NASA’s Voyager spacecraft reaches another milestone in deep space

NASA’s Voyager spacecraft reaches another milestone in deep space

NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached yet another milestone in its journey into deep space outside of our solar system by crossing a threshold of 150 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.

Each AU represents about 93 million miles, the approximate distance from our planet to our star, meaning Voyager 1 is now about 14 billion miles from Earth. Launched in 1977, the spacecraft’s last milestone of 100 AUs was reached in 2006, and as of August 1, 2012, it became the first human-made object to leave the inner solar system. Prior to leaving, Voyager 1 made flybys of Jupiter and Saturn.

NASA’s scientists estimate another 300 years of travel are still left before the spacecraft reaches the Oort Cloud in the outer solar system. Its sister mission, Voyager 2, is currently about 125 AUs from Earth, also traveling through interstellar space. While both missions are still sending data back to NASA’s scientists, there’s a delay of about 20 hours for Voyager 1 signals and 17 hours for Voyager 2 signals.

Voyager 1’s Golden Record. | Image: NASA/JPL
Voyager 1’s Golden Record as placed on the craft. | Image: NASA/JPL

Voyager 1 is partly famous for its cargo – the Golden Record. Designed as a message from Earth to any potential non-human space travelers, the 12-inch disk contains sounds and images meant to portray our planet and its diverse inhabitants. Included contents are greetings in 55 languages, a variety of photographs, and music ranging from classical to blues. Renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan chaired the committee which selected the contents of the record.

Another NASA milestone was made this week with the successful launch of its 5th rover headed for Mars. Named Perseverance, this traveler’s mission will focus on astrobiology and search for signs of ancient microbial life. Unlike the Voyager twins, the rover will only spend about seven months in space before reaching its final destination. However, part of its mission includes testing technologies that will be used for further exploration of planets the interstellar travelers passed during their mission.

NASA’s Voyager spacecraft reaches another milestone in deep space

Land Rover Defender 90 US launch delayed until 2021

Land Rover Defender 90 US launch delayed until 2021

The 2020 Land Rover Defender has finally arrived in the U.S. to take American enthusiasts’ money. But the full lineup isn’t here yet.

The four-door 2020 Land Rover Defender 110 hit U.S. dealerships in June. The two-door Defender 90 will not be in U.S. dealers this fall as originally planned.

On Friday, Land Rover spokesman Joe Stauble confirmed to Motor Authority that the Defender 90 will now arrive in the U.S. in the spring of 2021 as a 2021 model.

“Due to the extremely positive reaction of customers and media to the New Defender, customer demand has been very strong. Overlaying the COVID-19 implications to build timing, we are now focusing on delivering Defender 110 customer orders. U.S. customers can work with their retailers to place orders for the 90 and anticipate an start of sale in the US of early 2021,” Stauble said.

The coronavirus-related delay was first spotted by Motor1 earlier on Friday.

2022 Land Rover Defender V-8 test mule spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2022 Land Rover Defender V-8 test mule spy shots – Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Land Rover’s already cooking up a hotter variant of the Defender. A V-8-powered 2022 Defender was spied turning laps at the Nürburgrnig on Thursday. The prototype was powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s supercharged 5.0-liter V-8, but production of that engine is set to wind down later this year. It’s probable the prototype was a chassis mule and BMW’s 4.4-liter twin-turbo V-8 will find its way under the Defender’s hood.

Land Rover currently offers the Defender with either a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 296 horsepower or a 3.0-liter turbo-6 with a mild-hybrid setup rated at 365 hp. The V-8 engine option is expected to up output to more than 500 hp.

Customers who aren’t interested in the V-8 can buy a Defender 110 today or place an order for the 90 with deliveries to set to begin in early 2021.

2021 Audi Q5

A new face and improved tech are just the start for the 2021 Audi Q5. As the automaker’s ‘tweener crossover between the smaller (but still big) Q3 and bigger (and even bigger) three-row Q7, the Q5 is a segue to electrification-curious shoppers, and even some performance-leaning shoppers.

Blunter: The 2021 Q5 needs to do a lot. It’s a 6.4 before safety is factored in, so this score may rise. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The news this year is an update to its front and rear bumpers, along with a 10.1-inch touchscreen with faster hardware behind it on all models. It’s still available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels for $44,295 to start and can reach past $63,000. The Q5 is available with a turbo-4 engine that serves as the base (and it’s our pick for relative value and comfort), or as a plug-in hybrid with a turbo-4, electric motors, and a lithium-ion battery pack. The top is still a 349-horsepower turbo-6 SQ5 that falls short of gaudy performance numbers posted by other competitors but keeps pace for comfort and usable performance. All Q5s are equipped with all-wheel drive, and the Q5 (plug-in hybrid or not) uses a 7-speed automatic transmission while the SQ5 adds one more forward cog for good measure.

Review continues below

The reworked front bumper will be noticeable to current Q5 owners, but not many more people. The grille is smaller and lower in the nose, but still handsome.

Under the hood of most Q5s, its base turbo-4 gets a little more pep to 261 hp, up from 248 hp last year. It’s our pick for affordability and overall comfort.

That’s because the optional plug-in hybrid pairs a turbo-4 with a 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery that can power the Q5 for about 25 miles on electricity alone, but it also costs around $8,000 more. For that much, Audi delivers 362 hp—more than the performance-leaning SQ5—but it fizzles a little there. The batteries are too heavy and the turbo-4 isn’t as refined as we like.

For speed, the SQ5 churns 349 hp and 4.7-second 0-60 times. It’s fun to drive and that’s high praise for a crossover.

Why? The Q5 still seats up to five, with room in the back for about 27 cubic feet of gear. Every Q5 gets soft leather upholstery and a high-quality finish.

The 2021 Q5 hasn’t yet been crash-tested, but every crossover gets automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. On Premium Plus and higher models, active lane control and adaptive cruise control come standard.

That complements a 10.1-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, at least 18-inch wheels (up to 21-inchers are on the menu) and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available, and we like it.

China’s Xi Jinping, the man on the other side of the trade table

President Xi Jinping is widely seen as China’s most powerful leader since Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.

That has also made him one of the most influential people in the global auto industry — a man whose policies roil the world’s biggest market and whose vision of transportation shapes what automakers and suppliers from Detroit to Stuttgart are planning in order to compete in China.

He also is President Donald Trump’s No. 1 adversary in the U.S.-China trade war, in which the U.S. seeks to bring down its trade imbalance with Xi’s nation.

But Xi, 67, has a freer hand in China than his American counterparts do in Washington.

Xi is head of state, head of the Chinese Communist Party and head of the military, and he chairs a powerful planning team known as the Central Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs.

That group sets the direction for China’s economy and its specific key industries, such as automotive.

China already was booming as a car market when Xi became president in 2013. But in recent years, the government concluded that China’s economy was growing at a huge cost to the environment.

To correct that, Xi pledged to shift the direction of the economy from “quantitative” growth to “high-quality” growth, putting greater value on technology and sustainability.

Under Xi’s direction, that prompted a mandate for electrified vehicles and reduced vehicle emissions.

Xi has proclaimed that electric vehicles and other new-energy vehicles are essential to transforming China into a country with strong automotive technologies.

He also declared an imperative to eradicate poverty and make national financial reforms — both of which point to job growth and local manufacturing.

In the summer of 2020, it is far from clear who will be in the White House next year to negotiate with China. But in 2018, China amended its constitution to give Xi something no American president has: It eliminated presidential term limits.