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World’s Largest Aircraft Takes Flight for the First Time

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A massive, six-engined mega jet with a wingspan greater than the length of an American football field and known as the world’s largest all-composite aircraft completed its first flight Saturday.

The behemoth Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 6:58 a.m. PDT. Achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour, the plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet.

For its first test flight, Stratolaunch flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert in Calif. (Photo Credit: Stratolaunch)

As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

“We finally did it,” said Stratolaunch Systems CEO Jean Floyd at a news conference from the hangar at Mojave Air & Space Port. “It was an emotional moment to watch this bird take flight.”

Stratolaunch Systems was founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites into space.

“The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable, and routine,” according to a press release.

The reinforced center wing of the aircraft can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.

The test flight on Saturday enabled the Stratolaunch test team to conduct standard aircraft testing exercises. The aircraft performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. It also conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

The aircraft is so big, it has two cockpits — one in each of its two fuselages — although only one is used to fly the plane. (Photo Credit: Stratolaunch)

According to test pilot Evan Thomas, a former F-16 Air Force fighter pilot, the plane flew as predicted for the most part.

“It was overall fantastic,” Thomas said. “I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight, especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness.”

The aircraft’s wingspan measures 385 feet — wider than any airplane on the planet. It’s powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s, and is designed to take off at a maximum weight of 1.3 million pounds (589,676 kilograms).

Its twin fuselages are 238 feet long, and the aircraft is so big, it has two cockpits — one in each fuselage — although only one is used to fly the plane.

“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems,” said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd. (Photo Credit: Stratolaunch)

The satellites that the Stratolaunch might launch in low Earth orbit in the future can provide communications and broadband internet connectivity to remote areas on the ground, according to CNN.

The market for commercial satellite launch services is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $7 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit is also close to launching its own LauncherOne rocket into space for its maiden flight next year. LauncherOne is designed to carry and launch small satellites of up to 1,100 pounds into orbit. But unlike most rockets which launch from a stationary pad, LauncherOne will be released from beneath an airplane.

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The Best Food Apps for a Festive 4/20

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Let’s not beat around the kush. Recreational marijuana is legal in parts of the United States, not to mention the entire world. So we’re going to stop speaking in euphemisms. This April 20th, as is tradition, a lot of folks are going to get high. They’re going to use apps to find ways to get high. They’re going to read websites about getting high. They’re going to get high for medicinal reasons. And they’re going to explore new technology for getting high and knowing how high you are. Heck, even dogs are getting high.

But after you put dank nugs in your body, you’re going to want to stuff some food in there, too. And thanks to the munchies magic of the internet, you don’t have to go outside and risk exposing your stoned corpse to the judgmental world just to grab a burrito. Here are the best food apps for your 4/20 holiday season.

Postmates

Even if your favorite restaurant doesn’t technically offer delivery, with Postmates, you can hire somebody to go pick that food up and bring it to you. It’s an idea so great; it was probably conceived while high.

Download for iOS or Android

Seamless/GrubHub

Stoned or not, Seamless (or Grubhub for you non-New York folks) is a great service for getting great food in your area delivered to you.

Download for iOS or Android

Xbox Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut

I’m at the Pizza Hut. I’m at the Taco Bell. Well, I’m only at the Pizza Hut with this app, but you get the joke.

Download for iOS or Android

UberEats

Uber may be a gross, sexist, wholly unethical company, but they have a lot of cars on the road. And those cars can bring food to you. Decisions decisions.

Download for iOS or Android

Taco Bell

There’s no shame in embodying a stoner stereotype. Use your phone to Think Outside the Bun ™ and maybe get married while you’re at it.

Download for iOS or Android

Chick-fil-a

Not only is Chick-fil-a delicious but ordering it on 4/20 will probably anger the religious fundamentalist management that otherwise taints enjoyment for the food. Serves them right for being closed on Sunday!

Download for iOS or Android

Burger King

Burger King isn’t above offering sex toys, so if it were legal to sell joints like french fries they’d probably do it. The King himself looks pretty blazed already.

Download for iOS or Android

Chipotle

Now that Chipotle has apparently stopped poisoning people, you can stop being paranoid. After you’re done with your burrito, maybe enjoy a little Farmed and Dangerous, the Reefer Madness of factory farming.

Download for iOS or Android

McDonald’s

Can you imagine a better 4/20 companion than Mac Tonight? Of course, you can’t.

Download for iOS or Android

Haagen-Dasz

Soothe your burned throat with some cool, soft, delicious ice cream. This app can point you toward the nearest scoop.

Download for iOS or Android

Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin Donuts is no Donkin Donuts, but if you pretend real hard, it’s close enough. This app will help.

Download for iOS or Android

White Castle

Channel your inner Harold and/or Kumar with the White Castle app. Maybe you’ll be an Associate Director of White House Public Engagement one day.

Download for iOS or Android

KFC Bluetooth Tray Typer

KFC China

You may not be able to understand this app (or maybe you will once your 4/20 goes on long enough) but who doesn’t love staring at pictures of the Colonel’s fried chicken?

Download for iOS or Android

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Researchers Rediscover ‘Extinct’ Hawaiian Plant With Drone Technology

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Hibiscadelphus woodii, a plant native to Hawaii, was previously thought to be extinct. Now, researchers from the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) on Kauai, Hawaii, have rediscovered the shrub with the help of a drone.

The plant was rediscovered in a small colony of three individuals budding on a vertical cliff face in a remote area of Kauai’s Kalalau Valley, said an NTBG press release. This cliff area, which is known as a biodiversity hotspot in Hawaii, is mostly inaccessible to humans and other types of animals, such as goats. The rediscovery of Hibiscadelphus woodii, which is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as an extinct relative of the hibiscus, demonstrates how drones can help with plant conservation efforts on the Hawaiian Islands.

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In 1991, NTBG botanists discovered Hibiscadelphus woodii in Kauai’s Kalalau Valley. The new species was officially named and published four years later, and at the time, this discovery increased the number of Hibiscadelphus plants to seven species. Hibiscadelphus woodii was last seen alive in 2009, leading scientists to believe that the plant was extinct.

NTBG said Hibiscadelphus woodii grows as a small tree or shrub and produces vibrant yellow flowers that turn a purple-maroon shade as they mature. The plant’s nectar-rich flowers might be pollinated by native honeycreeper birds, like the amakihi. Efforts to breed Hibiscadelphus woodii via grafting, tip cuttings, and cross pollination have failed and Hibiscadelphus woodii also faces threats from rocks slides and other invasive plants.

With the drone, NTBG was able to explore the area where the Hibiscadelphus woodii was growing, which could be difficult to access by walking or driving. Thanks to drone technology, NTBG can further study Kauai’s Kalalau Valley without disturbing its rich biodiversity and greenery.

“Drones are unlocking a treasure trove of unexplored cliff habitat, and while this may be the first discovery of its kind, I am sure it won’t be the last,” Ben Nyberg, GIS Coordinator and drone specialist for NTBG, said in the press release.

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Watch a Fleet of SpotMini Robo Dogs Haul a Box Truck

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Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the impending robot revolution.

Actually, it’s the sound of 10 SpotMini robo dogs hauling a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot.

Like I said: impending uprising.

Small and nimble, the 2.75-foot-tall, four-legged machine inherited the mobility of big brother Spot—with the added ability to pick up and handle objects using a claw-like arm and perception sensors.

Considered Boston Dynamics’ “quietest robot” yet, SpotMini can carry a 30-pound payload while operating for up to 90 minutes on a single charge.

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“These Spot robots are coming off the production line now,” the Massachusetts-based engineering firm said in a video caption, promising availability “for a range of applications.”

Company co-founder Marc Raibert last year tipped potential clients in four categories: construction, delivery, security, and home assistance. (And, now, roadside service.)

There is no word yet on pricing.

Anyone else get a sort of sinking feeling watching the robo dogs wake up and snap into position like a headless army?

Something about their asynchronous marching and stiff frames remind me equally of Santa’s reindeer and mechanized assassins.

Yet, when Boston Dynamics last year released a minute-long clip of its droid dog shimmying along to “Uptown Funk,” my heart melted; SpotMini side-steps, twerks, and does the best automated Running Man YouTube has ever seen.

That’s nothing, though, compared with dynamic humanoid Atlas.

Standing nearly five feet tall and weighing 165 lbs, the robot is an athlete and gymnast: In 2017, it landed a perfect backflip—completely unaided; last year, Boston Dynamics highlighted the droid’s ability to job comfortably over uneven natural terrain, jump gracefully over a log, and leap up steps without breaking its stride.

I can’t even jump onto the 18-inch plyo box at the gym.

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