The Morning After: Finally, Virgin Galactic completes its first crewed spaceflight

·Bureau Chief, UK
·4 min read

After oh so many delays, training up its founder, Sir Richard Branson, and some delightful, sometimes petty, banter with Blue Origin (love those “largest windows in space” claims), Virgin Galactic has made it into space.

Or at least, it did, depending on who you ask. Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight is just days away, and it’s pointed out that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo didn't’ really fly in space. The craft reached an altitude of 'just' 53.4 miles. However, the Kármán line (the formal demarcation for space) is 62 miles.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo completes Unity 22 spaceflight
Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo completes Unity 22 spaceflight

It’s a fair point, even if it comes across a little like sour grapes. While not quite crossing over that line, the mission was to evaluate the SpaceShipTwo’s cabin environment, seat comfort and the overall experience it will offer customers. Presumably, this was where Sir Branson’s expertise in astrophysics with his myriad companies came to the fore. Two additional test flights are set to launch before Virgin Galactic begins offering paid flights next year.

Watch Virgin Galactic’s successful flight right here.

— Mat Smith

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A closer look at the FBI's smartphone for criminals

The sting operation wasn't just limited to a chat app.

An illustration picture shows the ANoM logo displayed on the screen of an smartphone on june 8, 2021 in Paris. - Some 250 people were arrested in Sweden and Finland in the global sting on organised crime, authorities said on June 8, 2021, using phones planted by the US FBI, law enforcement officers were able to read the messages of global underworld figures in around 100 countries as they plotted drug deals, arms transfers and gangland hits on the compromised ANOM devices. (Photo by Olivier MORIN / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images)
An illustration picture shows the ANoM logo displayed on the screen of an smartphone on june 8, 2021 in Paris. - Some 250 people were arrested in Sweden and Finland in the global sting on organised crime, authorities said on June 8, 2021, using phones planted by the US FBI, law enforcement officers were able to read the messages of global underworld figures in around 100 countries as they plotted drug deals, arms transfers and gangland hits on the compromised ANOM devices. (Photo by Olivier MORIN / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

The phones the FBI sold to crooks for a sting operation weren't just running a custom messaging app — it appears the operating system itself was customized for the sting. Motherboard obtained one of the "Anom" phones — a modified Pixel 4a underneath it all — and its mysterious ArcaneOS has a number of customizations you wouldn't necessarily expect, even for a privacy-oriented phone.

There’s no app store, and you can't toggle location tracking. You can’t flash the device with third-party firmware to make it behave more like normal phones, either — the bootloader is locked, even though the startup screen tells you the device has been “modified.”

For nefarious types you’d expect to see in Mission Impossible movies, less real-life, there’s a hidden chat app (accessed through the "calculator" when it worked) and PIN scrambling. There’s also a wipe code feature that lets you erase a phone from the lock screen — although it won’t explode. Continue reading.

WhatsApp's disappearing messages come to iOS

You’ll only see shared media a single time before it vanishes.

After releasing the feature on Android last month, WhatsApp is debuting self-erasing media and texts on iOS, via a new beta release. If you sign up for the beta version 2.21.140.9 on Testflight, you'll be able to send photos and videos that self-destruct as soon as they're viewed and dismissed. Users with access to the "view once" feature will see a dedicated button resembling a timer in the caption input field.

Unlike WhatsApp's disappearing messages, which delete after seven days, photos and videos sent using view-once mode vanish immediately after you close them. That said, there's nothing stopping users from taking screenshots of media, and you won't be notified if a recipient has done so. Some apps, like Snapchat, make this harder to do or inform the user when screenshots are snapped. Continue reading.

'FIFA 22' comes to next-gen consoles on October 1st

It's also coming to previous-gen systems, PC and Stadia.

Kylian Mbappe in 'FIFA 22'
Kylian Mbappe in 'FIFA 22'

While English fans might not want to think about football for a bit, FIFA 22 is, predictably, on its way, and its centerpiece is a new HyperMotion system. This will apparently offer more realistic animation and gameplay when you game on a PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S or Google Stadia. The technology uses machine learning to produce animations in real-time, leading to more "organic" movement.

The game is also coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC (via Origin and Steam), while FIFA 22 Legacy Edition is coming to the Nintendo Switch, although EA didn't outline differences. Presumably, it’ll be a less graphically intense version of the game. EA has hinted at a "complete" revamp of the goalkeeper system, a new club creation experience in Career Mode and "reimagined" Volta Football. Continue reading.

Tesla is rolling out its long-delayed Full Self Driving version 9 beta

The semi-autonomous upgrade has been in the works for years.

Tesla is rolling out FSD beta version 9 to Early Access Program users, and while it's still not full autonomy, it does enable numerous Autopilot driver assists, including lane changes and turns. You'll also get revamped visualizations that offer "additional surrounding information."

The update also references a recently activated feature that uses the cabin camera to make sure you're paying attention while Autopilot is engaged. Musk also urged beta testers to be "paranoid" and stay prepared to take the wheel at a moment's notice. Continue reading.

But wait, there’s more...

How NASA selected the first Lunar Rover to scoot across the moon

Biden's wide-ranging executive order covers Big Tech, net neutrality and more

Virgin Galactic launches competition to win a ticket into space

'Black Widow' made $60 million from Disney+ viewers during its opening weekend

An iPad mini redesign still rumored for this fall

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