Alongside of the announced shift in emphasis with Sansar, there have been rumours of multiple lay-offs among the Sansar team. Ryan Schultz has led with the story, stating 30 have gone, although the rumour mill has been bouncing between 20 and 30.
Exactly how many have departed is difficult to judge, simply because LL does not comment on departures or cuts, but there are some limited ways in which we can stick a finger in the air and test things. My own knowledge of the Sansar team is limited to around 16 names, but it would appear from my rudimentary yardstick, that four of those names are no longer at the Lab.
My yardstick for this measurement is simple, but has been known to be effective in the past. All Lab staff have a Linden account in Second Life. With most of the Sansar team, that account name tends to marry up with their Sansar name (e.g. Ebbe Linden marries up to Ebbe in Sansar; Boho Linden marries up with Boho in Sansar, etc.). So by checking to see which accounts are inactive, it is possible to hazard a guess that the individual is no longer at Linden Lab.
In this respect, my findings tend to concur that of the three very specific names that have been mentioned in reference to the Sansar lay-offs do indeed appear to have departed Linden Lab. However, it also appears (up to the time of writing, at least) that a third high-profile name – that of the Lab’s Chief Product Officer, Landon MacDowell – still appears to be with the Lab, as his SL account is still active.
Granted, this is not a genuinely scientific means of making a judgement. However, it amounts to 1/4 of the names I know in the Sansar team, and if I recall correctly (I confess that in digging back through my notes, I’ve been unable to pin down the specific quote) during a meeting in either Sansar or Second Life, Ebbe Altberg indicated the Sansar team is around the 100+ mark. So, my finger-in-the-air figure would tend to concur with the idea of 20 to 30 people being laid off / transitioned.
In this latter regard, I took time to try to dig around a little further and concluded that it seems likely that at least two of the Sansar team who originally moved to that project from Second Life may have transitioned back to working on SL (in addition to Harley Linden also transitioning from Sansar to SL).
Precisely what this means for Sansar development in the future remains to be seen. I’ve already commented on the move to focus efforts on trying to make Sansar a venue for “live” virtual events (see Sansar changes emphasis: of live events and audience, and it’s something I intend to circle back to in the near future as it seems some of that piece may have been misinterpreted. For now, all I will say in regards to the lay-offs, is that whenever and wherever they happen, no matter how big or how small, they are never pleasant – least of all for those being laid off. So I genuinely hope any who have been let go by the Lab are successful in finding new positions sooner rather than later.
This summary is generally 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.
Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.
Official LL Viewers
Current Release version 188.8.131.521811, formerly the Voice RC viewer, dated October 18, promoted October 31 – NEW.
Release channel cohorts:
EEP RC viewer updated to version 184.108.40.2062314 on November 1st.
Love Me Render RC viewer updated to version 220.127.116.112273 on October 31st.
Project Muscadine (Animesh follow-on) project viewer updated to version 18.104.22.1681949 on October 28th.
It’s time to highlight another week of storytelling in Voice by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library. As always, all times SLT, and events are held at the Library’s home at Holly Kai Park, unless otherwise indicated.
Monday, November 4th 19:00: Variable Star
Gyro Muggins reads Spider Robinson’s 2006 completion of an eight-page novel outline from 1955 by Robert Heinlein.
When aspiring composer and musician Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seems like a dream come true. And when she finally agrees to marry him, he feels like the luckiest man in the universe.
There’s just one small problem. He is broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knows it will take years before he’d be earning enough to support a family. But Jinny isn’t willing to wait; she wants Joel with her in marriage now.
Unsettled by her conviction that money wouldn’t be a problem for them, Joel presses Jinny for an explanation. Her response stuns him: ‘Hamilton’ is not her last name – it is ‘Conrad’, and her grandfather is the wealthiest man in the solar system: Robert Conrad; she had been using subterfuge to ensure whoever she fell in love with really loved her for who she was, not for her grandfather’s money. With that truth revealed, she also informs Joel of her family’s broader plans for her and her husband-to-be.
Perhaps most men in Joel’s shoes, faced with the facts that Jinny really did love him and was offering a life of wealth, might have forgiven her for hiding her identity and plans. But not Joel. So it was that he found himself trying to get as far from her and her family as possible: aboard a colony ship heading deep into space. And then came the cosmic cataclysm that would visit so much calamity on humanity as a whole.
Tuesday, November 5th 19:00: What’s Cookin’?
A favourite food stories and recipe exchange with Caledonia Skytower and friends. Tonight they share favourite food stories, and everyone is invited to bring some of their favourite recipes (on note cards) to share.
Wednesday, November 6th 19:00 Stories from Home
With Thanksgiving in the United States now approaching, the Seanchai Library staff sit down to celebrate this time of year by sharing local tales from the various regions of the corporeal world where they live, or have lived: the American South-west, the Klondike, the Puget Sound, and more. You are invited to recommend stories from your home as well.
Thursday, November 7th 19:00 Julius Caesar – A Novelisation
With Shandon Loring. Also in Kitely – find teleport from the main Seanchai World grid.kitely.com:8002:SEANCHAI.
Seanchai Listening Rooms
Following the success of Seanchai’s Pirate Story Listening Room at this year’s Pirate Cove event, the library now offers two special listening rooms that are now available for your 24/7 story pleasure.
The Raven’s Chamber focuses specifically on Edgar Allen Poe’s 1845 narrative poem The Raven. Inspired in part by a talking Raven in the historical novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty by Charles Dickens, Poe’s famous alliterative poem uses musicality stylized language with its own internal rhythm as it relates a talking raven’s mysterious visit to young man – the poem’s narrator – lamenting the loss of his love, Lenore, as he slowly descends into madness. Both “traditional” and “alternate” readings of the poem can be heard in the room on stream, along with other interpretive content.
Both listening rooms can be reached via the direct SLurls above, or by visiting Seanchai Library and using the teleport boards (shown below) located on the back wall of the library’s Story Floor (main floor). Each board will offer both an information note card about the room, and open your world map for teleporting to either room.
SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell has shed a little more light on the company’s plans for this Starship space vehicle.
Two prototypes of the vehicle are currently being developed for test flights at the company’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas and in Florida, with the company hoping to fly one of them – most likely Starship Mk 1, being readied at Boca Chica – to an altitude of 20 km before the end of the year (see SpaceX Starship update for more on the broader plans for the vehicle).
Beyond this, Starship is designed to be lifted to orbit atop the company’s new Super Heavy reusable booster and undertake missions to the surface of the Moon and then to Mars – and possibly beyond. Speaking at the 2019 International Astronautical Congress, Shotwell specifically addressed the company’s nearer-term aspirations, marking 2022 as the year they’d like to put Starship on the Moon for the first time:
We want to get Starship to orbit within a year. We definitely want to land it on the Moon before 2022. We want to […] stage cargo there to make sure that there are resources for the folks that ultimately land on the Moon by 2024, if things go well, so that’s the aspirational time frame.
Such a flight to the Moon won’t be made by either Starship Mk 1 or Mk 2 – these are intended purely for atmospheric flight tests – descent handling, landing capabilities, etc., and to define any changes that need to be made prior to the company committing to building at least two orbital test vehicles – Starships Mk 3 and Mk 4, before they progress to trying for the Moon.
This makes the time frame for the lunar missions as given by Shotwell very aggressive. They are dependent on the company quickly completing atmospheric tests of the vehicle, then moving to being able to undertake orbital missions and integrated with the Super Heavy in order to undertake the lunar flights – particularly the cargo delivery missions -, hence why Shotwell emphasised the “aspirational” nature of the time frame.
However, the time frame is in keeping with Elon Musk’s own aggressive approach to time frames – not all of which tend to be met – perhaps most famously with the company’s last major launch vehicle development, the Falcon Heavy. However the company has always managed to deliver on its goals, no matter how late, something Shotwell also noted in a shot at the company’s critics.
Elon puts out these incredibly audacious goals and people say ‘You’re not going to do it, you’ll never get to orbit, you’ll never get a real rocket to orbit, […] you’ll never get Heavy to orbit, you’ll never get Dragon to the station, you’ll never get Dragon back, and you’ll never land a rocket. So, frankly, I love when people say we can’t do it, because it motivates my fantastic 6,500 employees to go do that thing.
Beyond the 2024 target for cargo missions, Musk has also stated that he’d like to have a lunar base established by 2028 – although Shotwell didn’t directly reference this.
In the meantime, and aside from these goals, SpaceX has already been contracted by Intuitive Machines and ispace. Both companies working with NASA to deliver payloads to the Moon ahead of the agency’s 2024 Artemis programme human Moon landing, and they have contracted SpaceX to use the Falcon family of rockets to deliver their payloads to lunar orbit.
NASA Developing Lunar Rover
In preparing for, and as a part of, humans returning to the Moon, there will be a range of automated landing and rover missions. I recently wrote about one of these missions, intended to deliver a series of payloads to the lunar surface, including innovative mini-rovers from the UK and Japan (see Moles, rovers, and spacewalks). Now NASA has confirmed it is developing an automated rover of its own.
The rover, called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), is due for delivery to the lunar surface in December 2022. Its mission is to gather data that will help inform future missions about the South Pole-Aitken Basin and the eventual construction of a base there. One of its specific goals is to locate water ice, characterise it as it lies under the lunar regolith and then drill down to the ice to determine how it sits within with regolith and then analyse the samples.
There is strong evidence for extensive sub-surface water ice within the Moon’s South Polar region, including in the bottoms of craters that never see sunlight, and characterising / accessing this water ice is seen as critical to NASA’s lunar ambitions, as it could be utilised in a number of ways, including providing oxygen for breathing or as propellant.
Roughly the size of a golf buggy (around 1.4 m × 1.4 m × 2 m), VIPER is being designed to travel multiple kilometres over a primary mission period of 100 days, carrying a suite of instruments comprising:
The Neutron Spectrometer System – designed to detect sub-surface hydrogen (potentially water) from a distance, suggesting prime sites for drilling. It measures the energy released by hydrogen atoms when struck by neutrons.
The Near InfraRed Volatiles Spectrometer System – designed to analyse mineral and volatile composition; determine if the hydrogen it encounters belong to water molecules (H2O) or to hydroxyl (OH–).
The Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations – designed to analyse mineral and volatile composition by measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of ions to elucidate the chemical elements contained in the sample.
The Regolith and Ice Drill for Exploring New Terrain – capable of drilling up to 1 m (3 ft) into the lunar regolith to gather ice samples.
As well as gathering and quantifying ice and water samples, the hope is that VIPER will gather data that can be used to create the first detailed water resource maps of the Moon that will be used to further inform decisions regarding human mission to the lunar surface.
The key to living on the Moon is water – the same as here on Earth. Since the confirmation of lunar water-ice ten years ago, the question now is if the Moon could really contain the amount of resources we need to live off-world. This rover will help us answer the many questions we have about where the water is, and how much there is for us to use.
– Daniel Andrews, VIPER mission project manager
No landing site has been determined for the rover at present, but it will be delivered to the Moon under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme, using a lander vehicle developed by Astrobotic and launched via a United Launch Alliance booster. VIPER itself is being developed by NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, Texas, with the science package provided by Kennedy Space Centre, NASA Ames Research Centre and Honeybee Robotics, with the entire programme being managed by NASA Ames.
It’s incredibly exciting to have a rover going to the new and unique environment of the South Pole to discover where exactly we can harvest that water. VIPER will tell us which locations have the highest concentrations and how deep below the surface to go to get access to water.