posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Jonathan Gitlin DETROIT—New cars today are as much wheeled, wearable computers as they are modes of transport. But if you wanted to pick a new vehicle that was as far away from the brave new connected mobility future we keep hearing so much about, you couldn't do much better than the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Better known to its fans—which are legion—as the Geländewagen, the boxy four-wheel drive vehicle has been in production since 1979, changing very little in the intervening time. Despite this, it continues to find buyers, a fact more remarkable when you consider that this automotive antique comes with a price tag to match. (The outgoing model starts at $123,600!) Most other OEMs would eventually consign such an old model to the archives, but not Mercedes-Benz. It has reworked the SUV to give the G-Class an all-new interior, some 21st-century technology, and sorely needed handling improvements while retaining that angular 1970s look. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Jonathan Kitchen) Municipal broadband networks generally offer cheaper entry-level prices than private Internet providers, and the city-run networks also make it easier for customers to find out the real price of service, a new study from Harvard University researchers found. Researchers collected advertised prices for entry-level broadband plans—those meeting the federal standard of at least 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds—offered by 40 community-owned ISPs and compared them to advertised prices from private competitors. The report by researchers at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard doesn't provide a complete picture of municipal vs. private pricing. But that's largely because data about private ISPs' prices is often more difficult to get than information about municipal network pricing, the report says. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / It looks like this patent image that surfaced in 2016 is as close as we're going to get to a Nintendo-approved VR headset anytime soon. Readers with decent memories may remember early 2016, when Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima said the company was looking into the virtual reality space at an investor's briefing. Coming months before we had concrete details on the company's upcoming Switch, the statement set off industry alarm bells about Nintendo's potential future plans. A vague Nintendo patent for a head-mounted tablet holster that surfaced in late 2016 got the chatter going even further. Fast forward to today, and it's increasingly clear that Nintendo has finished "looking" and has decided VR shouldn't be part of its plans for the time being. The latest evidence comes from a recent interview with Nintendo France General Manager Philippe Lavoué in French publication Les Numeriques. "If you look at VR headsets, I doubt they can appeal to the mainstream," Lavoué said in a translation of that interview. "Consumers are not patient with entertainment if you’re not able to deliver an all-inclusive package." Lavoué goes on to downplay any need for Nintendo to invest in hardware capable of full 4K images, saying that the TV display technology has "not been adopted by the majority" and would therefore be a premature investment for the company. "And what novelty would we bring compared to our competitors?" he said. "If we do the exact same thing as everyone else, we’re bound to die because we are smaller than them. With the Switch, we offer different uses, adapted to players’ pace of life. Its advantage is being able to fit into your daily life." Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge Android OEM OnePlus says it's investigating claims of credit card numbers being stolen from customers who have purchased a phone from OnePlus' site. Over the weekend, a customer claimed on a thread on the OnePlus forums that recent credit card fraud he experienced was connected to his OnePlus purchase. Almost 100 people have chimed in on the thread's poll, claiming they too experienced fraudulent charges after making a OnePlus purchase. A FAQ from OnePlus says its e-commerce platform is built with "custom code" and that "card info is never processed or saved on our website." It says credit card data is "sent directly to our PCI-DSS-compliant payment processing partner over an encrypted connection, and processed on their secure servers.​" Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NASA After spending three months at a temperature of just 20°C above absolute zero, the massive James Webb Space Telescope emerged from a large vacuum chamber at the end of 2017. Now, after reviewing data from testing done there, scientists have given the instrument a clean bill of health, moving it one step closer to space. "We now have have verified that NASA and its partners have an outstanding telescope and set of science instruments," said Bill Ochs, the Webb telescope project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "We are marching toward launch." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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A trio of French media reports over the weekend accuse high-profile PlayStation developer Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, the upcoming Detroit: Become Human) of fostering a "toxic corporate culture" where inappropriate behavior and homophobic, racist, and sexist jokes were tolerated, if not encouraged. The reports spring from a complaint reportedly filed last spring by five former Quantic Dream employees, centering on what French newspaper Le Monde describes as "degrading photomontages." French magazine CanardPC includes some examples of those (NSFW) montages on its Web version, showing Quantic Dream employees photoshopped onto sexually suggestive or explicit images. Le Monde's report cites a collection of roughly 600 such images that circulated around the company via group email since 2013, including some with "homophobic or sexist slurs." French online news site Mediapart has a similar report. Quantic Dream founder David Cage is accused in the Le Monde piece of making racist remarks toward a Tunisian employee surrounding CCTV footage of a burglary. Cage is also accused of making repeated dirty jokes in work situations and sexist remarks about female cast members in his games. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / The Nyhavn canal in Copenhagen, Denmark. (credit: Chad Sparkes) Over 1,000 young people are facing charges in Denmark after allegedly sharing two sexually explicit videos and a photograph involving underage subjects on Facebook Messenger. Danish police announced the charges on Monday morning, according to the Danish publication The Local. The sharing occurred in late 2017 and depicted a sexual encounter between two 15-year-olds. The young people charged with sharing the materials ranged in age from 15 to the early 20s. When Facebook learned that the material was being shared, the company notified US authorities, who in turn alerted authorities in Denmark. “We want to give out a warning to young people: think about what you’re doing," said Flemming Kjærside of Denmark's National Cyber Crime Center in a statement. "But they possibly do not know that it is illegal and that they can be convicted for distributing child pornography." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ford DETROIT—On Sunday, Ford kicked off the start of the North American International Auto Show with a trio of new models. The event was in contrast to the company's appearance at CES; that was a forward-looking affair with a vision of the future; Detroit rather was all about real vehicles available soon. There was a new midsize truck with the return of the Ranger. The Edge SUV gets a performance variant. And to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the best car chases of all time, there's a special Mustang. But those hoping to for hybridization or an all-electric Ford will have to be patient. Although the company announced it would increase its investment in battery electric vehicles to $11 billion, it is lagging behind rivals; neither the hybrid F-150 truck nor the Mach-1—a performance battery electric vehicle, possibly derived from the Mustang—will be ready until 2020. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Swatting suspect Tyler Barriss depicted in a 2015 mug shot released by Glendale police. (credit: Glendale Police Department) A Los Angeles man accused of making a hoax phone call that led to the death of an innocent man in Wichita, Kansas, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. 25-year-old Tyler Barriss was arrested in Los Angeles late last month, and authorities there extradited him to Kansas. He made his first appearance in a Kansas courtroom on Friday, court records show. Authorities believe that Barriss made a hoax phone call that sent police to the home of an innocent man, Andrew Finch, on December 28. Finch opened the door with his hands up. But when he briefly lowered his hands toward his waistband, a police officer shot him, believing that Finch could be reaching for a gun. The incident appears to have originated with an online feud over a $1.50 Call of Duty bet. One of the parties to that dispute reportedly approached online user SWAuTistic, who had a reputation for initiating "swatting" pranks against online gamers. SWAuTistic called the Wichita police, pretending to be a deranged man who had already shot his father and threatened to shoot other members of his family. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
On Saturday, January 13, Hawaiians received a terrifying message on their phones, repeated on television and radio stations, which had received a similar alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” But actually, it was something of a drill, in that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) was running a routine test at the end of a shift and accidentally sent the message state-wide. Unfortunately, it took 38 minutes for the agency to correct the alert with a second alert. Although state leaders quickly tweeted out corrections, Hawaiians who were waiting for an all-clear from the same outlet spent more than half an hour in suspense. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 7 days ago on ars technica
From your seat at home, an AGDQ run like this looks simple. Behind the scenes, though, is a constant swarm of action to get everything running smoothly. Of all the millions of video game streams that run each year on Twitch—from individuals at home to professional eSports tournaments—there's nothing quite like the Games Done Quick marathons. Each year since 2010 (and twice a year since 2011), hundreds of speedrunners gather to play games as quickly as possible for seven days straight in a non-stop tag-team that only takes short breaks for set up and on-stream interviews. In the process, hundreds of thousands of viewers donate millions of dollars for charity (over $4 million in 2017 alone), with their donation messages shared on stream. While the production looks relatively simple from the viewer's side of the Twitch stream—a video of the gameplay screen, a smaller webcam view of the player, a donation counter, a timer, etc.—a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep the games running and the donations flowing smoothly for an entire week. To see what things were like from the other side, I headed down to Dulles, Virginia, earlier this week to see some of the work that goes into making the Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) marathon into the well-oiled machine that it is. Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Ribosomes sometimes ignore one of these. (credit: Noirathsi’s Eye / Flickr) Folks in the Baranov lab in County Cork, Ireland, were just reviewing old data they had lying around—you, know, as one does on a slow, boring afternoon—and they noticed something weird. The complexes within a cell that translate RNA into proteins were piling up at the end of the RNA, long past the portion that encodes the protein. Hmm. Ribosomes and the genetic code Many of the genes held in our DNA encode proteins. But the process of translating DNA into protein goes through an RNA intermediate. That RNA is read by a complex called the ribosome, which recognizes the information in the RNA and uses it to create a string of amino acids in a specific order—the protein encoded by the gene. So ribosomes play a critical role in gene activity. To find out more about that role, Pavel Baranov invented ribosome profiling in 2009. It allows researchers to identify which RNAs in a given cell are being translated by isolating only those RNAs with ribosomes attached. It also allows them to assess the relative levels at which different regions of RNA are being translated. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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LAS VEGAS—When we weren't pounding the pavement at last week's overloaded CES trade show, we at Ars Technica took whatever opportunity we could to nerd out in uniquely Vegas style. That didn't mean dumping our spare quarters into a Lord of the Rings-themed slot machine; it meant hitching a ride to the Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame. This collection of roughly 260 working pinball, electromechanical, and video games has been open to the public for over a decade, with its 2006 opening followed by a size-boosting relocation in 2009 to a venue two miles down Tropicana Avenue. It arguably includes the most varied and valuable open-every-day collection of pinball and pinball-like games in the United States, if not the world—but you'd never know it by simply passing the building. Sam Machkovech Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Calle v H / Flickr) Much of the world’s conflict happens in areas rich in biodiversity, and war makes conservation a complicated issue. In 2016, a group of researchers published a paper exploring important questions about conflict and conservation: can conflict be included in planning for protected areas? What strategies actually work when wildlife and warfare mix? The researchers from 2016 concluded that we need better, more fine-grained data on the impacts of conflict, and a new paper in this week’s Nature drills into historical data to provide just that. Authors Joshua H. Daskin and Robert M. Pringle report that “even low-grade, infrequent conflict is sufficient” to cause harm to wildlife. But they also conclude that the mere presence of conflict doesn’t mean that the wildlife in that region should be written off. Decades of conflict “Between 1950 and 2000,” write Daskin and Pringle, the majority of the world’s conflicts occurred in Africa and Asia, and “more than 80 percent of wars overlapped with biodiversity hotspots.” These hotspots are home to some of the world’s last “diverse large-mammal populations,” they write, which makes conflict in these regions all the more alarming for conservation. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Two letters short of being truly S.P.E.C.I.A.L.! Also, note the V.A.T.S. dice. (credit: Charles Theel) Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com. Would you be surprised if I told you that the new Fallout board game from Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) was something special? You really shouldn't be, since FFG has a fantastic track record of nailing intellectual properties like Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Doom. Fallout is the latest success here, a tabletop design that feels like a passionate love letter to its source material, even as it stumbles in some areas. This cardboard version of the digital classic is best described as a narrative adventure game for up to four players. Participants compete for thumbs (the energetic expression for victory points) by engaging in branching story paths, acquiring gear, and throwing their weight behind one of the factions vying for power. Read 16 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 8 days ago on ars technica
Thanks to Ars Technica's unique staff-from-all-over arrangement, we don't often see how our coworkers organize their home offices. There's also the matter of us being a bunch of overgrown children who keep, and proudly display, all kinds of toys, action figures, dolls, and other nerdy decorations in our home offices. Thus, this latest edition of our ongoing "how Ars works" series focuses specifically on the toys and characters that keep watch over our desks, chairs, coffee mugs, and other home-office accoutrements. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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In 1993, TV—and TV writing—were much different entities than what we know today. (credit: Tony Young) Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, Exhibit 5,768: the current golden age of TV has clearly inspired a golden age of TV writing. And if you follow today’s TV criticism at all, chances are a handful of names immediately come to mind (people like Emily Nussbaum at The New Yorker or James Poniewozik at The New York Times, for instance). But time and time again, stories on the rise of this format in recent years end up pointing to one writer—Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall—as the dean of modern TV criticism. While landmark TV writing sites like TV Without Pity (1998) wouldn’t come along until the Internet matured, Sepinwall was on the Web back when “Lynx and Mosaic were the only two browsers and you had to drive uphill through the snow both ways to get to the Yahoo! homepage,” as he once put it. Back in 1993, long before he started his own blog or went on to contribute to the Star Ledger and Hitfix, Sepinwall was just a college sophomore posting about NYPD Blue to Usenet. DS9 recapper / physics teacher, Tim Lynch. (credit: MKA.org) Ask Sepinwall about the origins of modern TV writing, however, and he has something different in mind: Usenet’s rec.arts.startrek.current and a certain Deep Space Nine recapper extraordinaire named Tim Lynch. Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / James O'Keefe. (credit: Gage Skidmore) James O'Keefe is a conservative activist who has made a name for himself with hidden camera investigations of supposedly liberal organizations. This week, he turned his attention to Twitter, publishing a series of secretly recorded videos of Twitter employees (and former employees) discussing Twitter's content moderation policies and political culture. O'Keefe claims to have uncovered smoking-gun evidence of a far-reaching conspiracy to suppress conservative speech on the Twitter platform. Conservative media outlets have taken that frame and run with it. But there's a lot less to the two videos Project Veritas released this week than meets the eye. For example, O'Keefe has repeatedly highlighted Twitter engineer Steven Pierre's comment that Twitter was working on software to "ban a way of talking." The strong implication is that the "way of talking" Pierre wants to ban is conservative political speech. But if you actually watch the full video, that's clearly not what Pierre meant. Read 49 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Notice anything wrong with this picture? It's a little disconcerting to see the interior of a Bolt EV without the driver controls. (credit: General Motors) General Motors is getting ready to ditch the driver for good—at least in its newest R&D vehicles. In 2019, Cruise—the self-driving startup acquired a couple of years ago by GM—wants to begin testing the fourth generation of its autonomous vehicle, the Cruise AV. (This is a modified Chevrolet Bolt EV, no relation to the Chevrolet Cruze.) The company has filed a safety petition with the US Department of Transportation requesting permission to deploy the fourth-generation Cruise AV, which will be completely driverless, without any steering wheel, pedals, or other form of manual controls. According to The Verge, part of the request has to do with ensuring passenger safety despite the car not conforming to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard regulations. For instance, it lacks a steering wheel, therefore it lacks a steering wheel-mounted airbag. As GM President Dan Amman explained, "[w]hat we can do is put the equivalent of the passenger side airbag on that side as well. So it's to meet the standards but meet them in a way that’s different than what’s exactly prescribed, and that’s what the petition seeks to get approval for.” Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge / Oddly, Microsoft's Mixed Reality house has no windows. (credit: Microsoft) After being out for a little under three months, Microsoft has moved the Fall Creators Update to full availability, signaling that the company believes it to be ready for corporate deployments. Microsoft rolls out the big Windows semi-annual updates on a staggered basis, making the update available to an ever larger range of users as the company builds a clearer picture of any hardware and software incompatibilities. Once it's satisfied that any of these wrinkles have been ironed out, Microsoft offers the update to every machine that's compatible. With the Fall Creators Update on 100 million machines, Microsoft has decided that the update is ready for its full deployment. This development process has been refined over the last few years; the 2016 Anniversary Update raised a number of problems, causing Microsoft to be more conservative subsequently. The previous update, the Creators Update, took about four months to reach this same stage. The decision to make the Fall Creators Update, version 1709, widely available in less than three months shows that the company is more confident in this release and its wider deployment. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / AdultSwine's operation flow. (credit: Check Point Research ) Sixty games were booted off the Play Store after security firm Check Point discovered that they contained pornographic ads and malicious components. Before their removal, the games were downloaded between 3 million and 7 million times, according to the download metrics on the Play Store. The malware is dubbed "AdultSwine," and according to Check Point Research, it had three main features: Displaying ads from the Web that are often highly inappropriate and pornographic Attempting to trick users into installing fake "security apps" Inducing users to register to premium services at the user’s expense The 60 listings in the Play Store were generally knockoff games, like "Five Nights Survival Craft." In some cases, the creator simply stole a real IP, as in "Drawing Lessons Angry Birds." Once installed, the app would phone home, sending information about the user's phone and receiving instructions on how to operate. The app could hide its icon, making removal more difficult. Check Point says the malware could display ads from "the main ad providers" or switch to its own ad server, which provided porn ads, scareware ads, and ads that tricked the user into signing up for premium services. AdultSwine not only displayed ads while users played the game that came with the malware; it could also show pop-up ads on top of other apps. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 9 days ago on ars technica
Enlarge (credit: The Dragon Box) Netflix, Amazon, and the major film studios have sued the makers of "The Dragon Box," a device that connects to TVs and lets users watch video without a cable TV or streaming service subscription. Joining Netflix and Amazon as plaintiffs in the suit are Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The suit asks for financial damages and an injunction preventing Dragon Media from continuing the alleged copyright infringement. "Defendants sell illegal access to Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works," the complaint says. (Hat tip to DSLReports.) "Dragon Box uses software to link its customers to infringing content on the Internet. When used as Defendants intend and instruct, Dragon Box gives Defendants' customers access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization. These streams are illegal public performances of Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works." Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Meltdown and Spectre are not the only security problems Intel is facing these days. Today, researchers at F-Secure have revealed another weakness in Intel's management firmware that could allow an attacker with brief physical access to PCs to gain persistent remote access to the system, thanks to weak security in Intel's Active Management Technology (AMT) firmware—remote "out of band" device management technology installed on 100 million systems over the last decade, according to Intel. Intel had already found other problems with AMT, announcing last May there was a a flaw in some versions of the firmware that could "allow an unprivileged attacker to gain control of the manageability features provided by these products." Then in November of 2017, Intel pushed urgent security patches to PC vendors for additional management firmware vulnerable to such attacks—technologies embedded in most Intel-based PCs shipped since 2015. But the latest vulnerability—discovered in July of 2017 by F-Secure security consultant Harry Sintonen and revealed by the company today in a blog post—is more of a feature than a bug. Notebook and desktop PCs with Intel AMT can be compromised in moments by someone with physical access to the computer—even bypassing BIOS passwords, Trusted Platform Module personal identification numbers, and Bitlocker disk encryption passwords—by rebooting the computer, entering its BIOS boot menu, and selecting configuration for Intel’s Management Engine BIOS Extension (MEBx). Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge (credit: Bungie, Inc.) In its first development roadmap update of 2018, Destiny developer Bungie is promising to rebalance Destiny 2's microtransaction and raids systems to give players more satisfying rewards that are less dependent on luck. In the lengthy development update posted Thursday evening, Game Director Christopher Barrett admitted up front that, currently, "the scales are tipped too far towards Tess," the owner of the game's much maligned microtransaction-fueled Eververse store. The Eververse was "never intended to be a substitute for end game content and rewards," Barrett writes. To that end, Barrett says the game will be shifting the item balance so desirable items like Ghosts, Sparrows, and ships can be earned directly as "activity rewards" for in-game actions rather than as random drops from Bright Engrams. Barrett also promises more "direct purchase options" and adjustments that will "allow players to get the items they want more often" without relying on the luck of the draw. These changes should start rolling out February 13. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge / Commercial Crew Astronaut Eric Boe examines hardware during a tour of the SpaceX facility in Hawthorne, California. (credit: NASA) Almost since the beginning of the commercial crew program in 2010, the old and new titans of the aerospace industry have been locked in a race to the launch pad. Boeing, with five decades of aerospace contracts, represented the old guard. SpaceX, founded in 2002, offered a new, leaner way of doing things. Through the years, as other participants in the commercial crew program fell away, Boeing and SpaceX remained on course to deliver US astronauts into space. It has not been easy for either company or for their sponsor, NASA. The space agency has only ever led the development of four spacecraft that carried humans into orbit, and three of those programs came in the 1960s, with the fourth and final vehicle in the 1970s—the space shuttle. As both companies sought to climb this steep learning curve, they have missed deadlines. An original deadline of 2015 melted away after some key members of Congress diverted funds for the commercial crew program to other NASA programs, notably the Space Launch System rocket. But in recent years, Congress has fully funded the efforts by Boeing and SpaceX, and they were told that would yield flights in 2017. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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