved at all. Apart from pragmatic concerns, such as which programming language to teach first, it’s also debated whether coding will really be a necessary skill for everyone, and if yes, with which methodology to teach it in order to make today’s kids successful in the future world.

Discussing the Need to Teach Coding

Some articles try to educate parents on how to raise the next Zuckerberg (Steve Jobs, etc.), while others strongly advice against to do so. Fear-mongering about the future unemployability of people who can’t code is prevalent as well, and we can also meet articles that deny that coding needs to be a ubiquitous skill at all.

Although most of these articles contain many useful information and were written with good intentions, the whole subject still comes off as a madness.

The world is changing so fast, and the future is so unpredictable, that it’s hard to guess what would be the best, however there certainly are misconceptions that frequently pop up in discussions about how to teach children to code.

Myth #1 – Programming Starts at the Screen

It’s not always the best idea to glue very small kids to screens, especially at an age when they can barely sit still. Luckily, programming doesn’t necessarily have to start at the computer.

At a young age, it’s more important for children to pick up a special way of thinking that’s necessary to be successful at any profession that requires complex logic and advanced problem solving skills, such as programming.

The skill that helps establish the foundations of their creative confidence is called invention literacy, and it can be practiced from a very young age by encouraging kids to explore and understand their environment and to create new things.

As most kids are born explorers, it’s not a hard thing to do. In most cases it’s enough to just let them freely play and encourage them to pursue their interests.

If you want to learn more on how creative confidence can help your kids in their future profession, have a look at the book “Creating Innovators” by Tony Wagner, a brilliant Harvard professor.

Myth #2 – Coding Must Be Boring for Kids

Coding is only boring for kids if it is taught to them the same way it is taught to adults.

These days there are many great tools that use engaging and fun techniques to teach programming for children. For instance, Apple’s latest Swift Playgrounds uses interesting puzzles and immersive 3D graphics to introduce them into coding concepts step by step.

If kids start to learn to code using a tool that was tailored specifically to their needs, they don’t have to learn commands and syntax at the beginning.

These coding apps make them pick up the logic in playful and intuitive ways, and they can gradually move towards working with real code.

Myth #3 – They Need to Start At a Very Young Age

The issue here is not limited to just debating when the right age for kids to start learning programming is. We also have to talk about what sort of activities can be categorized under programming.

Educational sites, such as, have exercises for kids as young as 4-6 years old, that improve their computational skills and basic logic. However most people who visit the sites probably wouldn’t think of these exercises as “programming”.

In this Venture Beat article three IT professionals give three very different opinions on whether it’s worth teaching toddlers coding. Their differing views stem from their different definitions of what coding is.

Generally, it can be said, that even visual languages, such as Scratch (recommended to 8-16 ys olds), are hard to grasp for most kids who are younger than elementary school age, at an age before they can confidently read, write, and use basic mathematical operations.

Also, most of the best programmers of our times learned to code as an older kid or a teenager, for example Bill Gates started at 13, and Mark Zuckerberg was in 6th grade.

Myth #4 – It’s Possible to Pick the Right Language

Which programming language is the best to start with, or whether it should be a “real” or a kid-friendly language is also a debated topic.

If we talk about programming languages that are used in real life, we can say it’s better to start with either a language that has a straightforward syntax, such as Python, or one that runs on every device without hassle, such as JavaScript (which can be run in any web browser).

One thing is sure, it’s impossible to pick the right language, and thus it’s not worth stressing about it too much.

First of all, there’s no magical recipe that works for every kid. Each of them will fall in love with a different language — or won’t fall love with programming at all, which is also not a tragedy.

Moreover, the technology industry changes so rapidly that it’s hardly possible to guess which language will be in demand when today’s children becomes adults.

Below, you can see the TIOBE Programming Community Index indicating the popularity of different programming languages between 2002 and 2016.

By the time your kid will be out on the job market, this graph will most likely look completely different – some languages may disappear, and new ones will probably show up.

Programming is typically a field that requires life-long learning, therefore the most important thing for children is to pick up the logic and concepts that return in every language.

Also, in this fast-changing world soft skills, such as problem-solving, interpersonal, and project management skills, are becoming more and more important, so it’s more profitable to approach programming from a holistic perspective rather than rigidly enforcing this or that language.

Myth #5 – In the Future Everyone Will Have to Code

In the digital era, most if not all jobs increasingly make use of technology. However as user experience design is also prospering, people who will work in non-technical fields, such as marketing, education, publishing or healthcare, most likely won’t have to code as part of their jobs.

Therefore it’s not a tragedy if your kid is simply not interested in coding, as it will still be possible to be successful in other fields as well.

But mind this: digital literacy will be crucial for everyone. A digitally literate person is someone who can:

  • safely and confidently use different devices and softwares

  • understand how they relate to each other

  • have a secure knowledge of things like web publishing, online communication tools, internet search, word processors, spreadsheets, content management systems, social media, image editors, productivity software, and many others

  • and understand concepts such as online privacy and digital rights and responsibilites.


Digital Literacy is More Important

Programming, web development, system administration, and other advanced level IT skills are usually not referred to as digital literacy.

On the other hand, a basic understanding of coding can surely improve digital literacy along with many other skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and logic, so it’s a great thing if kids could learn all of this at school.

It can be also argued that basic coding should be taught to every kid, just like reading, writing, and math because how else we can know if a kid is talented or not?

And even if they won’t end up as programmers they will certainly benefit from the knowledge. However imagining the future workplace as a place where everyone will have to be fluent programmers (or will have to write code at all) is simply unrealistic.

Read More
SpaceX says rocket accident probe focusing on fueling system flaw

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. SpaceX said on Friday a fueling system problem is the most likely cause of a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket, a finding that takes the company a step closer to resuming flights that were grounded after the accident.

The space launch company led by billionaire Elon Musk said it has not confirmed the cause of a failure in the fueling system. However, the company said in a statement that testing at a facility in Texas had shown that a helium canister inside the rocket could burst depending on how it was filled.

SpaceX halted flights while it investigated the cause of the accident. The company, which has a backlog of more than 70 missions worth over $10 billion, said it was working on developing new techniques to load helium into its rockets and hoped to be back flying before the end of the year.

Helium is used to pressurize the liquid oxygen system. Accident investigators suspect that a canister of helium inside the liquid oxygen tank burst.

“These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded,” SpaceX said in a statement.

The Falcon 9 rocket was being filled with fuel at its Cape Canaveral Air Force Station launch pad for a routine, preflight engine test when a fireball burst out from around the booster’s upper-stage liquid oxygen tank. The blast destroyed a $200 million communications satellite owned by Israel’s Space Communication Ltd.

The investigation is continuing, led by SpaceX with oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration’s space transportation office. SpaceX said NASA, the US Air Force and industry experts are also working to "investigate all plausible causes."

(Reporting By Irene Klotz; Editing by Chris Reese and Andrew Hay)

Read More
Surface Studio vs iMac – Which Should You Pick?

Microsoft recently unveiled Surface Studio, its new desktop computer that not only pleases its current fan base, but also those who have for so long been under Apple’s spell. The reveal itself gave chills to millions of technophiles and creatives, and instantly everyone thought of the same thing: “I want one.”

Here’s another thing: It kind of looks like an iMac, no? And indeed it does, from its sleek surface (pun intended), black borders, and the way it is propped up – one glance and you’ll instantly think of an iMac. But how does it compare to an iMac?

There are already predictions flying around that Surface Studio will deal a great blow to Apple’s iMac.

Let’s find out how true this is.

It’s not a fair comparison at a glance

The Surface Studio is perhaps the most innovative and bravest product Microsoft has produced in the recent years, and it is their take on Apple’s iMac which has so long dominated the creative industry all over the world.

Graphic artists, web designers, animators, video editors, most of these people prefer an iMac over other pre-packaged desktops in the market simply because of its raw power and crisp display – something creatives would kill for.

But make no mistake (I’m an iMac user myself and I can honestly say that it’s not a fair comparison) and at first glance the Surface Studio wins by a grand slam.

Is Surface Studio a desktop computer or a graphics tablet?

If you watched the device trailer, you will notice that the Surface Studio can also double as a graphics tablet, which digital illustrators and animators use to draw directly onto in order to transfer their drawings into their computer. A popular brand for a graphics tablet is the Wacom. And if you don’t know, they’re pretty pricey.

This is a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD

Right now you can buy a Wacom Cintiq 27QHD for $2,300 and no, it’s not even a computer. Surface Studio’s base model is both and it’s only around $700 more, at $2,999.

But we’re here to compare the Surface Studio with an iMac, and so I shall.

In terms of display

The Surface Studio is a massive 28″ display at 4500×3000 resolution. Its display type uses PixelSense, which promises higher than 4K resolution.

While that looks great, the iMac’s top-of-the-line model sits at 27″ Retina 5K display with 5120×2880 resolution, that’s 14.7 million pixels, which is 1.2 million more than Surface Studio.

Is it a close fight between the two in terms of resolution and crispness of display? Probably not. The Surface Studio is at 192 pixels per inch (13.5 million pixels total) while the iMac is at 217 pixels per inch (14.7 million pixels total), so the iMac clearly wins this round.

Microsoft Surface Studio and Apple iMac Display Comparison

In terms of aspect ratio, Surface Studio is at 3:2 and iMac 27″ is at 16:9, which is a big difference. The new Surface is more squarish than the iMac, which would probably miff a lot of people, especially those who are used to having a wider screen.

Looking at those numbers, iMac definitely wins. But honestly can the naked eye actually tell the differences? I’m going to leave you with that but not before I mention that the entire Surface Studio’s display is touchscreen? That’s one selling point.

Although if you are a photographer or a video editor, smudges on the screen is probably something you’d hate to see (it’s like touching the lens of your camera).

How powerful are they?

Things might still change for the Surface Studio since it is still on pre-order phase, but right now it offers Intel Core i5 or i7, 8GB to 32GB RAM, using Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M-980M at 2GB-4GB GDDR5 memory.

The Apple iMac, on the other hand, also uses Intel Core i5 or i7, 8GB to 32GB RAM, using AMD Radeon R9 M380, M390, and M395X at 2GB-4GB GDDR5 memory. It is important to note that this latest iMac model has been around since 2015!

There doesn’t seem much of a difference in terms of their Intel processors, but there is a big difference when it comes to their graphic processing chips. Microsoft decided to go Nvidia GeForce all the way while Apple went for AMD.

Where Surface Studio straight up murders the iMac

First Stab – All-in-One Desktop and Graphics Tablet

Surface Studio desktop and studio form

The Surface Studio is after the professional creative class of Mac users who deal with graphics, photos, and videos daily. The biggest innovation that Microsoft has introduced to their line of hardware is Surface Studio’s display which enables its users to draw directly on it – acting like a touchscreen tablet and a computer all in one.

It’s going to be a big blow for Apple, especially if people are more willing to spend at least a thousand dollars more.

Second Stab – Sexy Base Support

Another important thing to note, which probably should get more attention, is its Zero Gravity Hinge (the base support), which provides seamless transition between desktop mode to studio mode (tablet mode).

Users can change the angle of the display with just one hand, from an upright position to a more comfortable position for drawing.

Third Stab – Surface Dial (Major Damage)

One more thing: Surface Dial. It’s a new peripheral that Microsoft has introduced that definitely made a scene. It can be placed on the screen itself to allow users to choose colors just by turning the dial.

Meanwhile, Apple recently announced a new Macbook Pro with a Touch Bar. Check out this link for more on it.

The TL;DR version

If all you care about are the numbers and the specs, this is what you are looking for.

Microsoft Surface Studio

You can learn more about the Surface Studio in-depth here.

Price Graphics Display Processor Memory Storage
$2,999 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory 28″ PixelSense Display, 4500×3000 resolution, 10 point multi-touch, 3:2 aspect ratio 6th Generation Intel Core i5 8GB 1TB Rapid Hybrid Drive
$3,499 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GDDR5 memory 6th Generation Intel Core i7 16GB 1TB Rapid Hybrid Drive
$4,199 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5 memory 6th Generation Intel Core i7 32GB 2TB Rapid Hybrid Drive

Apple 27″ iMac

Price Graphics Display Processor Memory Storage
$1,799 AMD Radeon R9 M380 graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memory 27″ Retina 5K display with IPS technology, 5120×2880 resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio Intel Core i5 8GB 1TB Drive
$1,999 AMD Radeon R9 M390 graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memory Intel Core i7 16GB 1TB Fusion Drive
$2,299 AMD Radeon R9 M395 graphics processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Intel Core i7 32GB 2TB Fusion Drive

What’s the verdict? Surface Studio or iMac?

If you are buying a computer based on its numbers, then without a doubt the iMac wins. But don’t forget that the Surface Studio is something entirely different – it’s a hybrid, and with that the price is justified.

If you are among the creative class who is looking for an “entry-level” desktop computer for work-related matters, the iMac line of 2015 still takes the cake when it comes to price-to-hardware ratio. This is particularly true if you are under budget.

While the base model of the latest iMac series is significantly less powerful than Surface Studio, it still works as one of the finest desktop computers ever built.

But if you are looking to expand your creative arsenal and explore the possibilities of your imagination, and perhaps more importantly if you have the budget, and would like to work by hand, perhaps the Surface Studio is worth a shot.

Read More
Multinational crew leaves space station, returns to Earth

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. A joint U.S., Russian and Japanese crew left the International Space Station on Saturday aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule and landed back on Earth, leaving behind three crew mates who arrived at the orbiting outpost just last week.

Station commander Anatoly Ivanishin, with the Russian space agency, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Japan’s Takuya Onishi climbed inside the capsule and left the station at 8:35 p.m. EDT, a NASA TV broadcast showed.

The trio made a parachute landing in Kazakhstan at 11:58 p.m. EDT, wrapping up a four-month mission that included the first use of a DNA sequencer in space and installation of a parking spot for upcoming commercial space taxis.

"I'm kind of reluctant to close the hatch," Ivanishin said during a change-of-command ceremony on Friday.

"The time is very special here ... I didn't have time to know what’s going on our planet, and maybe it’s for the better. On the space station, you live in a very friendly, very good environment."

Ivanishin turned over command of the space station, a $100 billion orbiting research lab, to newly arrived U.S. astronaut Shane Kimbrough.

Kimbrough and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko reached the outpost on Oct. 21.

"We’re sorry we’re only here a week with you," Kimbrough told the departing crew after taking command on Friday. "You guys have trained us well though."

Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko will be on their own until next month, when another three crew members are due to reach the station, a project of 15 nations that orbits about 250 miles (418 km) above Earth.

(Editing by Steve Gorman, Nick Macfie and Sam Holmes)

Read More
Older PostNewer Post