Russian leftovers may become Air Force One

Air Force One

First lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump wave from the top of the stairway leading to Air Force One during a trip to Brussels in May. (White House Photo)

Two Boeing 747-8 jets that were given up before delivery by Russia’s bankrupt Transaero Airlines could well end up as the next presidential Air Force One aircraft.

The arrangement, first reported by Defense One, is one of the options being discussed as a response to President Donald Trump’s demand to reduce the multibillion-dollar cost of replacing today’s aging Air Force One planes. The Air Force is negotiating with Boeing over the terms and requirements for the switchover from the two nearly 30-year-old 747-200s that are currently being used.

“We’re still working closely with the Air Force toward a deal, with our focus being to provide the best value and price to the Air Force,” Boeing spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson told GeekWire in an email.

Transaero ordered the 747-8s in 2013. Two years later, it declared bankruptcy. Russia’s flagship Aeroflot airlines picked up most of Transaero’s planes but declined to take delivery of the 747-8s. Last year, the planes were parked for long-term storage in Victorville, Calif., where the dry climate of California’s Mojave Desert preserves mothballed jets from corrosion.

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Boeing’s avionics unit reverses outsourcing

777X flight deck

Boeing’s wide-body 777X jet will have touchscreen controls on the flight deck. (Boeing Photo)

The Boeing Co. is creating an avionics unit that will build the kinds of electronics and aircraft control systems now being provided by outside suppliers.

The shift, unveiled in an internal statement sent to employees on July 31, runs counter to the historical trend of spreading out the work that goes into building the company’s multimillion-dollar jets.

But it’s consistent with Boeing’s decision to go after the market for servicing those jets after they’re sold. A similar motivation led to the creation of Boeing’s services unit last year.

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Why asteroids loom as future space frontier

Asteroid mining

In this artist’s conception, a mining spacecraft makes a rendezvous with an asteroid. (SpaceResources.lu)

It’s been 55 years since satellite communications became the first commercial space frontier, and space tourism is looming as the next frontier. But what comes after that? Would you believe in-space mining and manufacturing?

Those are the opportunities that came to the fore on July 29 when members of the Association of Professional Futurists gathered at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.

“The big change that I foresee is when we begin to live and work on the asteroids, using them as the resources for our civilization. … We are going to see a leap in productivity to create wealth and to allow us to do things without harming the Earth,” said Brian Tillotson, who is the systems technology chief engineer for Boeing Research and Technology and a Boeing senior technical fellow (as well as a science-fiction writer).

“It’s going to be much bigger than the industrial revolution, and this time it’s going to be good for the Earth, not bad for the Earth,” Tillotson said.

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Here’s how the eclipsed sun’s corona will look

Solar corona

This image shows field lines of a solar coronal magnetic model based on measurements from the National Solar Observatory Integrated Synoptic Program, one solar rotation before the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. (NSO / NSF Graphic)

Skywatchers will see a rare celestial sight during the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse: the sun’s shimmering outer atmosphere, known as the corona. What will it look like? Astronomers worked their magic to give us a glimpse.

The corona is more than just a fuzzy halo: The superheated gas that makes up the sun’s outermost layer tends to follow the patterns of magnetic force that arc around the sun.

To come up with their preview of the corona, researchers at the National Solar Observatory in Arizona modeled the sun’s magnetic field as of July 25, which was 27 days in advance of the solar eclipse. That’s important, because it takes the sun 27.2753 days to make a complete rotation.

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We’re ‘likely’ to break climate speed limit

Global warming projection

This projection shows how a rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius is expected to affect North America, Greenland and the Arctic. (NASA Graphic)

A statistical analysis led by researchers at the University of Washington sees almost no chance that the world’s nations will be able to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over the course of the 21st century, as promised in last year’s Paris climate accord.

“Our analysis shows that the goal of 2 degrees is very much a best-case scenario,” lead author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and sociology, said today in a news release. “It is achievable, but only with major, sustained effort on all fronts over the next 80 years.”

The analysis, published in Nature Climate Change, is consistent with the mainstream view held by climate scientists and policymakers.

In discussions about the future effects of climate change, the 2-degree mark has been called a “speed limit” that, if broken, would significantly heighten humanity’s peril. But even as the goal was being set, experts voiced worries that it would be very hard to stay below the speed limit by 2100.

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Oregon braces for eclipse’s agony and ecstasy

Mount Jefferson

Oregon’s Mount Jefferson looms on the western horizon outside Madras. The fields on either side of the blacktop road will be turned into a “Solartown” campground for 4,900 tents during the runup to the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

MADRAS, Ore. – If there’s one thing central Oregon has in abundance, it’s open space. And that’s a good thing for the total solar eclipse that’s due to sweep through the region on Aug. 21.

Even though hotel rooms are sold out anywhere that’s even near the 70-mile-wide zone of totality running across the state, there’s still a good chance of finding an enterprising landowner who’ll rent you a camping spot.

But if there’s one thing central Oregon doesn’t have a whole lot of, it’s four-lane highways.

That’s likely to be an issue for the hundreds of thousands of eclipse-chasers who are expected to swarm into towns like Madras, Prineville, Mitchell and John Day. Or maybe not.

“The bad thing about it is that nobody knows how bad it’s going to get,” said Terry Hansen, park host for Round Butte Overlook Park, just west of Madras.

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Elon Musk kicks off Tesla Model 3 deliveries

Model 3 deliveries

Elon Musk shows off one of the first Tesla Model 3 electric cars, plus a graph showing how he expects the production rate to rise. (Tesla via YouTube)

As thousands of employees and fans cheered, Tesla CEO Elon Musk drove a red Model 3 electric car onto the stage at the company’s factory in Fremont, Calif., tonight – and then handed over the first 30 cars to customers.

The glitzy ceremony marked a milestone in Tesla’s campaign to produce an electric car targeted at a mass market, with a base price as low as $35,000. It also marked the start of what Musk called “production hell … for at least six months, maybe longer.”

“As the saying goes, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going,’” he joked.

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