Techman Texts: Space freight era lifts off

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The era of commercial space freight is underway.

The Cygnus spacecraft was launched into space atop the Antares rocket Thursday and docked with the International Space Station on Sunday.

The spacecraft is owned by Orbital Sciences Corp. and is delivering fresh food, clothing, scientific equipment and belated family Christmas presents to astronauts aboard the station. (What do you get as a Christmas gift for someone on a space station?)

Orbital will fly at least eight cargo missions under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA, which also has a $1.6 billion deal with the California-based SpaceX for 12 deliveries to the station, two of which have already flown.

At the same time, commercial space tourism is progressing. Fox News reports space tourism company Virgin Galactic sent its SpaceShipTwo reusable space vehicle to new heights Friday, nearly 13.5 miles high and reaching a speed of Mach 1.4.

In fall 2014, Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson and his adult children, Holly and Sam, will be the first private passengers to travel into space, according to Fox News. About $80 million in deposits have been made by 680 individuals for rides to the edge of space.

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Worse and worse: TechMan has been writing a lot lately about the breach of Target’s credit and debit card checkout system and sort of promised himself to change the subject. But the news keeps coming and keeps getting worse.

Target said Friday that an additional 70 million customers, some of whom may be included in the original 40 million whose charge card information was stolen, had information taken and the breach swept up far more information than originally reported.

Credit and debit card information theft remains limited to those shopping between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15. But the personal information could have been stolen for anyone who ever gave it to Target.

Although the theft of this information doesn’t pose an immediate threat, customers could be targets of online schemes. It’s best to follow common security practices such as not opening emails or attachments from unknown senders and not clicking directly on hyperlinks in emails.

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Sales crash: It was a tough year for personal computer sellers. The market continues to be in free fall, having now seen its seventh consecutive quarter of declining worldwide shipments, according to The Next Web.

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New IBM divisions for $2000, Alex: IBM’s “Jeopardy!”-winning artificial intelligence platform Watson now has its own division within IBM. The company last week announced the formation of the $1 billion Watson Group that will focus on helping outside developers create new apps for Watson, according to The Verge.

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Website of the week: In keeping with our off-world theme, is a great source for news of astronomy, skywatching, space exploration, commercial spaceflight and related technologies.

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