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NASA’s SLS Moon rocket is 2 years behind and billions over budget, internal report finds

NASA’s ambitious plan to put boots on the Moon in 2024 is looking increasingly costly — and increasingly unlikely — if the current cost overruns and delays are any indication, according to a report by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General. “NASA’s continued struggle with managing SLS Program costs and schedule has the potential…

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NASA’s SLS Moon rocket is 2 years behind and billions over budget, internal report finds

NASA’s ambitious plan to put boots on the Moon in 2024 is looking increasingly costly — and increasingly unlikely — if the current cost overruns and delays are any indication, according to a report by the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.

“NASA’s continued struggle with managing SLS Program costs and schedule has the potential to impact the Agency’s ambitious goals for the Artemis program,” reads the report issued yesterday. “Each of the major element contracts for developing and building the SLS for Artemis I—Stages, ICPS, Boosters, RS-25 Adaptation, and RS-25 Restart—have experienced numerous technical challenges, performance issues, and requirement changes that have resulted in $2 billion of cost overruns and increases and at least 2 years of schedule delays.”

That doesn’t mean that the 2024 date has slipped to 2026, of course — the delays are in the creation of the first, test version of the Space Launch System, the next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle NASA intends to use for the crewed Artemis missions. That first launch is currently estimated to take place sometime in spring of 2021 — more than two years after the original estimate.

To put those delays in perspective, the SLS program really started back in 2010, with the design stage concluding in 2014 and contracts for testing and manufacturing being awarded after that. Dates as early as 2016 were floated for SLS readiness, but NASA eventually officially committed to late 2018. But that has slipped several times, most recently in January, when NASA said that launch in November of this year was no longer tenable.

What’s more, these extensions and difficulties (some at NASA, some at contractors and subcontractors) have complicated finances and caused the program to blow past its original budget. Part of this is simply in how it’s reported, but it also means that what has been accomplished has cost more than expected.

As the report states: “Overall, by the end of fiscal year 2020, NASA will have spent more than $17 billion on the SLS Program—including almost $6 billion not tracked or reported as part of the ABC.” That’s the Agency Baseline Commitment, essentially what NASA told Congress it would do in order to get this funding secured.

It should surprise no one that a major endeavor like accelerating a Moon landing program is more difficult and expensive than first suspected. And ultimately what matters for Artemis is that the U.S. return to the Moon — “to stay,” as Administrator Jim Bridenstine is fond of saying — safely and in good time. The 2024 goal is an arbitrary one and no engineer or astronaut is going to rush the project in order to satisfy a political agenda — not when lives are at stake.

The Office of the Inspector General makes a few suggestions as to how to better track spending and keep NASA and its contractors accountable for time and spending. But the repeated warnings of delays seem to indicate, if never to actually state, that the goal of getting to the Moon in 2024 is only a few months of delays away from being no longer possible.

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Slack calls are having ‘connectivity issues’

Slack has confirmed that “Slack Calls are experiencing some connectivity difficulties right now.” The company said it is working to resolve the issue “as quickly as possible.” The difficulties coincide with the push from tech companies to move workers to remote-only meetings and conference calls, amid the outbreak of COVID-19. Slack did not comment on…

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Slack calls are having ‘connectivity issues’

Slack has confirmed that “Slack Calls are experiencing some connectivity difficulties right now.” The company said it is working to resolve the issue “as quickly as possible.” The difficulties coincide with the push from tech companies to move workers to remote-only meetings and conference calls, amid the outbreak of COVID-19.

Slack did not comment on any correlation between the two, or identify what factors are behind the connectivity issues.

Hey @SlackHQ @SlackStatus there’s definitely something up with calls. Everyone keeps getting randomly disconnected, but not all the way. Screen goes black and it just starts randomly playing connect and disconnect sounds.

— matt.js (@mattisadev) March 11, 2020

In a previous blog post outlining Slack’s response to COVID-19, it said “our system architecture is designed to automatically accommodate the surges of traffic throughout the day that this brings to our systems.” The company said its server capacity can handle the demands, as well as the various regions from which users may be logging in. Slack also outlined how the shift to remote may not add a crazy load to its systems.

“The demands on our infrastructure do not change when employees shift away from working together in the same office; there is no difference in load on our systems whether people are connecting from their office, a cellular network, or their homes.”

It added that employees already use an average of nine hours per day, so the volume remains the same.

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Establishing an emergency relief fund, Amazon commits to two-week pay for workers affected by COVID-19

Amazon has instituted a new policy which will see all Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine receiving up to two-weeks of pay. The additional pay is to “ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost pay,” the company said in a statement. That…

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Establishing an emergency relief fund, Amazon commits to two-week pay for workers affected by COVID-19

Amazon has instituted a new policy which will see all Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine receiving up to two-weeks of pay.

The additional pay is to “ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost pay,” the company said in a statement.

That pay is in addition to unlimited paid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March, which the company announced as a policy to its workers last week.

The company also said it was setting up a relief fund with a $25 million contribution to support delivery service partners and drivers along with Amazon Flex participants and seasonal employees.

“We will be offering all of these groups the ability to apply for grants approximately equal to up to two weeks of pay if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine by the government or Amazon,” the company said.

The fund will also support employees and contractors who face financial hardships due to natural disasters, federal emergencies or personal hardship, the company said.

Amazon affiliated workers can apply to receive grant funding ranging from $400 to $5,000 per person.

With this initiative Amazon builds on the commitments it has made as one of several tech companies helping to financially support individuals impacted by the outbreak.

Uber, Salesforce, CiscoMicrosoftLyftSquareTwitterFacebook, Google, and Apple, have all made commitments to pay hourly and other contingent workers impacted the COVID-19 outbreak. Yesterday, Google announced that it had set up a COVID-19 fund as well.

“As we’re in a transition period in the U.S.—and to cover any gaps elsewhere in the world—Google is establishing a COVID-19 fund that will enable all our temporary staff and vendors, globally, to take paid sick leave if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, or can’t come into work because they’re quarantined,” writes Adrienne Crowther, Google’s director of workplace services.

“Working with our partners, this fund will mean that members of our extended workforce will be compensated for their normal working hours if they can’t come into work for these reasons. We are carefully monitoring the situation and will continue to assess any adjustments needed over the coming months.”

In addition, Microsoft, Amazon and other Seattle-area companies are partnering with nonprofits and governments to launch a relief fund in response to the outbreak. Amazon and Microsoft committed $1 million apiece to this fund. Microsoft said it would also match employee donations to causes aiding in response to COVID-19.

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Superpeer raises $2M to help influencers and experts make money with one-on-one video calls

Superpeer is giving YouTube creators and other experts a new way to make money. The startup announced today that it has raised $2 million in pre-seed funding led by Eniac Ventures, with participation from angel investors including Steven Schlafman, Ankur Nagpal, Julia Lipton, Patrick Finnegan, Justin De Guzman, Chris Lu, Paul Yacoubian and Cheryl Sew…

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Superpeer raises $2M to help influencers and experts make money with one-on-one video calls

Superpeer is giving YouTube creators and other experts a new way to make money.

The startup announced today that it has raised $2 million in pre-seed funding led by Eniac Ventures, with participation from angel investors including Steven Schlafman, Ankur Nagpal, Julia Lipton, Patrick Finnegan, Justin De Guzman, Chris Lu, Paul Yacoubian and Cheryl Sew Hoy. It also launched on ProductHunt.

The idea is that if you’re watching a video to learn how to paint, or how to code, or about whatever the topic might be, there’s a good chance you have follow-up questions — maybe a lot of them. Ditto if you follow someone on Twitter, or read their blog posts, to learn more about a specific subject.

Now you could try to submit a question or two via tweet or comment section, but you’re probably not going to get any in-depth interaction — and that’s if they respond. You could also try to schedule a “Can I pick your brain?”-type coffee meeting, but again, the odds aren’t in your favor, particularly when it comes to picking the brain of someone famous or highly in-demand.

With Superpeer, experts who are interested in sharing their knowledge can do so via remote, one-on-one video calls. They upload an intro video, the times that they want to be available for calls and how much they want to charge for their time. Then Superpeer handles the appointments (integrating directly with the expert’s calendar), the calls and the payments, adding a 15% fee on top.

So a YouTube creator could start adding a message at the end of their videos directing fans who want to learn more to their Superpeer page. And if you’re a founder who wants to talk to an experienced designer, executive coach, product manager, marketing/sales expert, VC or other founder, you could start with this list.

Of course, there might be some wariness on both sides, whether you’re an expert who doesn’t want to get stuck on the phone with someone creepy or annoying, or someone who doesn’t want to pay for a call that turns out to be a complete waste of time.

To address this, co-founder and CEO Devrim Yasar (who previously founded collaborative programming startup Koding) said the company has created a user rating system, as well as a way to ask for a refund if you feel that a call violated the terms of service — the calls will be recorded and stored for 48 hours for this purpose.

Superpeer launched in private beta two weeks ago, and Yasar said the startup already has more than 100 Superpeers signed up.

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