Musk to launch China tunneling company unit this month

Elon Musk plans to bring his tunneling unit for the famed ‘Hyperloop’ system to China. (Reuters)
Updated 03 August 2019

Musk to launch China tunneling company unit this month

  • Elon Musk formed the Boring Company to build underground transport tunnels for hyperloop transportation systems

BENGALURU: Elon Musk will soon launch a China unit for his underground tunneling enterprise, The Boring Company, the billionaire entrepreneur said on Twitter.

One of Musk’s followers tweeted that Tesla Inc’s chief executive officer would attend the World Artificial Intelligence Conference of 2019 in Shanghai later this month.

Musk replied on the social media platform that he “will also be launching The Boring Company China on this trip.”

Musk started the Boring Company to build underground transport tunnels for hyperloop transportation systems, which he said would be far faster than current high-speed trains and use electromagnetic propulsion. 

It has also emerged that Musk plans to expand his SpaceX facilities in Florida to make room for the space company’s forthcoming super heavy-lift launch vehicle dubbed Starship, according to a draft of the plans seen by Reuters on Friday.

Starship, a 384-foot (117-meter) reusable two-stage rocket taller than the Statue of Liberty, is a central piece of Musk’s interplanetary space travel ambitions as well as US space agency NASA’s goal to send humans to the moon again by 2024.

The Starship rocket is expected to launch up to 24 times a year from SpaceX’s current flagship launchpad 39A, the draft of the company’s environmental assessment said. SpaceX did not specify in the report when it would reach that cadence, but Musk said in September 2018 he wanted to be conducting orbital flights with Starship in two to three years.

SpaceX’s launchpad 39A would support NASA’s future moon missions from the same Kennedy Space Center site used for the Apollo lunar missions a half century ago.

“They’re moving very fast,” said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government relations at Space Florida, the state’s commercial space development agency. “This is actually getting closer to what Elon got into this business for to begin with. This is fundamental infrastructure to get to Mars, the early stages of it.”


Coronavirus outbreak places cruise ships in the dock

Updated 21 min ago

Coronavirus outbreak places cruise ships in the dock

  • Industry defenders deny liners are overcrowded and say that given the high numbers of passengers illnesses are rare

HONG KONG: Deadly viruses, chickenpox outbreaks and mass cases of the runs: Sometimes luxury cruise ship holidays are not the trips of a lifetime elderly passengers had hoped for.

Cruise-goers have fallen sick en masse in the past, their predicament on the high seas coming into sharp focus because the holidays can cost thousands of dollars and are often marketed as trips of a lifetime.

“Cruise ships are very prone to outbreaks of common cold and the vomiting virus,” said John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London.

“Invariably the ships are overcrowded and with so many passengers, hygiene levels can slip.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) logged eight outbreaks aboard cruise ships last year of the highly contagious norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea — hardly the stuff of a dream holiday.

Measles, E. coli, chickenpox and salmonella poisoning have all broken out on cruises in recent years.

“Unfortunately, the more elderly demographic found on a typical liner are more likely to be susceptible to anything which might present a serious health challenge,” cautioned Dr. Simon Clarke, an associate professor at the University of Reading, in Britain.

With global concerns mounting about the threat of the new coronavirus, an elderly Japanese man and woman died on Thursday having been on the virus-stricken Diamond Princess.

The vessel, moored in Yokohama, was by far the biggest coronavirus cluster outside Wuhan, in China. Some have pointed the finger at Japan’s authorities for how they handled the 14-day quarantine of hundreds of passengers.

For now, US authorities have recommended that travelers “reconsider” cruises to or in Asia, citing the risk of coronavirus-linked travel restrictions and quarantines.

Stewart Chiron, a leading industry expert in the US, said cruise ships are nothing like the hotbed of viruses that they are painted out to be and cruise lines take “extensive precautions to keep ships clean.”

“When viruses are introduced, cruise lines have various protocols and procedures to clean ships and prevent further spreading of the virus,” he added.

He said the image of thousands of people crammed together on board — ripe conditions for the spread of illness — is wide of the mark. “Cruise ships are much larger than most people realize. There’s plenty of space for passengers to spread out in to have enjoyable, healthy experiences.” 

He cited CDC figures to show that of the more than 31 million people who holidayed on cruise ships last year, there were 1,038 cases of norovirus, or 0.003 percent.

Chiron and other experts say that the cruise industry has successfully shrugged off past negative headlines and will bounce back once the coronavirus  outbreak passes.

Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade organization, says 17.8 million people took an ocean cruise in 2009, compared with last year’s 31 million, demonstrating its growing popularity.

About half of all passengers are from North America and analysts say they are unlikely to be perturbed by events on vessels in Asia.

“As with previous crises, there may be new-booking slowdowns as people get caught up in news cycles,” said Chiron. “Once this period concludes, there will be a surge of bookings and booking patterns will return to normal.”

Tara C. Smith, professor of epidemiology at Kent State University in Ohio, is not so convinced.

“Granted, I could become ill via any type of travel or even via a staycation with my kindergartener,” said Smith, who trained in microbiology and infectious diseases. “But cruise ships take those risks of background infection and amplify them due to the constant shared quarters of travelers on board.”

Smith conceded that coronavirus was an “extreme example” and said that most cruise passengers will experience no problems at all.

“But personally, I’d rather not take the risk,” she said.

“One never knows what infections might enter on a cruise ship and it’s a location where you’re trapped with all your fellow passengers. It just doesn’t sound like a fun vacation to me.”