NASA’s Cassini spacecraft burns up in skies over Saturn

In this March 26, 1997 file photo, a technician checks the heat shield of the space probe Huygens in the cleanroom of Dornier Satellitensysteme GmbH in Ottobrunn, Germany, near Munich. The probe will be carried by NASA's Cassini orbiter and is designed to explore Saturn's moon Titan. (AP Photo/Uwe Lein)
Updated 15 September 2017
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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft burns up in skies over Saturn

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft disintegrated in the skies above Saturn early Friday in a final, fateful blaze of cosmic glory, following a remarkable journey of 20 years.
Confirmation of Cassini’s expected demise came about 7:55 a.m. EDT. That’s when radio signals from the spacecraft — its last scientific gifts to Earth — came to an abrupt halt. The radio waves went flat, and the spacecraft fell silent.
Cassini actually burned up like a meteor 83 minutes earlier as it dove through Saturn’s atmosphere, becoming one with the giant gas planet it set out in 1997 to explore. But it took that long for the news to reach Earth a billion miles away.
The only spacecraft to ever orbit Saturn, Cassini showed us the planet, its rings and moons up close in all their splendor. Perhaps most tantalizing, ocean worlds were unveiled on the moons Enceladus and Titan, which could possibly harbor life.
Dutiful to the end, the Cassini snapped its “last memento photos” Thursday and sampled Saturn’s atmosphere Friday morning as it made its final plunge.
Program manager Earl Maize made the official pronouncement:
“This has been an incredible mission, an incredible spacecraft and you’re all an incredible team,” Maize said. “I’ll call this the end of mission.”
Flight controllers wearing matching purple shirts stood and embraced and shook hands.
More than 1,500 people, many of them past and present team members, had gathered at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for what was described as both a vigil and celebration. Even more congregated at nearby California Institute of Technology, which runs the lab for NASA.

NASA’s science mission director, Thomas Zurbuchen, made note of all the tissues inside JPL’s Mission Control, along with the customary lucky peanuts. Team members were clearly emotional, he said.
“These worlds that they found, we never knew were there, are changing how we think about life itself,” he said. “And so for me, that’s why it’s truly a civilization-scale mission, one that will stand out among other missions, anywhere.”
Project scientist Linda Spilker noted Cassini has been running “a marathon of scientific discovery” for 13 years at Saturn.
“So we’re here today to cheer as Cassini finishes that race,” she said.
The spacecraft tumbled out of control while plummeting at more than 76,000 mph (122,000 kph). Project officials invited ground telescopes to look for Cassini’s last-gasp flash, but weren’t hopeful it would be spotted against the vast backdrop of the solar system’s second biggest planet.
This Grand Finale, as NASA called it, came about as Cassini’s fuel tank started getting low after 13 years exploring the planet. Scientists wanted to prevent Cassini from crashing into Enceladus or Titan — and contaminating those pristine worlds. And so in April, Cassini was directed into the previously unexplored gap between Saturn’s cloud tops and the rings. Twenty-two times, Cassini entered the gap and came out again. The last time was last week.
The leader of Cassini’s imaging team, Carolyn Porco, a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, was so involved with the mission for so long that now, “I consider it the start of life, part two.”
Cassini departed Earth in 1997 and arrived at the sixth planet from our sun in 2004. The hitchhiking European Huygens landed on big moon Titan in 2005. Nothing from Earth has landed farther. Three other spacecraft previously flew past Saturn, but Cassini was the only one to actually circle the planet.
In all, Cassini collected more than 453,000 images and traveled 4.9 billion miles. It was an international endeavor, with 27 nations taking part. The final price tag was $3.9 billion.
European space officials joined their US colleagues to bid Cassini farewell.
“It’s a very historical moment,” said the Italian Space Agency’s president, Roberto Battiston.
There were lighthearted touches as well. During its broadcast NASA played a video clip of the Cassini Virtual Singers, spacecraft team members who belted out, “Tonight, tonight, we take the plunge tonight ...” to the music from “West Side Story.”
Scientists are already eager to go back and delve into the wet, wild worlds of Enceladus and Titan. Proposals are under consideration by NASA, but there’s nothing official yet. In the meantime, NASA plans sometime in the 2020s to send an orbiter and lander to Europa, a moon of Jupiter believed to have a global ocean that might be compatible for life.
“Yes, we really want to go back” to Saturn, Zurbuchen said. “It’s such a wonderful system, we don’t want to leave it alone.”


Seizing on Huawei’s troubles, Samsung bets big on network gear

Updated 15 February 2019
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Seizing on Huawei’s troubles, Samsung bets big on network gear

SEOUL: Samsung Electronics is pouring resources into its telecom network equipment business, aiming to capitalize on the security fears hobbling China’s Huawei, according to company officials and other industry executives.
Those efforts include moving high-performing managers and numerous employees to the network division from its handset unit, two Samsung sources said.
Potential customers are taking notice of Samsung’s efforts to reinvent itself as a top-tier supplier for 5G wireless networks and bridge a big gap with market leader Huawei and industry heavyweights Ericsson and Nokia.
French carrier Orange’s chief technology officer, Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, visited Japan last year and was impressed with the pace of 5G preparations using alternative equipment makers including Samsung, a company representative told Reuters.
Orange, which operates in 27 markets and counts Huawei as its top equipment supplier, will run its first French 5G tests with Samsung this year.
“Samsung is doing a big push in Europe at the moment,” one industry source said, declining to be identified.
Underscoring the growing importance of the business, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon visited Samsung’s network division in January. In a closed-door meeting during that visit, Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee asked for government help with recruiting high-level engineers.
Huawei is battling allegations by the United States and some other Western countries that its equipment could enable Chinese spying and should not be used in 5G networks, which will offer higher speeds and a host of new services.
Australia and New Zealand have joined the United States in effectively barring Huawei from 5G, and many other countries, especially in Europe, are considering a ban. Huawei denies that its gear presents any security risk.
Its woes have presented Samsung with a rare opportunity. Telecom firms would ordinarily stick with their 4G providers for 5G upgrades as they can use existing gear to minimize costs, but many firms may now be under political pressure to switch.
“We’re bolstering our network business to seize market opportunities arising at a time when Huawei is the subject of warnings about security,” said one of the Samsung sources.
The sources, who did not disclose specific figures for the employee moves, declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
Keen to seek new growth, particularly as sales of its mainstay chips and smartphones have begun to drop, Samsung plans to invest $22 billion in 5G mobile technology and other fields over three years. It declined to break down how much will go to 5G and the other areas — artificial intelligence, biopharma and automotive electronic parts.
Asked about Samsung’s big push into network equipment, Huawei said in a statement that it welcomed competition in the market.

INDIA OPPORTUNITY
In India, Samsung is now in talks with Reliance Jio to upgrade its network to 5G, looking to build on what has perhaps been its biggest network success — becoming the key supplier for the upstart carrier.
“We don’t think 5G is far away in India,” a Samsung official with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. He declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Samsung’s clients include US firms AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Corp. and it has 5G network contracts with all three, though it was not clear how extensive those contracts are. It also sells to South Korean carriers and has partnered with Japanese mobile carriers to test its 5G equipment.
In many cases, Samsung supplies only small pieces of networks. According to market tracker Dell’Oro Group, the South Korean firm holds just 3 percent of the global telecom infrastructure market compared with 28 percent for Huawei.
Its network business made 870 billion won ($775 million) in operating profit last year, according to Eugene Investment & Securities. Filings show Nokia’s network business made about 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) while Ericsson’s network operations made 19.4 billion Swedish crowns ($2.1 billion). Figures for Huawei were not available.

FINDING THE PEOPLE
One major hurdle for Samsung will be attracting talent amid a dearth of software engineers in South Korea.
“We need more software engineers and want to work with the government to find that talent,” Lee was quoted as saying by government officials at his meeting with the prime minister.
Samsung’s network business unit employs roughly 5,000 people, according to a government official in the southern city of Gumi where Samsung operates its manufacturing plants.
Kim Young-woo, an analyst at SK Securities, expects Samsung to hire 1,000-1,500 people for 5G network equipment this year. Samsung declined to comment on network employee levels and hiring plans.
But Samsung’s bet remains risky as the long-term nature of telecom network investment means change comes slowly.
Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia, which acquired the remnants of once-powerful network equipment companies Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel, have as yet seen little sales growth from Huawei’s problems, company executives said.
Both are in cost-cutting mode, even in the face of the 5G opportunity and the problems confronting their biggest rival.
Indeed, some network operators in Europe are warning that a Huawei ban — now under consideration in France, the UK, Germany and other countries — could push back deployment of 5G by as much as three years.
Others warn Samsung may struggle to develop a global sales and support organization.
“The way telcos purchase products and services from their suppliers demand a lot of time and resources, which is why Ericsson and Nokia have around 100,000 employees and Huawei almost twice as many,” said Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of telecom consultancy Northstream.
But Samsung is taking the long view. In December, it agreed to extend its Olympic partnership with the International Olympic Committee through to 2028 and expand its sponsorship to 5G technology.
The company did not want to leave its sponsorship spot open to Chinese rivals, a separate source with knowledge of the matter said.
“If Samsung dropped the top mobile sponsorship for the Olympic games beyond 2020, then who would have taken that spot? It would only have been China, Huawei.”