Tuesday, June 28

Space station gets HAL-like computer. First homicide expected in next few orbits

Sadly, the solar sailors were unable to get their solar sail into orbit. Flaky Russian space engineering let them down and although nobody's really sure, it seems the payload and launch vehicle splashed down somewhere in the Bering Sea. Strangely, monitoring stations picked up a weak signal from it, so maybe the launch vehicle was bouyant, the satellite unfurled the sail, and the solar sail is now on a broad tack across the Bering Straight. Expect to read about eskimos reporting a mysterious metal sailing ship with a ghost crew any day now.

But the space news stays whacky: now NASA has decided to give astronauts nightmares with a voice-activated interface to their latest computer system. Why? Was a keyboard and mouse too reliable? Not scary enough? Life in space getting a little tedious without the constant threat of computer-initiated homicide? OK, my own computer has never actually tried to kill me, but getting its voice recognition software to work reliably is guaranteed to drive you insane.

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