Drone’s-eye view of SpaceX rocket landing

SpaceX’s first-ever commercial rocket launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was picture-perfect, but the landing was arguably even more photogenic – or should we say “dronogenic”?

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket quickly rose into the clouds over Launch Pad 39A, the Florida takeoff point for Apollo moon missions and space shuttle flights. Within just a few minutes, SpaceX’s robotic Dragon capsule separated from the rocket and headed toward the International Space Station for a cargo delivery.

Meanwhile, a camera-equipped drone captured a thrilling view of the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster descending through the clouds, firing its engines and touching down on SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, on the Florida coast not far from where its flight began.

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SpaceX launches from historic moon pad

SpaceX launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rises from Launch Complex 39A. (NASA via YouTube)

SpaceX sent a rocket rising from NASA’s historic Launch Complex 39A today for the first time since the space shuttle fleet retired, marking a new chapter for a pad that served as the springboard for Apollo moon missions.

The Falcon 9 rocket sent a robotic Dragon capsule toward the International Space Station with almost 5,500 pounds of supplies and experiments, under the terms of SpaceX’s multimillion-dollar contract with NASA.

As a bonus, the rocket’s first-stage booster flew itself back to a perfect touchdown at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, not far from the Kennedy Space Center launch site in Florida. That’s part of SpaceX’s plan for reusing hardware and driving down the cost of space launches even further.

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SpaceX delays its first liftoff from historic pad

Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 sits on Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Pad 39A. (NASA via YouTube)

SpaceX postponed the first launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center since the last shuttle flight in 2011, due to concerns about a control system on the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage.

The Falcon 9 had been due to loft a robotic Dragon cargo capsule into orbit from the center’s Launch Pad 39A in Florida, delivering 5,500 pounds worth of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station.

But with less than 20 seconds left in today’s countdown, SpaceX’s mission managers decided they needed more time to work through a nagging technical issue with the controls for the second stage’s rocket engine nozzle..

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Scientists revive weird cave crystal microbes

Cave crystals

Crystals dwarf an explorer in Mexico’s Naica cave complex. (Photo by Alexander Van Driessche – CC BY 3.0)

BOSTON – It sounds like a sci-fi tale: Scientists manage to revive strains of microbes that have been trapped inside giant cave crystals for tens of thousands of years, and find out that they seem positively alien.

But this tale is totally real. And although these organisms are so unlike anything else on Earth that they haven’t yet been given a genus or species name, they’re totally terrestrial.

“They’re really showing us what our kind of life can do,” said Penny Boston, director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

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5 tips about cybersecurity (and ‘Mr. Robot’)

Laptop

A scene from “Mr. Robot” shows a hacker at work. (USA Network)

BOSTON – It’s always risky for geeks to give advice to geeks, but when security experts who have worked with organizations ranging from Facebook to DARPA to the FBI are the ones giving advice, it’s worth listening.

Two such experts are Nick DePetrillo, principal security researcher for Trail of Bits; and Andre McGregor, a former FBI agent who is now director of security for Tanium. McGregor has the added cache of being an technical consultant for “Mr. Robot,” the USA Network series that delves deeply into the hacker world.

DePetrillo and McGregor discussed the ins and outs of cybersecurity and the concerns raised by the rise of connected devices (a.k.a. the Internet of Things) today in Boston during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Check out five takeaways from their talk on GeekWire.

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UW ‘genius’ gets health apps set for startup

Bangladesh app trial

Doctors at a clinic in Bangladesh observe the use of the SpiroSmart app to measure lung function. (UW Photo)

BOSTON – University of Washington computer scientist Shwetak Patel’s work with sensors and smart devices has already spawned a wide range of ventures, but his latest experiments hold the promise of revolutionizing health screening worldwide.

Patel and his colleagues are using smartphones, and even not-so-smartphones, as monitoring devices for health metrics ranging from pulmonary function to hemoglobin counts.

The phone apps – including SpiroSmart and SpiroCall, HemoApp and OsteoApp – are currently going through the Food and Drug Administration’s clearance process for clinical testing. But once they pass muster, they’re likely to become the focus for Senosis Health, a venture co-founded by Patel that’s currently in semi-stealth mode.

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How a robo-trap zeroes in on Zika mosquitoes

Mosquito trap

Microsoft researcher Ethan Jackson sets up a robotic mosquito trap in Grenada. (Microsoft Photo)

BOSTON – Microsoft’s robotic mosquito trap is so smart it can tell one insect species from another – and that’s good news for scientists fighting the Zika virus, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne maladies.

It can also tell if you’re buzzing an electric toothbrush in its vicinity.

The toothbrush was used to dramatic effect today by Ethan Jackson, a Microsoft researcher from Redmond, Wash.

Jackson heads up Project Premonition, a research effort aimed at giving epidemiologists smarter tools for tracking disease outbreaks. Today he showed how the high-tech trap works at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston.

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