Vice president Mike Pence gets insider look at Kennedy Space Center

Vice President Mike Pence, center, is flanked by NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman, left, and Patrick Forrester, NASA Chief astronaut as they walk out of crew headquarters at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida Pence is leading a newly revived National Space Council. (AP)
Updated 07 July 2017
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Vice president Mike Pence gets insider look at Kennedy Space Center

CAPE CANAVERAL: Vice President Mike Pence got an insider’s look at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday and promised more glory days ahead for “this gateway to the stars.”
Pence is heading up a newly revived National Space Council. President Donald Trump re-established the advisory group last week.
“Here from this bridge to space, our nation will return to the moon, and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” he added, drawing cheers and applause from the hundreds of space center workers, astronauts and dignitaries.
The highlight of Pence’s afternoon tour — his second NASA stop in as many months — was his address to approximately 1,200 people inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, once used to stack moon rockets and space shuttles. The backdrop included three capsules: the first SpaceX Dragon to carry supplies to the International Space Station, NASA’s Orion that flew into space on a test flight, and a training version of Boeing’s Starliner crew vessel.
Later, Pence got to see an Orion spacecraft being prepared for flight in 2019 atop NASA’s as-yet-unflown megarocket, the SLS or Space Launch System. He was driven past the former shuttle launch pad that will serve as the departure point for SLS flights, as well as the pad from which astronauts rocketed to the moon and space shuttles soared, now leased by SpaceX.
On Wednesday night, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon rocket with a communications satellite, and so the pad was empty Thursday. Pence said he was sorry to have missed the launch.
“I was praying for rain at the Kennedy Space Center so we might see that rocket go up today,” he said.
Last month, Pence visited Johnson Space Center in Houston to help introduce America’s newest astronauts. Florida’s Kennedy was the second stop on his grand NASA tour. It is NASA’s launch hub, but hasn’t seen any astronaut takeoffs since the shuttles retired in 2011. Boeing and SpaceX are working to change that with their own crew capsules.
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin was in attendance Thursday, as were Florida’s senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.
This wasn’t Pence’s first visit to Cape Canaveral. He attended several launches as a congressman and recalled how his son, now a Marine aviator, was inspired by seeing a liftoff up close.
Pence said he will convene the National Space Council “before the summer is out.” This is its third reincarnation; it was abandoned in 1993 under the Clinton administration. Since then, Pence said, “our government’s commitment” has not matched the level of excitement for space that exists among the general public. He said that will change and repeatedly called this a new era of American leadership in space.
He gave no timelines or details, however, on the administration’s plans for getting astronauts back to the moon and on to Mars. NASA is shooting for astronauts at Mars sometime in the 2030s, using Orion, the SLS rocket and other craft. As for the moon, President Barack Obama in 2010 canceled the Constellation program, a back-to-the-moon effort championed by his predecessor.
America won the race to the moon in 1969, Pence reminded everyone. “We will get back to winning in the 21st century and beyond,” he said.
Pence got a treat after touring the Orion processing center. Flanked by two current astronauts, he walked down the hallway and out the door once used by Apollo and shuttle crews on their way to the pad on launch day. Kennedy Space Center’s director, Robert Cabana, a former shuttle commander, exited the same way a few minutes earlier, accompanied by NASA’s acting administrator Robert Lightfoot.
“Just like going out in a launch,” Cabana told the photographers and reporters huddled at the end of the walkway.


Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

Updated 25 May 2018
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Tesla in Autopilot sped up before Utah crash

  • Heather Lommatzsch, the driver of the vehicle, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
  • Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her des
SALT LAKE CITY, US: A Tesla that crashed while in Autopilot mode in Utah this month accelerated in the seconds before it smashed into a stopped firetruck, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press Thursday. Two people were injured.
Data from the Model S electric vehicle show it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds shortly before crashing into a stopped firetruck in suburban Salt Lake City, the report said. The driver manually hit the brakes a fraction of a second before impact.
Police suggested that the car was following another vehicle and dropped its speed to 55 mph to match the leading vehicle. They say the leading vehicle then likely changed lanes and the Tesla automatically sped up to its preset of 60 mph (97 kph) without noticing the stopped cars ahead of it.
The police report, which was obtained through an open records request, provides detail about the vehicle’s actions immediately before the May 11 crash and the driver’s familiarity with its system.
The driver of the vehicle, Heather Lommatzsch, 29, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.
She said she had owned the car for two years and used the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature on all sorts of roadways, including on the Utah highway where she crashed, according to the report.
Lommatzsch said the car did not provide any audio or visual warnings before the crash. A witness told police she did not see signs the car illuminate its brake lights or swerve to avoid the truck ahead of it.
Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail Thursday. A Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The car company has said it repeatedly warns drivers to stay alert, keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system.
Police say car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone at the time and comparing different routes to her destination.
She broke her foot in the crash and this week was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation. Online court records do not show an attorney listed for her.
The driver of the firetruck told police he had injuries consistent with whiplash but did not go to a hospital.
Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to sense the vehicle’s surrounding environment and perform basic functions automatically.
Among those functions is automatic emergency braking, which the company says on its website is designed “to detect objects that the car may impact and applies the brakes accordingly.” Tesla says the system is not designed to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating the May 11 crash.
Tesla’s Autopilot has been the subject of previous scrutiny following other crashes involving the vehicles.
In March, a driver was killed when a Model X with Autopilot engaged hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed” in California. NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case.
This week, Tesla said Autopilot was not engaged when a Model S veered off a road and plunged into a pond outside San Francisco, killing the driver.
Earlier in May, the NTSB opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped and died in the blaze. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.