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Leading the News
Virgin Galactic Reveals Spaceplane Cabin
Reuters (7/28, Roulette) reports that on Tuesday, Virgin Galactic revealed the cabin of its VSS Unity spaceplane. For “$250,000 a ticket, passengers who have signed up for the suborbital flight aboard the air-launched plane VSS Unity will strap into six tailored, teal-colored seats and peer out of the cabin’s 12 circular windows as they ascend some 60 miles (97 km) above Earth.” Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides said, “We have amazing seats that will be tailored to each person, and that move during the flight to maximize people’s comfort.” Whitesides also said that passengers will be able to unbuckle themselves and experience zero-gravity conditions in the cabin. The company “has 600 customers signed up to fly and more than 400 more who have expressed interest, Whitesides said.”
Space News (7/28, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports that in an online event, Virgin Galactic “highlighted the various aspects of the design of the cabin interior, from seats to cameras, intended to maximize the experience of customers.” The “cabin windows are surrounded by handholds the company calls ‘halos’ to make it easier for customers to position themselves.” The “back of the cabin has a large tinted mirror so that customers can see themselves as if ‘illuminated by the natural brightness of the Earth,’ according to a company fact sheet.” The “unveiling of the cabin is one of the last major milestones in the development of SpaceShipTwo.” The “vehicle has performed two glide flights” since February, “most recently” on June 25. Whitesides “said the company is preparing for the first powered test flight of the vehicle from” Spaceport America, but he “did not give a date.”
Back-To-College Plans Rapidly Changing As College Guidelines Change
The Wall Street Journal (7/28, Belkin, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports that the coronavirus pandemic has smartest minds stumped at universities across the United States, with the fall semester just a few short weeks away. Currently, there is not a consensus on what college campuses must do to reopen. The Journal reports that many institutions have plans but their guidelines are rapidly changing as cases of the virus increase, leaving many families and students in limbo.
Baker Hughes Donates Energy Innovation Center To Oklahoma State University
The Oklahoman (7/28) reports Baker Hughes announced Monday it is donating its Energy Innovation Center in Oklahoma City to Oklahoma State University, which will take over its management and operations. A release announcing the donation “stated the switchover is part of a collaboration to bring both industry and academic experts under one roof and provide OSU students ‘experiential’ learning opportunities.” OSU plans to host classes in the center for its Master of Petroleum Engineering program, “providing those candidates with hands-on experience in state-of-the-art lab facilities.” Industry researchers and students will also “advance key technologies in the areas of aerospace, mechanical, electrical,” and chemical engineering. OSU and Baker Hughes officials will also “work together to develop diversity and inclusion programs that aim to build a deeper pipeline of STEM talent geared to provide more learning opportunities for students and community members.” OSU President Burns Hargis said in the release: “This collaboration … will enable OSU to graduate engineers with meaningful experience on significant real-world projects.”
Colleges Preparing For Reopening Attempt To Communicate With Students About COVID-19
Inside Higher Ed (7/28, McKenzie) reports that “wearing face masks and practicing social distancing are not what many students had in mind when they pictured their college experience,” yet for students returning to campus this fall, “these behaviors must be normalized if institutions stand a chance of slowing the spread of COVID-19.” Communicating “the importance of COVID-19 safety measures to students is a huge challenge, said Erin Hennessy, vice president of TVP Communications.” Institutions that are planning “to reopen their campuses this fall must walk a ‘very fine line’ between instilling confidence in students and their families that it is safe to return and warning them that bad things could happen if they do, said Hennessy.” Some institutions, “such as the University of South Carolina, are asking students to pledge...that they will do what they can to protect themselves and the people around them.” Others are “warning students they may be punished if they are caught breaking the rules,” while some are “trying to educate students on the science behind the virus.”
Colorado Colleges To Hold Tuition Flat
Chalkbeat Colorado (7/28, Gonzales) reports that Colorado’s colleges and universities have “decided to forgo tuition increases, a move that might have brought in more money this fall for cash-strapped schools.” That is “unlike during the Great Recession, when declining state support in Colorado’s colleges and universities prompted schools to greatly increase tuition for students, said Tony Frank, Colorado State University chancellor.” Instead, “where state support has again dipped during the crisis brought on by the coronavirus, schools have decided instead to institute furloughs, cuts, and layoffs.” Colorado higher education leaders “say the decision to hold tuition flat is necessary, with the crisis laying bare the squeeze that school leaders have found themselves in since the last economic downturn.” School leaders “see raising already high tuition as a very last resort, even as state support has dipped and the costs to respond to the pandemic rise.”
College Enrollments Could Suffer As Students Look To Gap-Year Programs
The Chronicle of Higher Education (7/28, Johnson) reports that “survey after survey has shown that 2020’s prospective college students are rethinking their plans,” and while it’s “too early to tell how many students colleges will lose, skyrocketing interest in gap-year programs could signal what’s to come.” According to Gap Year Association executive director Ethan Knight, the Gap Year Association has seen “unique page views on its website double and a 380-percent jump in searches of its program directory compared to July of last year.” Some gap-year programs “report filling their cohorts a month early and opening more slots to meet the demand” and gap-year consultants “predict those numbers will grow as colleges solidify their plans for the fall.” This is the first year “a correlation between low enrollment numbers at colleges and high interest in gap years could be drawn, Knight said – if deferrals match these early indicators.”
Howard University Receives $1.7B Donation From Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott
The Washington Post (7/28, Lumpkin) reports that author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott “on Tuesday announced $1.7 billion in donations, including $40 million to Howard University – the largest gift from a single donor in the school’s 153-year history.” Scott “pledged last year to donate the majority of her wealth and said in a Medium post Tuesday that she has given to causes including racial, LGBTQ and gender equity.” The eight-figure gift to Howard “will allow the historically black university to graduate students on time, complete infrastructure projects, retain faculty and develop programs for innovation and entrepreneurship, said Wayne A.I. Frederick, the university’s president.” Scott’s former husband, the Post notes, is Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
DC Quarantine Order Could Affect College Reopenings
The Washington Post (7/28, Lumpkin) reports that “with about a month left before the fall semester, universities in” Washington, DC are “reviewing an order from the mayor’s office that could change the way schools reopen their campuses.” DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser “announced travelers coming from 27 coronavirus hotspots, including Florida, Ohio, Georgia and California, will need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the District.” The order “applies to students, who will settle into residence halls and move into off-campus apartments, when campuses reopen for in-person and online classes in late August.”
Regional Public Colleges Begin Preparing For On-Campus Learning
Inside Higher Ed (7/28, St. Amour) reports that “when colleges began considering what to do for the fall semester, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on, decisions were relatively easy to make for some,” but not for others. Community colleges typically “don’t rely on residence hall revenue, which helped tip the financial scales toward staying online across the sector.” Selective or elite institutions “planning to open up campuses tend have the funds to test students and take other safety precautions.” However, “for regional public colleges and universities, which serve roughly 40 percent of all undergraduates, the decision to reopen or stay remote includes many moving parts.” Most of the member institutions “of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which serves regional institutions, have reported that they plan to return to in-person instruction or use a hybrid model this fall, according to Luis Maldonado, vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the association.”
Opinion: Colleges Should Not Use Standardized Testing Alone To Gauge Scientific Thinking Skills
In an op-ed for Inside Higher Ed (7/28, Sternberg), Cornell University professor Robert Sternberg writes about his findings on a series of studies on standardized testing to measure scientific thinking skills. He hypothesized that “whatever it is that college and university admissions tests are measuring, it was not central but rather peripheral to success in STEM education and later research (as well as teaching).” The results of the studies “suggested that, whatever it is that conventional standardized tests directly measure, it is not scientific thinking skills.” In particular, “the tests of scientific reasoning tended to cluster together into one factor and the tests of general academic thinking skills tended to cluster into another factor.” This is not to say “that skills measured by conventional admissions tests are irrelevant to STEM success; they just do not appear to be central to it.” He concludes that “relying on them in isolation in admissions can, in fact, be STEM malpractice.”
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Research and Development
UC San Diego Raises $1.45 Billion For Science Research
The San Diego Union-Tribune (7/28, Robbins) reports UC San Diego officials say the school “pulled in a record $1.45 billion for research during the fiscal year that ended on June 30. That’s $100 million higher than a year ago and represents the 10th consecutive year that UCSD has surpassed the $1 billion mark.” Nearly 60% of the funding “went for health and medicine, with a heavy focus on defeating the coronavirus.” The university is also funding research on fighting wildfires, simulating earthquakes to aid in building design, locating new planets in deep space, and identifying toxic algae blooms in coastal California waters.
Texas Tech Engineering Student Designs More Usable Clothes Hanger
Fast Company (7/28) reports Ayodele Aigbe, an engineering student at Texas Tech University, launched a startup called Hangio that sells a more usable clothes hanger. Her design eschews hard plastic, wood, or metal for “a moldable foam that can be configured in six ways to adapt to each garment.” For example, “you can bend them to adapt to the shoulders of your coat or blazer.”
Gulfstream G700 Reaches Mach .99, 54,000 Feet In Flight Tests
Aviation International News (7/28, Epstein) reports that Gulfstream “is reporting progress in the testing program for its new flagship G700, completing more than 100 flights to date.” The company “also has conducted flutter testing and expanded the flight envelope at both low and high speeds.” The G700 aircraft, which is powered by two Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines, “has an intended maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925 and a maximum cruising altitude of 51,000 feet, but as part of the test regime, the aircraft exceeded both, reaching Mach 0.99 and an altitude of 54,000 feet.”
Opinion: Blacks, Latinos, Women Face Obstacles In STEM Careers
American Enterprise Institute research fellows Brent Orrell and Daniel Cox write in an opinion piece for USA Today (7/28, Orrell, Cox) that “troubling research has emerged in recent years about the career longevity of students graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).” According to an AEI survey in summer 2019 of more than 1,300 individuals with STEM degrees, “experience in STEM fields varies considerably by gender, race and education,” as “women, minorities and those with associate degrees have found the field less than welcoming.” STEM has also “traditionally been dominated by younger white men – per our recent survey, 59 percent of the field is younger than 50, 70 percent are white and 65 percent are male.” STEM careers “also are seen to be less welcoming for racial minorities, including African-Americans and Latinos,” as 51% of those “from nonwhite, non AAPI/Hawaiian backgrounds say African Americans face more obstacles and 46 percent say the same about Latinos.” Only 26% of white respondents “believed African Americans face obstacles in STEM occupations, and 25 percent of white respondents said the same about Latinos. Disadvantage, in STEM fields as in the rest of life, is often in the eye of the beholder.”
Under Threat From Tesla, Hyundai Moves To Scale Up Its Own EV Manufacturing
Reuters (7/27, Jin, Lee) reports Hyundai Motor Co. is “going on the offensive” against Tesla through the development of two new electric vehicle (EV) production lines in collaboration with South Korean battery suppliers. The move indicates the automaker “is moving aggressively to expand its electric capacity, days after” Hyundai Motor Group head Euisun Chung “announced on July 14 that Hyundai Motor Group aimed to sell 1 million battery EVs a year and grab a global market share of over 10% by 2025.” A “senior Hyundai insider...said the company had not been concerned about Tesla when the Silicon Valley company was producing high-end cars.” However, the Korean company “became more worried when Tesla brought out a cheaper Model 3 in 2017, according to the insider who described it as a ‘strategic victory.’”
Raytheon Reports Second-Quarter Earnings; Says It Has Cut 8,000 Commercial Aviation Jobs
Bloomberg (7/28, Beene) reports that Raytheon Technologies Corp. has cut “roughly 8,000 jobs in its commercial aviation businesses as the maker of jet engines and airliner systems contends with the travel collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” The coronavirus’ “impact on plane trips ‘has proven to be a lot worse’ than what the company originally projected just a few months ago and traffic probably won’t return to 2019 levels until 2023, Raytheon Chief Executive Officer Greg Hayes said Tuesday on a call with analysts.”
Reuters (7/28) reports that on Tuesday, Raytheon Technologies “topped analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit and sales, boosted by strength in its defense business, which makes parts for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets.” Raytheon Technologies “said it achieved a record backlog of $73.1 billion from its defense business in the second quarter, pointing to strong demand from the U.S. government and international customers.” The company “said it continues to see full-year free cash flow of $2 billion, with its commercial aerospace business to be around break-even and [its] defense business generating about $3.5 billion in cash by the end of the year.” The AP (7/28) reports that Raytheon Technologies “posted revenue of $14.06 billion” for the second quarter.
NASA Announces Astronauts For SpaceX Crew-2 Mission In Spring 2021
SPACE (7/28, Gohd) reports that NASA “and its international partners have officially assigned the astronauts to fly on SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission in spring of 2021, the U.S. space agency announced” Tuesday. The astronauts in Crew-2 include: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, “who will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively,” Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Hoshide and Pesquet will both serve as specialists for the mission. Crew-2 “will be SpaceX’s second operational Crew Dragon flight to the International Space Station, following the upcoming Crew-1 [astronaut] mission, which is slated to launch in September.”
CNN Business (7/28, Wattles) reports that with four astronauts on the Crew-2 mission, the ISS will be staffed with seven people during the spring of 2021. NASA said Tuesday that this will allow the agency “to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space.” NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, who are currently stationed at the ISS, “are expected to return home...as soon as this weekend, and their safe return could grant the Crew Dragon vehicle official certification as a human-worthy spacecraft.” That certification will allow the launch of the Crew-1 mission in September.
Engineering and Public Policy
GOP Senators Blast $1 Trillion Spending Bill Backed By Trump And McConnell
According to the AP (7/28, Mascaro), “The differences over the next coronavirus aid package are vast: Democrats propose $3 trillion in relief and Republicans have a $1 trillion counteroffer. At stake are millions of Americans’ jobless benefits, school reopenings and eviction protections.” The AP adds that it is “apparent” that Democrats have the “leverage,” and says Republicans are “so deeply divided over the prospect of big government spending it’s leaving Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with a weakened hand.” The AP goes on to report that “key to the debate is the $600 weekly unemployment benefit bump that is expiring for millions of jobless Americans.” The AP says Republicans “want to slash it to $200 a week as an incentive to push people back to work.”
Politico (7/28, Desiderio, Levine, Caygle) reports that on Tuesday, some Senate Republicans “complained...about key provisions in the GOP-authored coronavirus relief bill one day after its unveiling, underscoring the uphill battle for...McConnell.” According to Politico, “GOP senators rattled off several concerns...in public remarks and during a private lunch with senior Trump administration officials on Tuesday.” Politico reports “their gripes with the bill ran the gamut, from frustrations at the price tag to the process by which the bill was written and released.”
Reuters (7/28, Morgan, Zengerle) reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) “estimated that half the party’s members in the Senate would oppose the plan.” Reuters goes on to report that “many Republicans insist the unemployment payout encourages Americans to stay home rather than go back to work by paying them more than their previous wages.”
CNBC (7/28, Pramuk) reports that Republicans “will not try to approve their proposal in the Senate,” and “both the GOP-controlled Senate and Democratic-held House appear intent on waiting to vote until the parties draft a plan that can get through both chambers and become law.” Senate Minority Leader Schumer said on Tuesday, “Unfortunately, we’re pretty far apart right now, although I’m optimistic we could have a good solution at the end.” CNBC reports that when “asked if the sides could reach a deal before the end of next week, [Schumer] said: ‘I hope so, and that’s what we’re working for. We’ll sit down. We’re going to sit down again today. We’ll sit down 24/7.’”
The New York Times (7/28, Cochrane) reports that Speaker Pelosi “has said that she plans to fight for even more funding, particularly for schools, in negotiations with Republicans,” but McConnell “has warned against letting the price tag rise beyond $1 trillion, particularly as many Republicans question the merits of approving any additional aid.” The Times adds, “While administration officials have floated the prospect of speeding through a short-term, narrow measure to address the looming expiration of unemployment benefits, liability protections and funding for schools, Democrats have panned that suggestion in favor of a comprehensive package.”
Researchers Say Students With Spatial Talents May Struggle In School, But Succeed In STEM Fields
In a piece for The Conversation (7/28, Wai), University of Alabama education professor Joni Lakin and University of Arkansas education professor Jonathan Wai say their research estimates “between 2 million and 3 million K-12 U.S. students may have spatial talents and are not be getting the specialized support they need to flourish between kindergarten and high school.” They found these students “were more likely to dislike school,” and more likely to “be suspended from school or get in trouble with the law.” Their findings further suggest “that students whose strengths in spatial reasoning could make them especially adept in science, technology, engineering and math as well as many hands-on vocational fields and the visual arts are missing out on making the most of their potential.”
Also in the News
US Space & Rocket Center Looking To Raise $1.5 Million As Part Of The “Save Space Camp” Campaign
SPACE (7/28) reports that the US Space & Rocket Center, “which has been home to Space Camp since 1982, announced on Tuesday that both the museum and the educational astronaut training experience are at risk of permanently closing due to economic shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.” Officials at the center said in a statement, “The ‘Save Space Camp’ campaign must raise a minimum of $1.5 million to keep the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum open past October and to reopen Space Camp in April 2021.” Facing a “loss of $28 million, or about 66% of its annual revenue, the rocket center was forced to lay off one third of its full-time employees and was unable to employ an additional 700 part-time employees who typically work in all areas of Space Camp and the museum. The majority of the remaining full-time employees have been furloughed since April.”
Tuesday's Lead Stories
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