Thursday

Thursday 3/10/2002So, farewell then, Teledesic. Bill Gates' bright hope of studding the sky with nearly a thousand satellites to saturate the ether with broadband has faded almost to extinction.

Thursday 3/10/2002
So, farewell then, Teledesic. Bill Gates' bright hope of studding the sky with nearly a thousand satellites to saturate the ether with broadband has faded almost to extinction. By the time they pulled the plug, only two satellites were in production -- out of a much reduced planned constellation of forty. The company's still going, but nobody's saying what it'll do -- perhaps it'll flog off its licence to the bandwidth, or sell its intellectual property. T'aint got anything else. These aren't great days for spacemen. Iridium continues as a weird telephonic equivalent to GPS, providing remarkably cheap communications through US government subsidies and under the control of the US State Department. Globalstar filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Even the International Space Station looks like turning into a massive investment of 3G proportions thrown away for nothing -- with Russia saying it can no longer afford to keep supplying the place, very little science being done thanks to cutbacks, and no end of little problems, it's no wonder NASA keeps so quiet about it. Strangely, astronomy seems to be hip again -- Patrick Moore is turning into a cult hero among the young, Seti@home has just hit the four million user mark, Hubble pictures regularly make the front pages of newspapers and the sort of obscure cosmology that once interested a handful of bearded physicists is daily fare on Radio 4's attempts at intellectual programming. It might not be the stuff of heroics or telephonics any more, but the final frontier is still out there. All we have to do is work out how to make money at it.

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