This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:
It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version: 188.8.131.523027, dated January 25, promoted February 3 – formerly a Maintenance RC viewer download page, release notes – no change.
While not intended as a historical representation of London’s notorious Whitechapel district, the installation in part takes its lead from London’s East End. Three-quarters of the region is occupied by cobbled streets of close-packed houses and shops overshadowed by hulking warehouses. In contrast, the remaining quarter is given to more opens spaces, complete with a grand ballroom which has something of a faint echo of the old Royal London Hospital.
“We had our grand opening on March 4th,” TerpsiCorp’s Artistic Director, Cassie Parker (nanki Hendes) said, as Caitlyn and I explored the installation. “It’s all just beginning to evolve.” Over the coming four months that evolution will see the region used for a variety of activities and performances.
From the landing point, visitors can walk past the great ballroom along a wide, almost boulevard-like cobbled road, or wander through a park and over a bridge. Whichever route is taken will bring them to the streets of Whitechapel which – if I may make so bold – are best seen under twilight or night-time conditions, which enhances the atmosphere, bringing forth the street-hugging mist, the glow of the gas lamps and the inviting warmth of lit windows.
Behind many of these windows sit gallery spaces occupied by artists who have been extended an invitation to display at Whitechapel Victorian London. Some of the names might be known to lovers of art in SL, others perhaps not. All should be browsed for the rich variety of art they offer.
Nor are the shops the only galleries; the is an outdoor 3D art area and the brooding warehouses also provide space for artists. Simply haul back their heavy metal doors (if they are not already open), and step inside. Daylight can be the best for viewing the art, obviously, but several of the artists have made considered use of lighting effects, so experimenting with windlight in some of the gallery spaces is suggested.
Voice events are also represented through the Whitechapel Storytellers shop in the north-east corner of the region, which has an events calendar just outside. For other news on activities and events within the region, please refer to the TerpsiCorp ARTWerks LEA Facebook page.
Whitechapel Victorian London will remain open through until the end of June, 2017. Whether you are interested in art or exploring new environments in Second Life, I recommend a visit, and in keeping an eye on the Facebook page for news of events.
While most private space tourism companies are busily going about various routes to offer sub-orbital flights to those who can afford them, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has stepped into the arena – and, as might be expected, made the bold announcement it will go one better: fly paying passengers around the Moon and back. And they plan to do it in 2018.
The announcement was made by Musk on Monday, February 27th during a press teleconference. If the flight goes ahead, it will allow two fare-paying passengers the opportunity to undertake a week-long journey out to and around the Moon, before returning to Earth. The flight would use a “free return” profile which would see it skim over the surface of the Moon and continue outward beyond it, possibly as far as 480,000 Km (300,000 mi) from the Earth (the average distance of the Moon from Earth is around 384,400km / 240,000 mi), before Lunar gravity takes over and hauls the vehicle back towards the Earth, where it would splash down.
It’s not clear how much the passengers would pay to be on the flight – but the going price for a seat aboard the Dragon 2 vehicle, which would be used for the flight, will be around US $58 million a pop to get to the International Space Station, once it enters service. It’s also far from clear if SpaceX can actually deliver on the goal of launching the flight in late 2018.
In order to take place, the flight first and foremost needs a launch vehicle and a suitable space vehicle. SpaceX plan to use their mighty Falcon Heavy and – as noted – their new Dragon 2 crewed vehicle. There’s just a couple of problems with both.
The Falcon Heavy is not due to fly until some time later in 2017, and even then it will not be rated for crewed launches. For that to happen, it will have to be certified for crew use, and depending on how the initial flights go, that could take time. In terms of the Dragon 2, that is not scheduled to enter service until 2018 – and even then, its primary function is to fly crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Ferry flights to the ISS are vastly different to going out around the Moon and back. To start with, the outward flight from Earth to the ISS can be measured in just a couple of days – around a quarter of the time needed for the lunar trip. The velocity (delta vee) imparted to a spacecraft going to the ISS (28,000 km/h / 17,500 mph) is also a lot less than required to go to the Moon (40,000 km/h / 25,000 mph).
This means a returning Dragon 2 will be re-entering the Earth atmosphere a lot faster than the same craft coming back from the ISS, and will have to face much higher re-entry temperatures and a harsher deceleration regime. While the Dragon 2 can in theory do so, it is likely that significant testing on uncrewed vehicles will be required before the Federal Aviation Authority and NASA agree to any such flight taking place. On top of this, it will have to be demonstrated that the Dragon 2 can be outfitted for a deep space mission and keep a crew alive and well for around 7-8 days.
Given all this, there are widespread doubts the company can meet a 2018 deadline for such a mission – and SpaceX has tended to be ambitious with its time frames for achieve goals. They had originally slated 2013 as the year in which the Falcon Heavy would make its first flight – although in fairness, setbacks following the loss of two Falcon 9 vehicles also contributed to its launch being pushed back to 2017.
Red Dragon Delayed
As further evidence of SpaceX presenting time frames which are perhaps a little ambitious, on February 17th, the company announced its mission to land a variant of the Dragon 2 – dubbed Red Dragon – on Mars has been pushed back from 218 to 2020.
The aim of the mission so to fly an uncrewed 10-tonne Dragon 2 vehicle to Mars and land it safely. In doing so, the company hopes to gain valuable data on landing exceptionally heavy vehicles on Mars using purely propulsive means. This is because crewed landing vehicles on a Mars mission are liable to have a mass of at least 40 tonnes – far too much to be safely slowed in a descent through the thin Martian atmosphere by parachutes.
The planned mission would be undertaken entirely at the company’s own expense, although it would can science instruments and experiments supplied by NASA. For Musk it, and possibly three further Red Dragon mission which could follow it in the 2020-2024 time frame, is a vital precursor to greater ambitions for Mars.
As he outlined in September 2016 (see: Musk on Mars), Musk plans to start launching crewed missions to Mars, possibly before 2030. The initial missions will doubtless be modest in size in terms of crew and goals. However, his overall stated goal is to kick-start the colonisation of Mars. To do that, he plans to use vehicles massing at least 100 tonnes and which can make a propulsive landing on Mars. Whether he can succeed in even the step to land a crew on Mars – and bring them back to Earth – remains to be seen. However, his Red Dragon mission is an important first step.