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HomeGADGETSELECTRONICSOne small step for man, one giant leap too far for Peregrine...

One small step for man, one giant leap too far for Peregrine Mission One

Shooting straight into the “space is hard” books this week, and proving that Elon Musk’s SpaceX doesn’t have this field to itself, was private lunar travel company Astrobotic.

On Monday, the Pittsburgh-based company launched a rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida that marked the first US attempt to land on the moon in five decades.

Alas, the excitement of Astrobotic chief John Thornton was short-lived. The Peregrine Mission One lander – which was carrying Nasa and commercial payloads to the moon to study the lunar exosphere, thermal properties, magnetic fields, radiation and other important things – sprang a fuel leak in the first few hours of its journey into space, leaving it in much the same position as the Irish property market in 2007, having absolutely “no chance” of a soft landing.

This was down to an “anomaly” in the propulsion system, according to Astrobotic, which said the spacecraft would instead “gather data” that may be useful for a future lunar landing trip, thereby claiming the title of the world’s most elaborate recce.

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Years the commercial partnership between 15-time major golf champion Tiger Woods and sportswear behemoth Nike has lasted. After “so many amazing moments”, in Woods’s words, it has now come to an end.

$40 million

Value of the first five-year contract that Woods signed with Nike upon turning professional in 1996. His last 10-year deal, agreed in 2013, was worth a reported $200 million.

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Years since Nike stopped selling golf clubs, bags and balls, concentrating instead on golf footwear and clothes. Could they be next for the big-swoosh chop?

Of all the things to land in your back garden – or your back yard if you’re American – a door panel from an aircraft must be up there among the most disconcerting. Bob Sauer, a resident of Portland, Oregon, at least had the benefit of knowing that an Boeing 737 Max 9 “door plug” had parted company from the Alaska Airlines plane mid-air and that authorities were looking for it. Although a neighbour had suggested that he check if it had landed on his premises, the high-school physics teacher diligently did his preparations for the school week first before going out in the dark with a flashlight, only to find “something gleaming white” among his trees.

“My heart did start beating a little faster at that point, because I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, people have been looking for this all weekend and it looks like it’s in my back yard,’” said Sauer.

He elicited a “thank you, Bob” from Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of US government agency the National Transportation Safety Board, which duly sent its investigators round to collect it. But the best part of the door plug’s descent – if the incident can be said to have a best part – is that Sauer had only just treated his “A” class to a lesson on the principles of impulse and momentum. This was duly exemplified by the manner in which his trees “acted like an airbag”, making for a longer stop and a lower force.

It’s that time of year when tech companies decamp to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to showcase the eye-catching and often outlandishly expensive innovations created by their product teams for our future delectation. So what’s been on display this week?

1. Washing-machine learning: Among Samsung’s efforts was the Bespoke AI Laundry Combo, which turns out to be a washer-dryer that “personalises” the joy of laundry by remembering users’ habits and using machine learning to suggest wash cycles.

2. Transparent TVs: LG and Samsung both unveiled see-through television sets that look like a clear pane of glass when they’re switched off. So when someone comes into the room, it’s almost like the 20th century never happened.

3. Robot shoes: Not shoes for robots, but robotic “AI informed” shoes from Shift Robotics that help humans walk really fast. The “Moonwalkers” have been tested in an Ikea store in Sweden and – in dystopian news of the week – may be used to increase productivity in warehouses and distribution centres.

4. Voice-controlled bidets: US company Kohler showed off the PureWash E930, a remote-controlled bidet with a range of spray types that can be activated using Amazon Alexa or Google Home. Now wash your hands.

5. Indoor barbecues: GE Profile’s countertop Smart Indoor Smoker device cooks meats from smoke powered by wood pellets but is safe to use in your kitchen. Finally, the solution we all need to the Irish summer.

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