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On November 15th, 2020, NASA and SpaceX made history when a crewed spacecraft – the Crew Dragon Resilience – lifted off from American soil and delivered four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). This mission (designated Crew-1) was a culminating achievement for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) and effectively restored domestic launch capability to the U.S. for the first time since the Space Shuttle‘s retirement in 2011. As of April, SpaceX’s launch vehicles and spacecraft were used to mount the first all-private Axiom Mission-1 and the fourth flight of the CCP (Crew-4).

Building on this success, NASA recently filed a Notice Of Intent (NOI) to purchase five additional Crew Dragon spacecraft. This decision is based in large part on the delays suffered by Boeing – NASA’s other CCP commercial partner – and the development of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. But perhaps the most significant takeaway from this filing is how it reaffirms NASA’s commitment to the ISS until 2030. With the recent withdrawal of the Russians from the ISS program, the future of the station has been somewhat uncertain.

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The International Space Station imaged in orbit around Earth. Credit: NASA

The NOI was filed on Jun 1st, 2022, at 02:09 PM EDT (11:09 AM PDT) on behalf of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. According to the Notice, NASA will be purchasing five additional Crew Transportation Systems (CTS) as part of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities (CCtCap) contract they signed with SpaceX. The purpose of this, it states, is so that NASA can maintain rotating crews aboard the ISS and continue to meet its obligations to its international partners – which is in keeping with the NASA Authorization Act of 2015. As it states:

“It is the policy of the United States to maintain an uninterrupted capability for human space flight and operations in low-Earth orbit, and beyond, as an essential instrument of national security and the capability to ensure continued United States participation and leadership in the exploration and utilization of space…

“[A]warding five additional PCMs to SpaceX will ensure redundant and backup capabilities through 2030, which is essential for the following reasons: (i) the obligation to provide continuous flight availability for the safe operation of the ISS; (ii) the potential for anomalies or accidents; (iii) the potential for unforeseen external factors; and, (iv) risks associated with the design of a safe and reliable CTS.”

NASA’s decision to extend its commitment to the ISS until 2030 was officially announced in December 2021. However, the fate of the ISS became the subject of concern in February of this year after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. In response, the U.S., the EU, and other ISS partner nations imposed sanctions on Russia and suspended cooperation with its federal space agency (Roscosmos). Roscosmos’ Director-General (Dmitry Rogozin) responded by threatening (and stating) that Russia would withdraw from the ISS program (though it has yet to commit to this course of action).

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Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship approaches the International Space Station above the south Pacific on May 20th, 2022. Credit: NASA

According to the Notice, NASA’s decision was also motivated by concerns regarding the development of CTS vehicles by both companies contracted through the CCP – Boeing

Frontier Adventure

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs of 2024

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By Michael Lanza

Backpacks come in many sizes and designs for a reason: so do backpackers. Some of us need a pack for moderate loads, some for heavy loads, and others, increasingly, for lightweight or ultralight backpacking. Some prefer a minimalist pack, others a range of features and access. Everyone wants the best possible fit and comfort, and almost everyone has a budget. But no matter which type of backpacker you are, this review covers the best packs in each of those categories.

Each of my picks for the 10 best backpacking packs stands out for different reasons. I also point out two excellent packs for kids and small adults (at the bottom of the Gregory Paragon/Maven review). My judgments draw from many thousands of miles and more than three decades of backpacking and a quarter-century of testing and reviewing gear—including the 10 years I spent as the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. Few reviewers have lugged as many packs around the backcountry as me.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.
” data-image-caption=”Testing the Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon. Click photo to read about “the best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”The Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon.” class=”wp-image-33676″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?resize=1080%2C720&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Granite-Gear-Blaze-60-lead-2.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Testing the Granite Gear Blaze 60 in the Grand Canyon. Click photo to read about “the best backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.”

I’m confident at least one of these packs will be perfect for you—plus you’ll find the best prices for them through the affiliate links to online retailers below. Purchasing gear through my affiliate links supports my work on this blog. Thanks for doing that.

I’ve listed the pack reviews below in order by weight because that’s the metric that most defines and influences a pack’s design and functionality. The ratings admittedly tend to favor more-featured packs, which are heavier, and that may not meet your needs; use the ratings as a comparison with packs of similar weight. The pack you ultimately choose may depend partly on weight, but also on design and on your budget. Each pack review in this article links to that pack’s complete review at The Big Outside.

A backpacker above Toxaway Lake, Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho.
” data-image-caption=”Testing the Osprey Aura AG 65 in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Click photo to read about the best backpacking trip in the Sawtooths.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside
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Hike the World’s Most Beautiful Trail: The Alta Via 2

Tet19 047 Me on Teton Crest Trail copy cropped jpg

By Michael Lanza

Hiking toward a mountain pass named Furcela dia Roa, on the first day of my family’s weeklong, hut-to-hut trek on the Alta Via 2 in northern Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, we stopped in an open meadow of grass and wildflowers overlooking a deep, verdant valley in Puez-Odle Natural Park. Across the valley loomed a wall of cliffs topped by jagged spires, like a castle a thousand feet tall. I looked at our map and back up at the stone wall before us, puzzled. After a moment, I realized: We have to get over that wall.

Scanning the vertiginous earth before us, I eventually picked out the trail snaking across the head of the valley and making dozens of switchbacks up a finger of scree, talus, and snow leading to the lowest notch in that wall: the Furcela dia Roa, the pass we had to cross.

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Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-books to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-image-caption=”My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=300%2C199&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?fit=900%2C598&ssl=1″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=900%2C598&ssl=1″ alt=”A family trekking the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.” class=”wp-image-26784″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1024%2C680&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=300%2C199&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=768%2C510&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=1080%2C717&ssl=1 1080w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=200%2C133&ssl=1 200w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?resize=670%2C445&ssl=1 670w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Dolo1-019-Hiking-to-Furcela-dia-Roa-Alta-Via-2-Parco-Naturale-Puez-Odle-Dolomites-Italy-copy.jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My family trekking to Furcela dia Roa on the Alta Via 2 in Parco Naturale Puez-Odle, Dolomite Mountains, Italy.

It was our first encounter with a lesson that would repeat itself many times over the course of our week of hiking on the Alta Via 2: These mountains are so steep and rocky that the trail often traverses ground that, from a distance, looks impassable without ropes and climbing gear.

But in reality, my family, including our young kids, were perfectly comfortable with the exposure, we never
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An AI Simulated Interactions Between Different Kinds of Advanced Civilizations

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The possibility for life beyond the Earth has captivated us for hundreds of years. It has been on the mind of science fiction writers too as our imaginations have explored the myriad possibilities of extraterrestrial life. But what would it really be like if/when we finally meet one; would it lead to war or peace? Researchers have used a complex language model to simulate the first conversations with civilisations from pacifists to militarists and the outcomes revealed interesting challenges.

The first radio transmissions were made in 1895 and since then the signals, however weak have been leaking out into space. The first intentional transmission out into space was the Arecibo message of 1974 that was sent toward the globular cluster M13 22,180 light years away. That means the signal won’t arrive there for about another 22,131 years! During this time of course, all the signals have been leaking out but the further they travel, the weaker they get. Its likely then that any signals out to a distance of about 100 light years is likely to be so weak as to not be detectable. 

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The Arecibo Radio Telescope Credit: UCF

It would be so easy to be dragged into other areas of debate about aliens but it feels useful to set the scene of how difficult it will be to make contact or rather, how likely it may be. Assume then, that in some way, we do find ourselves making communication with an alien civilisation. Just how that conversation goes has been modelled by a team led by Mingyu Jin from Northwestern University.

The team used a new artificial intelligence framework known as CosmoAgent to simulate the interaction based upon the unique Large Language Model (LLM). The system uses a Multi-Agent System to enable modelling among a diverse range of civilisations. The civilisations have the ability to choose their own character traits from hiding, fighting or collaborating. This dynamic environment allows for a plethora of outcomes from alliances forming, adherence to rules to rivalries to how a civilisation might respond to an unforeseen event.

Diversity and conditions for life were also inherent in the modelling using transition matrices to analyse how civilisations might grow and change over time. This natural progression of an intelligent life form would inevitably mean ethics, morals, beliefs and sciences would develop along a varied path. These different frameworks would hugely effect just how such a civilisation might respond to alien contact.

There are limitations to the research though, largely from an Earth-centric bias developing the language model. The use of mathematics and algorithms to compute responses and outcomes may not cover the full spectrum of inter-civilisation responses. After all, we cannot even distill our own emotional responses down to a set of algorithms. Add in a speculative set of principles of an alien civilisation, of which, we have no evidence or experience to draw upon.

It is hoped that future research can address these obstacles and develop better models of inter-civilisational interaction. Taking into account a broader range of ethical paradigms and decision making processes to provide a more realistic simulation of just how first contact may just play out.

Source : What if LLMs Have Different World Views: Simulating Alien Civilizations with LLM-based Agents

The post An AI Simulated Interactions Between Different Kinds of Advanced Civilizations appeared first on Universe Today.

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