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Launch Day! NASA and SpaceX... and HBO Max, too!

🚀 Good morning! Exciting day ahead.

NASA and SpaceX’s big day

It’s finally launch day for NASA’s SpaceX Falcon 9 Dragon Crew Demo-2, at 4:33PM ET today (Image of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Capsure above, via NASA).

  • The Falcon 9 rocket, should all go well, will carry NASA astronauts Robert L. Behnke and Douglas G. Hurley to the ISS. 
  • This will be a first for private space companies, and the first launch from US soil of astronauts since July 8, 2011, the end of the space shuttle program.
  • A NASA-branded Tesla Model X will take the astronauts to the launch pad.

How to watch:

What will happen:

  • Assuming lift-off is successful at the precise time of 4:33PM, the Falcon 9 rocket will release the Crew Dragon capsule into low Earth orbit, approximately 12 minutes later.
  • The astronauts and capsule will spend 19 hours in orbit catching up to the ISS orbit, firing its engines.
  • As for the Falcon 9 rocket stage, it will attempt to land on drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ in the Atlantic shortly after launch, likely broadcast live by NASA/SpaceX.

Weather latest at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida:

  • Amid a tropical weather storm, the skies are clearing. Fast enough, though?
  • The US Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is now predicting a 40% chance of unfavorable weather conditions for the Demo-2 mission on Wednesday. Should weather or other factors cancel the launch, the next window is Saturday.
  • “On launch day, residual moisture will still be present and mid-level steering flow will be westerly, meaning afternoon convection will travel eastward toward the Space Coast. The primary concerns are flight through precipitation, as well as the anvil and cumulus cloud rules associated with the afternoon convection.” 
  • In short, watch out for storm clouds! 
  • Check the latest weather updates here (patrick.af.mil) and there’s lots of weather radar options for real-time updates, but radar.weather.gov and wunderground.com are always useful.

Worthy of your time:

  • How NASA’s Astronauts became SpaceX’s customers (NY Times).
  • A reckoning for Russia's space program” (Axios Space). In short, Russia has provided the way to space for US astronauts for the past nine years, via Soyuz rockets, at a cost of about $80 million per launch to NASA. That adds up: approximately $1 billion between 2017 and 2019. If that revenue stream no longer flows to Russia and the Roscosmos, it may be in crisis. Will the cooperation between the two space powers continue?
  • Don’t forget about Boeing too, NASA’s other commercial partner that has had some, er, struggles (Axios Space).

HBO Max, now!

HBO Max logo

HBO Max is set to launch today, and many thought it would cut over from midnight or the early AM, but at the time of writing it wasn’t yet live. Links to the expected app were hitting HBO Now instead for Apple users.

Quick recap:

  • HBO Max is the name of the new, bigger streaming service from WarnerMedia, launching with 10,000 hours of content.
  • It offers HBO proper, plus a coupe of new \Max Originals’ like Dune: The Sisterhood, Love Life, Legendary, HBO’s first reality competition show, and The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo, that gets kids ready for bed, somehow.
  • This will also be the home of series like Friends, Big Bang Theory, South Park, and Sesame Street, either at launch or in time.
  • HBO Max will see new direct content plays, including the #SnyderCut version of Justice League.

What you need to know:

  • Will you already have HBO Max? Maybe. If you subscribed to HBO or HBO Now, you get it. It’s the same if you pay for HBO on cable, and your cable provider has agreed, too. Comcast hasn’t, Charter has, for example.
  • It’s quite complicated if you have HBO through Amazon, Roku, or you had HBO Go. But today is the day for clarity as your app either switches over to HBO Max, or you need to cut and re-subscribe if you want it all, ad-free.
  • It’ll run all new subscribers $15 a month unless you’ve got a pre-existing subscription or you’d pre-ordered, with that price $12 a month for the first year.
  • But, it’s not a global launch per se. Basically, WarnerMedia has decided against disrupting its partnerships in each country that usually offers HBO and other content, and actually extended its current agreements. 
  • In Europe and the UK, that means Sky will still run HBO and HBO Max originals, depending on your location exactly.
  • You may have luck via a VPN but it’s unlikely to be as smooth as US-based service.

Round Up:

📉 Samsung Galaxy S20 shipments are way way down compared to Galaxy S10 (Android Authority).

🤔 OnePlus CEO says ‘there’s still a demand’ for cheap phones, which might mean the promised OnePlus Z is more than a once-off (Android Authority).

6 things you need to know about the latest Arm CPUs and GPUs (Android Authority).

📡 New Google app released to help boost development of Pixel 4’s radar tech (Android Authority).

💻 16-inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro with Mini-LED displays again rumored to launch in 2021, matching other expert timeline analysis (MacRumors).

🍎 MacOS Catalina update wrings longer life from your MacBook's battery (Engadget). 

🔊 I’m amazed how many people are excited for this, but I’m excited for them too: Spotify is getting rid of its 10,000 song library cap (community.spotify.com). My song library is closer to 1,000, but I tend to not listen to new music while writing this newsletter, or I can lose focus...

🐤 Twitter’s first fact-check on President Trump calls out “false claims” (Ars Technica).

📞 Facebook has launched a test app called CatchUp, which is an audio-only idea that opens people to chat, when available, in a Clubhouse/HouseParty-style. US-only for now. (TechCrunch).

📦 Sure sounds like Amazon is about to buy self-driving startup Zoox, a company it was already invested in, among others in the vehicle space (Reuters).

📦 Also, 11 local news stations ran a segment scripted and produced by Amazon. Exactly the same segment. (Vice).

📸 Fujifilm releases app to turn mirrorless cameras into webcams, basically for nicer Zoom calls (The Verge).

⚾ Pokémon Go’s AR has always been fairly underwhelming, but now it is testing blending AR monsters into the real world, on certain Android devices (Engadget).

⚰️ Revealing, illuminating feature: “Funerals are expensive, broken and exploitative. They have to change” (CNET).

👨‍✈️ "Is there any amount of turbulence which could bring a plane down?” (r/askscience). The advancement in material science and safety is to be respected.

Wednesday Weirdness

I want to toast Webby Awards’ winners for web weirdness, today. The 24th awards were announced on May 20, 2020, and winners for really great, interesting, compelling, unique ideas were dominated by uh, big brands. Which is kinda the internet these days? The likes of Spotify, HBO, SNL, Nike, and NFL TikTok were winners, although big ups for Trevor Noah, Oscar the Grouch.... and National Geographic, which won 15 awards. Truly there are so many awards it is hard to keep up.

But step aside, mainstream. The Webby Awards for weird are where we’re at. Out of 13,000 entries::

Webby Award for Weird: Brand Name Pencils by Madison Ave. Collective:

  • This is a site where you literally explore “the world’s largest collection of rare and vintage brand name pencils”. 
  • Including the famous Blackwing! 
  • Which, my girlfriend owns? And I’ve just been using randomly like a chump? 

Webby People’s Voice Award for Weird: Mental Floss

  • I’m at least 50% surprised by this. Mental Floss has been around for ages and is great and is not weird at all. It’s great! 
  • Aptly described as a cult clickbait title by TechCrunch, the weird thing is Mental Floss has been around long enough that Monica in Friends had a print version in Central Perk.
  • I didn’t realize that it “lost its way after Facebook algorithm changes,” and was acquired by Minute Media, who run quite a few big titles out of a decent sized bankroll.

Other social weird winners worthy of your attention: The Art Decider (Twitter), and Unnecessary Inventions (Instagram).

All the best,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor.

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