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What to Expect From the Boeing Starliner Launch



Just before sunrise on Friday, an Atlas 5 rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida. On top of the rocket is Boeing’s Starliner capsule, designed for taking astronauts to and from the International Space Station. This mission will not have anyone aboard, but is designed as a test to check out the systems. Boeing and NASA are calling it O.F.T., short for orbital flight test.

The launch is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. Eastern time on Friday and NASA Television will broadcast coverage beginning at 5 a.m. The weather forecast gives an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions.

The launch is timed for the capsule to meet up with the International Space Station at 8:08 a.m. on Saturday. If the rocket is unable to launch then because of weather or a technical glitch, the backup launch days are Saturday and Monday.

There will be no astronauts aboard this flight of Starliner, but there will be a spacesuit-wearing figure sitting in one of the seats. A mannequin fitted with sensors will measure the forces that future astronauts will feel as they ascend to space. The mannequin is nicknamed Rosie, after the Rosie the Riveter, the illustrated character used to recruit women to work in factories during World War II.

In a shift from the space shuttles and NASA’s earlier human spaceflight programs, the Obama administration decided that the agency should hire commercial companies to take astronauts to and from the space station instead of building and operating its own spacecraft. The space agency had already taken this approach for launches of satellites and robotic missions, as well as for taking cargo to the space station.

In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX — Boeing for up to $4.3 billion for Starliner, SpaceX for up to $2.5 billion for Crew Dragon. The value of the contracts depends on how many missions are flown.

The capsule is also carrying 600 pounds of food and other supplies.

The two capsules have similar capabilities — each can seat up to seven people. The Starliner launches on top of an Atlas 5 rocket from the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. SpaceX is using its own rocket, the Falcon 9, for launching the Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s trips are cheaper. A report released in November by the NASA Inspector General estimated the per seat cost at about $55 million for SpaceX, and $90 million for Boeing. On Thursday, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, disputed that calculation, saying NASA has not negotiated those prices with Boeing or SpaceX.

NASA officials have been careful not to promise a launch date yet, saying that the schedule depends on how well Starliner performs during its flight test and how long it takes to ensure safety for its astronauts. (The losses of the space shuttles Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2002 were both blamed in part on NASA officials pushing too hard to meet schedule deadlines.) But a successful launch on Friday could set up a crewed test flight in 2020 that was previously scheduled to occur before the end of this year.

When NASA awarded the commercial crew contracts in 2014, the hope was that the flights carrying astronauts would begin by the end of 2017. Both companies encountered technical hurdles, including problems with parachutes that the capsules deploy when they return to Earth.

SpaceX performed its crewless flight test of Crew Dragon in March. But in July, during a ground test of the abort engines on the same capsule, the Crew Dragon exploded. No one was injured, but that pushed back SpaceX’s schedule as the company figured out what happened and how to fix it. SpaceX is currently scheduled to perform its next flight without crew aboard — a test of the abort system, in which the rocket will be intentionally destroyed during launch — on Jan. 11.

Two other companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, have developed vehicles for short-hop space tourism trips. Those basically just go up and down like a big roller coaster and never accelerate to the speeds needed to reach orbit around Earth.

Virgin Galactic has completed multiple test flights with its crews aboard. It charges $250,000 for a seat, which will offer a few minutes of weightlessness; after years of delays, company officials are optimistically saying that commercial flights will begin in 2020.

This month, Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, conducted a 12th test flight of its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft. But it has not yet put any people aboard, and has not yet said when it would start flying passengers or how much a ticket will cost.

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Twitter Bots Poised to Unfold Disinformation Earlier than Election



Remember: Faux Twitter accounts will very most probably sow disinformation within the few closing days earlier than Election Day on Nov. 3.

This week, researchers on the College of Southern California launched a new find out about that known 1000’s of automatic accounts, or “bots,” on Twitter posting data associated with President Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and their campaigns. The find out about tested over 240 million election-related tweets from June thru September.

Many of those bots, the find out about stated, unfold falsehoods associated with the coronavirus and far-right conspiracy theories such QAnon and “pizzagate.” The find out about stated that bots accounted for 20 % of all tweets involving those political conspiracy theories.

“Those bots are an integral a part of the dialogue” on social media, stated Emilio Ferrara, the College of Southern California professor who led the find out about.

A Twitter spokesman puzzled the find out about’s strategies. “Analysis that makes use of most effective publicly to be had knowledge is deeply mistaken by way of design and incessantly makes egregiously reductive claims in accordance with those restricted indicators,” the spokesman stated. “We proceed to confront a converting danger panorama.”

Social media corporations similar to Twitter and Fb have lengthy labored to take away this sort of process, which has been utilized by teams looking to foment discord in previous elections in the US and in another country. And the College of Southern California find out about confirmed that about two-thirds of the conspiracy-spreading bots it known had been not energetic by way of the center of September.

In some instances, bots show off suspicious conduct. They may “practice” an surprisingly huge collection of different accounts — a host just about as huge because the collection of accounts following them — or their usernames will come with random digits.

However figuring out bots with the bare eye is a ways from an actual science. And researchers say that automatic accounts have grown extra subtle in contemporary months. Usually, they are saying, bots are pushed by way of a mixture of automatic tool and human operators, who paintings to orchestrate and range the conduct of the faux accounts to steer clear of detection.

Some bots display indicators of automation — like most effective retweeting relatively than tweeting new subject matter, or posting very incessantly — however it may be tough to definitively end up that accounts are inauthentic, researchers say. An automatic account might forestall tweeting at night time, for instance, as though there’s a particular person at the back of it who’s slumbering.

“You’ll be able to obviously see they’re automatic,” stated Pik-Mai Hui, an Indiana College researcher who has helped construct a new set of equipment that purpose to trace those bots in actual time. “However they’re operated in some way that makes it very tough to mention with whole walk in the park.”

Those bots are working on either side of the political spectrum, in line with the find out about from the College of Southern California. However right-leaning bots outnumbered their left-leaning opposite numbers by way of a ratio of 4-to-1 within the find out about, and the right-leaning bots had been greater than 12 instances much more likely to unfold false conspiracy theories.

The find out about signifies that 13 % of all accounts tweeting about conspiracy theories are automatic, and since they tweet at the next fee, they’re sending a far greater share of the full subject matter.

“That is essentially the most regarding section,” Dr. Ferrara stated. “They’re expanding the impact of the echo chamber.”

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Instagram Tries Clamping Down on Incorrect information



Instagram on Thursday took goal on the unfold of incorrect information on its platform, pronouncing that it might briefly get rid of customers’ talent to view some contemporary posts forward of Election Day.

In two tweets, Instagram stated it might take away the “contemporary” tab from hashtag pages. Prior to now, customers may just view the latest posts tagged with a selected hashtag. Now, handiest “most sensible” posts below a selected hashtag which have been reviewed through the platform might be viewable.

Instagram, which is owned through Fb, stated the trade was once made to “scale back the real-time unfold of doubtless damaging content material that might pop up across the election.”

The trade took impact Thursday night time and the “contemporary” tab will go back someday after the election, an Instagram spokeswoman stated. The platform stated it hopes the trade will permit it to proactively prevent incorrect information from spreading, quite than having to attend till a falsehood has already been extensively shared.

Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation analyst on the Wilson Heart, a nonpartisan assume thank, stated Instagram’s resolution, simply days prior to the election, was once “quite past due” however “higher than not anything.”

“I’m hoping one day the social media platforms acknowledge that elections are an inflection level in disinformation campaigns, no longer an finish level,” she stated. “A choice like this previous within the cycle may have lessened the unfold of balloting incorrect information, as an example.”

Ms. Jankowicz stated a lot of the incorrect information spreading on Instagram was once associated with QAnon, the baseless pro-Trump conspiracy principle, and false details about Senator Kamala Harris of California, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee.

Instagram’s resolution follows crackdowns on viral falsehoods through Fb and Twitter. Twitter not too long ago added context to trending subjects and de-emphasized retweets forward of the election, whilst Fb stated it might ban political advertisements indefinitely. Each firms have added some labels to deceptive posts and highlighted correct balloting knowledge after emerging alarm about the potential of a disputed election consequence and the chaos that might observe.

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What Went Viral This Week



Right here at Day-to-day Distortions, we attempt to debunk false and deceptive data that has long past viral. We additionally need to provide you with a way of the way well-liked that incorrect information is, within the total context of what’s being mentioned on social media. Each and every Friday, we supply an inventory of the 10 most-engaged tales of the week in the USA, as ranked by means of NewsWhip, a company that compiles social media efficiency information. (NewsWhip tracks the collection of reactions, stocks and feedback each and every tale receives on Fb, along side stocks on Pinterest and by means of a gaggle of influential customers on Twitter.) This week’s information runs from 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, till Nine a.m. on Friday, Oct. 30.

On TV and in newspapers, wall-to-wall protection of subsequent week’s election could also be dominating. However on social media this week, tales a couple of Dallas house’s too-realistic Halloween decorations and a brand new tune video by means of the pop singer Harry Types broke up the political monolith.

Take, as an example, the 3rd merchandise in this week’s listing: a Fox Information article about U.S. marshals in Ohio rescuing 45 lacking kids all through an effort known as “Operation Autumn Hope” that won greater than one million interactions.

On its face, a lacking kids tale isn’t the type of factor that will garner massive site visitors. However this 12 months, tales about lacking kids were boosted by means of believers in QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy concept that falsely alleges {that a} cabal of satanic pedophiles run by means of distinguished Democrats is kidnapping and torturing kids. For months, QAnon believers have followed #SaveOurChildren as a covert rallying cry, and distorted official claims of kid intercourse trafficking by means of attributing them to nefarious elites.

That’s what took place to Fox Information’s tale about Operation Autumn Hope, which used to be shared by means of dozens of QAnon and QAnon-adjacent pages on Fb, portraying the operation as a part of a bigger Trump-backed effort to take down the worldwide pedophile ring.

This type of distortion occurs each day on the web. And it’s our hope that by means of digging underneath the outside of the tales that pop up on their feeds and timelines, readers can transform extra discerning, and uncover that the true tale is continuously buried underneath the headline.

This is the remainder of this week’s most sensible 10 listing:

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