WRALtechwire.com logo

Tech wrap: China moon outpost; another NASA Saturn first (+ video); Nintendo's Switch boost; Twitter's loss

Bulldog

Apr, 27 2017, 6:31 AM

In today's Bulldog wrapup of tech and science news:

The details:

Representatives of China and the European Space Agency are discussing potential collaboration on a human outpost on the moon and other possible joint endeavors, according to a spokesman for the European agency and Chinese media reports.

The secretary general for China's space agency, Tian Yulong, first disclosed the talks about the envisioned lunar base in Chinese state media. They were confirmed Wednesday by Pal Hvistendahl, a spokesman for the European Space Agency, or ESA.

"The Chinese have a very ambitious moon program already in place," Hvistendahl said. "Space has changed since the space race of the '60s. We recognize that to explore space for peaceful purposes, we do international cooperation."

The director general of the 22-member ESA, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, has described its proposed "Moon Village" as a potential international launching pad for future missions to Mars and a chance to develop space tourism or even lunar mining.

China arrived relatively late to space travel but has ramped up its program since its first manned spaceflight in 2003, more than 42 years after a Soviet cosmonaut became the first to reach orbit.

Last week the China National Space Administration launched an unmanned spacecraft on a mission to dock with its currently unoccupied space station. It plans to launch a mission to collect samples from the moon by the end of this year and next year conduct the first mission to the moon's far side and bring back mineral samples.

The ESA hopes to conduct a mission analysis on samples brought back by this year's Chinese mission, known as Chang'e 5, and also have a European flying on the Chinese space station at some future date, Hvistendahl said. Neither prospect has been finalized.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft ventured Wednesday into the never-before-explored region between Saturn and its rings.

But flight controllers won't know how everything went until Thursday when they are back in touch with the craft.

Cassini was out of radio contact with Earth as it became the first spacecraft to enter the gap between Saturn and its rings. That's because its big dish antenna was maneuvered face forward to protect science instruments from potentially damaging particles in the rings. The antenna could sustain minor damage like a small hole and still function properly, according to officials.

[VIDEO: Watch a NASA overview of Cassini at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrGAQCq9BMU ]

"We're in a waiting period right now," said Jim Green, director of NASA's planetary science division. "We won't know for a number of hours until Cassini gets in a position where it can radio back home, and so that's one of those things that keeps us on pins and needles."

If Cassini survives this first round, it will make 21 more crossings before its demise in September. The gap between Saturn's atmosphere and its rings is relatively narrow: 1,200 miles, or 1,900 kilometers.

"We're all crossing our fingers saying, 'Oh, geez, I hope we hear from it' — and we will," added guidance and control engineer Joan Stupik.

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004. Because the fuel tank is practically empty, NASA decided on one last dangerous, but science-rich adventure.

Nintendo Co.'s Switch, a new hybrid game machine that works as both a console and a tablet, is selling well, helping the Kyoto-based company behind the Super Mario and Pokemon franchises trim its quarterly losses.

Nintendo said Thursday it has sold 2.74 million Switch machines and 5.46 million units of Switch software since sales began in March. It had expected to sell 2 million Switch machines by the end of March.

The company anticipates selling another 10 million Switch machines in the fiscal year that ends in March 2018.

The company's January-March loss was 394 million yen ($3.5 million), improved from a 24 billion yen loss a year earlier. Quarterly sales jumped to nearly 178 billion yen ($1.6 billion) from 79 billion yen.

Nintendo has lagged amid competition from smartphones, and also at times has been slammed by an unfavorable exchange rate. A strong yen cheapens the value of overseas earnings of Japanese exporters like Nintendo.

In the fiscal year that ended in March, Nintendo's profit jumped more than six times from the previous fiscal year to 102.6 billion yen ($924 million), up from 16.5 billion yen.

But that result included extraordinary income from the sale of part of Nintendo's stake in the Seattle Mariners.

Nintendo, which also makes the 3DS portable console, is projecting its profit for the fiscal year through March 2018 at 45 billion yen ($405 million).

Twitter Inc. is reporting a loss of $61.6 million in its first quarter.

The San Francisco company said it had a loss of 9 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were 11 cents per share.

The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 12 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 2 cents per share.

The short messaging service posted revenue of $548.3 million in the period, also exceeding Street forecasts. Nine analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $512.1 million.





Menu