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11 moments from the International Space Station’s first 20 years – TechCrunch

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It was November 20, 1998, when an unprecedented international coalition of astronomers, engineers and rocket scientists saw years of collaboration come to fruition with the launch of the International Space Station’s first component. Since then, the largest spacecraft ever built has hosted innumerable astronauts, experiments and other craft. Here are a few notable moments in the history of this inspiring and decades-spanning mission.

1984: Reagan proposes the ISS — without Russia

The space station was originally going to be a U.S. effort, but soon became a collaboration with Canada, Japan and Europe, excluding the then-USSR. American-Russian relations were strained then, as you may remember, and although many in the space industry itself would have preferred working together, the political climate did not permit it. Nevertheless, initial work began.

1993: Clinton adds Russia to the bill

The collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent rejuvenation of international relations led President Bush to bring them into the program in a limited fashion, as a supplier and as a guest on a shuttle mission. The next year, however, President Clinton one-upped him with the announcement that Russia would be a full partner. This was both a practical and political decision: Russian involvement would save billions, but it also helped bring Russia on board with other issues, like ICBM de-proliferation efforts. At any rate, designs were finally beginning to be built.

1998: The first components, Zarya and Unity, launch to orbit

Endeavour approaches Zarya when the latter was the only component in place.

Though persona non grata at first, Russia had the privilege of launching the first core component of the ISS on November 20, 1998, the anniversary we are celebrating today. The Zarya Functional Cargo Block is still up there, still being used, forming the gateway to the Russian side of the station.

One month later, Space Shuttle Endeavour took off from Launch Complex 39A (we’ve been there) carrying Unity Node 1. This too is up there now, attached since that day to Zarya.

2000: The first of many long-term occupants arrive

From left: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev, aboard the station.

Almost exactly a year after Zarya went up, the first astronauts took up residence on the ISS — the first of 230 people so far to call the orbiting structure home. Bill Shepherd was NASA’s first representative, flying with cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev; they would stay for about 141 days.

2003: Columbia disaster delays expansion

The fatal breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia on reentry following its 28th mission was tragedy enough that other shuttle missions were scrubbed for over two years. As these were the primary means of the U.S. adding to and maintaining the ISS, this responsibility passed to Roscosmos until shuttle launches resumed in 2005; crewed launches wouldn’t resume until mid-2006.

2007: Kibo goes up

Numerous modules have been added to the ISS over the years, but Japan’s Kibo is the largest. It took multiple missions to deliver all the pieces, and was only made possible by earlier missions that had expanded the solar power capacity of the station. Kibo contains a ton of reconfigurable space accessible from the pressurized interior, and has been popular for both private and public experiments that must be conducted in space.

2010: Enter the Cupola

If Kibo is the largest component, the Cupola is likely the most famous. The giant 7-window bubble looks like something out of science fiction (specifically, the front end of the Millennium Falcon) and is the location for the station’s most striking photography, both inside and out.

2014: Beautiful timelapses

With the Cupola in place, capturing imagery of the Earth from this amazing view became easier — especially with the increasingly high-quality digital cameras brought aboard by talented astronaut-photographers like Alexander Gerst and Don Pettit. The many, many photos taken out of this aperture have been formed into innumerable beautiful timelapses and desktop backgrounds, as well as witnessing incredible phenomena like aurora and lightning storms from a new and valuable perspective. It’s hard to pick just one, but Don Pettit’s “The World Outside My Window” above is a fabulous example, and Gerst’s 4K compilation is another.

2015: Gennady Padalka sets time in space record

During his fifth flight to space, Gennady Padalka set a world record for most time in space: When he returned to Earth he had logged a total of 878 days and change. That’s well ahead of the competition, which is almost exclusively Russian — though NASA’s Peggy Whitson is right up there with 666 days over three missions.

2016: Chinese station calling ISS, please pick up

It’s hardly crowded in space, but it can get lonely up there. So it’s nice that those who have the honor to fly reach out to each other. In this case China’s taikonaut Jing Haipeng recorded a heartwarming video message from the Chinese Tiangong-2 space station greeting the incoming ISS crew and praising the community of global cooperation that makes all this possible.

2018: Soyuz accident threatens long-term occupation

A crewed mission to the ISS with astronaut Nick Hague and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin encountered a serious fault during launch, fortunately resulting in no injuries or fatalities but shaking up the space community. The Soyuz rocket and capsule had more than proven themselves over the years but no risks could be taken with human life, and future missions were delayed. It was possible that for the first time since it was first entered, the ISS would be empty as its crew left with no replacements on the way.

Fortunately the investigation has concluded and a new mission is planned for early December, which will prevent such an historic absence.

2019? First commercial crew mission and beyond

Russia has borne sole responsibility for all crewed launches for years; the U.S. has been planning to separate itself from this dependence by fostering a new generation of crew-capable capsules that can meet and exceed the safety and reliability of the Soyuz system. SpaceX and Boeing both plan 2019 flights for their respective Crew Dragon and Starliner capsules — though slipping dates and new regulatory attention may delay those further.

The ISS has a bright future despite its remarkable 20 years of continuous operation. It’s funded more or less through 2025, but there’s talk of new space stations from Russia and China both, while the U.S. eyes lunar orbit for its next big endeavor. It’s hard to imagine space now without an ISS full of people in it, however, and falling launch costs may mean that its life can be extended even further and for less cost. Here’s hoping the ISS has another two decades in front of it.

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The 5 Best Black Friday Apple Deals: MacBooks, AirPods, Apple Watch, iPad, and More.

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Andrew Cunningham

Black Friday is in full swing, and that’s great news if you’ve had your eyes on an Apple device but have been waiting for a solid discount to pull the trigger. Apple devices are notoriously expensive, and you typically don’t see many discounts throughout the year. Fortunately, Black Friday brings notable Apple deals not only from retailers, but Apple itself. Just as we do every year, we’re cutting through the noise to bring you the best Black Friday Apple deals we can find.

Below are a few of the most worthwhile Apple deals we’re seeing as of this writing. As always, we’re focusing on products we’d actually recommend based on our time reviewing them and excluding any we don’t think are worth your money. Lastly: there haven’t been any huge iPhone deals we think are worth your time, so the focus here is on other products.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

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The 2022 iPad Air.
Enlarge / The 2022 iPad Air.

Samuel Axon

Apple iPad Air 2022 10.9-inch for $500 ($560) at Amazon (discount at checkout)

Also at Apple for $680 with a $50 Apple gift card

These days, it’s not hard to make the case that Apple makes <em>too</em><em> many</em> iPad models. The lineup has gotten convoluted and confusing, and some models offer better value than others. Fortunately, if you can afford it, there’s one clear recommendation for the significant majority of would-be tablet owners: the iPad Air.

The iPad Pro’s 120Hz display, Face ID authentication, and other bells and whistles are all nice-to-haves, but they’re not essential. And on the other end of the lineup, the new 2022 iPad sacrifices a bit too much compared to the Air, given the price difference.

The Air doesn’t skimp on anything essential: it has the fast M1 chip, second-generation Apple Pencil support, a great screen, and strong accessory support. It’s currently on sale at Amazon for $500 ($60 off typical street price), but Apple’s also offering it for full retail at $680 with a $50 Apple gift card incentive.

For scale, here are the brick and cable next to the laptop.
Enlarge / For scale, here are the brick and cable next to the laptop.

Samuel Axon

MacBook Air 2022 for $1,050 ($1,200) at Amazon

The Mac has been through many permutations (and ups and downs) over the years, but the recent transition away from Intel processors to Apple’s own custom-designed silicon has made clear that this is as good a time to go Mac as any there ever was.

While many of Apple’s Macs (like the MacBook Pro or the Mac Studio) are specialized products for certain audiences, the 2022 MacBook Air is the Mac that makes the most sense for the most people. Its M2 processor is frankly faster than most desktop processors, and a recent redesign modernized a classic laptop—even if it did so at the cost of some its unique identity.

You can buy the Air at a $150 discount from Amazon ($1,050 for 256GB or $1,350 for 512GB) or you can buy it directly from Apple and get a $150 gift card.

If you need more power or a bigger screen, check out our Best Black Friday Laptop Deals post, where we have discounts on the well-equipped, multi-port-toting 14-inch MacBook Pro on sale for $1,600 ($400 off) and the most powerful Apple laptop, the 16-inch MacBook Pro for $2,000 ($500 off).

Jeff Dunn

Apple AirPods Pro (second generation) for $249 with a $75 Apple gift card from Apple

Also at Amazon for $199 and first generation for $159 at Walmart

AirPods are more convenient than any other wireless headphones we’ve used, they offer essential features like spatial audio and transparency mode, and the sound quality isn’t generally too bad for the price, either. You can absolutely find other headphones that beat any of Apple’s comparably priced AirPods models in either sound quality or noise cancellation (though you’d be hard pressed to find anything that’s as easy to use wirelessly) but as a complete package, let’s just say that AirPods are wildly popular for a reason. Just don’t bother if you don’t have an Apple device to pair them with.

The best AirPods for most people are the AirPods Pro; they strike a perfect balance between price and performance. Both the first- and second-generation AirPods Pro are on sale right now. While both deals offer solid value, the second-generation is an objectively better pair of headphones in all relevant ways, as you might expect. If you can find use for a $75 Apple gift card, then we’d recommend grabbing Apple’s deal for the second-gen AirPods Pro.

Noise cancellation is improved, as is spatial audio performance, lending to a more immersive sound experience. The second-gen also improves listening time from four and a half hours on the first-gen to six on the latest-gen, while adding goodies like a MagSafe charging case with a built-in speaker and chip for new Find My capabilities, in case your AirPods ever go missing. The first-generation AirPods still sound very good, and noise cancelation is on the higher end of the spectrum compared to most earbuds. So, again, if you have no uses for a $75 Apple gift card, we can’t fault you for saving a few bucks and getting the first-generation Pros instead.

The Apple TV 4K with Apple's improved Siri Remote.
Enlarge / The Apple TV 4K with Apple’s improved Siri Remote.

Jeff Dunn

Apple TV 4K 2021 64GB for $100 ($130) at Amazon

Apple TV HD 2021 32GB $59 ($99) at Walmart

Apple just recently released a new revision of its Apple TV 4K streaming box, but it wasn’t a huge upgrade over the prior model unless you are using a TV that only supports HDR10+ instead of Dolby Vision. With the new one on the market, though, last year’s mostly-the-same model is steeply discounted, making it the best deal out there for a streaming TV platform. As always, its appeal compared to offerings from Roku and others is lessened if you’re not already living in Apple’s ecosystem, but if you have an iPhone or AirPods, the current discount is a steal.

If you don’t need 4K quality, the Apple TV HD is also on steep discount for the lowest price we’ve ever seen on a new Apple TV at $69.

The Apple Watch SE.
Enlarge / The Apple Watch SE.

Samuel Axon

Apple Watch SE second generation (40 mm) for $229 ($270) Amazon

Apple offers a plethora of Watch models now, including the new flashy, outdoorsy Apple Watch Ultra. But truth be told, the entry-level Apple Watch SE (available at 40mm or 44mm) includes most of the features most people would care to have. We’re not knocking the Series 8 or the Ultra—they have a lot to offer. If you want the most health-feature heavy device, the Apple Watch Series 8 is the way to go, and it’s on sale for $350 ($50 off) right now. But if you’re just looking for something to help you track your workouts and stay connected, the SE will do the job for a lot less money.

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14 Best Black Friday Laptop Deals: Apple MacBooks, Microsoft Surface, Dell, HP, And More

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Enlarge / Microsoft’s Surface Pro 8.

Andrew Cunningham

Black Friday laptop deals are as American as pumpkin pie. But tracking down worthwhile options can be tricky. Each model has variants, each of those variants have configurations with too many sound-alike model numbers (thank you, Intel), and many of the model names are unmemorable names.

We spend a lot of time looking at laptops and writing about them at Ars, so we’ve gone through the deals and highlighted the most noteworthy options, based on the laptops we’ve reviewed and know. Here are some laptop computer deals we think are worth knowing about.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

The 2022 MacBook Air.
Enlarge / The 2022 MacBook Air.

Samuel Axon

MacBook Air 2022 for $1,050 ($1,200) at Amazon

It’s not a mandatory upgrade over its M1-based predecessor, but the M2-powered MacBook Air is the best laptop for most kinds of Mac users. Thanks Apple’s impressive M2 processor, this entry-level model can do a lot with just 8GB of RAM, though the 256GB storage might push storage-hungry types to the Pro (also on sale right now).

Best Buy has a matching deal on the same model, and Apple’s offering a $150 gift card if you buy the newest MacBook Air at their store. You can also nab a 512GB MacBook Air for $1,299 at Best Buy and $1,499 at Apple (with the $150 gift card).

Two 2021 MacBook Pro models side-by-side.
Enlarge / Two 2021 MacBook Pro models side-by-side.

Samuel Axon

14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 for $1,600 ($2,000) at Amazon

The 2021 MacBook Pro is the hardware hard fork we’d been waiting for, a return to usable ports, reasonable keyboards, and function keys, largely powered by the advent of Apple’s own silicon. Ars’ Samuel Axon dubbed it “the best laptop money can buy for many use cases, provided you have a lot of money.” For a brief period, it’s a good bit less money at Amazon. A 14-inch model with an M1 Pro chip, 16GB RAM, and 512GB storage is $1,599 ($400 off). The same deal is available at Best Buy.

Want two more CPU and GPU cores each and twice the storage? That model’s currently on sale for $2,000 at Amazon, down $500 off the typical price. A 2022 model, with a slightly faster M2 chip and 8GB RAM, is $1,350 at Amazon ($150 off). Apple isn’t offering a discount, but buying a MacBook Pro qualifies you for an Apple gift card worth up to a $250.

16-inch MacBook Pro 2021 for $2,000 ($2,500) at Amazon

Everything about the 14-inch MacBook Pro applies to the 16-inch model—just with a bigger screen, and a price to match. This week, Amazon has a model with 16GB memory, 512GB storage, and a 16-core M1 Pro processor for $2,000 ($500 off). Best Buy has the same deal.

If you want the most powerful Apple laptop, a model with a 32-core M1 Max chip, 32GB RAM, and 1TB storage is $3,049 at Best Buy, $450 less than retail. Or you can pay full retail price through Apple and get a $250 gift card.

Microsoft's Surface Pro 9.
Enlarge / Microsoft’s Surface Pro 9.

Andrew Cunningham

Surface Pro 9 with keyboard cover for $1,100 ($1,300) at Costco

If you want a Windows device that can be both a tablet and laptop, the Surface Pro 9 is the best to do that job, after more than nine hardware revisions and spin-offs. The crisp 13-inch screen, 12th-generation U-series Intel processor, and the nice feel of the keyboard cover (included with this deal) keep the Surface as the archetype of the portable-but-still-type-friendly laptop computer.

It’s pretty hard to beat this keyboard-included deal on a brand-new device. But if you’re not a Costco member, Best Buy offers the same model Surface Pro 9, sans keyboard, for $1,000 ($100 off) and an upgraded i7/16GB model for $1,400 ($200 off). Amazon also has an i7/16GB model with 256GB storage for $1,349, about $250 off retail.

Surface Pro 8 with keyboard cover for $900 ($1,350) at Best Buy

Not a whole bunch changed between the Surface Pro 8 and 9, minus a processor upgrade. If you’re looking for a more affordable entry point into Microsoft’s hybrid, we liked the Pro 8 one year ago, and it’s still a worthy purchase, especially at this discount with a keyboard cover included. Best Buy has the i5 8GB RAM 256GB storage model on sale for $900 with a graphite-colored keyboard cover and 15 months of Microsoft 365 to sweeten the deal.

The Surface Laptop Go 2.
Enlarge / The Surface Laptop Go 2.

Andrew Cunningham

Surface Laptop Go 2 for $600 ($700) at Best Buy

One of the biggest problems we had with the Surface Laptop Go 2 was that its base model with 4GB RAM isn’t useful for anybody. The other was that the $700 model, with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, cost too much. But as we noted in our review, “if you can find it on sale … the Laptop Go 2 is a no-fuss budget laptop that’s worth considering if you can live with its flaws.”

Well, here you go. The 8GB RAM, 128GB model is on sale for $600 at Best Buy ($100 off). If you need a portable mouse to go with it, and like the idea of a 3-year protection plan, Microsoft is offering all that for the price of $655.

That's not just a spacious deck; it's a massive touchpad.
Enlarge / That’s not just a spacious deck; it’s a massive touchpad.

Scharon Harding

Dell XPS 13 Plus for $1,500 ($1,850) at Best Buy

This revamped version of Dell’s long-running ultrabook series made “wild design choices” to support a more powerful 12th-generation Intel CPU. If the most important thing for you in a laptop is performance, this laptop can really cook, and it looks and feels slim and classy. But it gets hot, its keys are tightly spaced, and its port selection is limited.

Best Buy has three variants of the XPS 13 Plus on sale: one with 32 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD for $1,700 ($400 off), 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD (as we reviewed) for $1,500 ($350 off), and if you want to sacrifice an OLED display, an FHD+ model for $1,350 ($300 off).

HP's 13.5-inch Spectre x360.
Enlarge / HP’s 13.5-inch Spectre x360.

Scharon Harding

HP Spectre x360 13.5” for $900 ($1,250) at HP

The 13.5-inch Spectre x360 has “a little something for almost everyone,” we wrote in August. It “gets an A+ in looks and scores high (but not perfectly) in design details.” It wasn’t top of its class when compared to other ultralights in its price range, but at this price the Spectre is earning better grades against the curve.

HP has a model with an i5-1235U processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB NVMe SSD, and a 1920×1280 IPS screen for $900 ($350 off). You can tweak some of those elements, including doubling the RAM for just $60 more, at HP’s site.

System76 Lemur Pro.
Enlarge / System76 Lemur Pro.

System76 Lemur Pro 14-inch for $1,150 ($1,200 at System76

Linux-focused laptop vendors don’t bust out huge sales around Black Friday, or generally much at all. They’ve got other things to focus on than container-ship-scale volume. So when System76 knocks $50 off its redesigned 14” Lemur Pro, the one with the touted 14-hour battery life, it’s worth taking note. You can choose between Pop! OS and Ubuntu 22.04 pre-installed, a whole lot of storage and RAM options, and certain configurations will get free shipping.

Other laptop deals we like

  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 15-inch laptop PC (2496×1664, Core i7-1185G7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD) for $1,900 ($2,400) at Amazon
  • Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 13.3” (1920×1080, Core i3-10110U, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) for $549 ($699) at Best Buy
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 from $899 up to $300 off at Microsoft
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio from $1,400 up to $400 off at Microsoft
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 13-inch Chromebook ‎(1920×1080, Intel Core i3-1115G4, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) for $300 ($420) at Amazon

Listing image by Samuel Axon

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Windows Subsystem for Linux with GUI apps launches for Windows 10

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Enlarge / The latest Microsoft Store version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux allows for graphical apps, systemd support, multiple distributions, and a lot of questions about whether you have three different options enabled on your Windows 10 system.

Kevin Purdy

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), one of the best reasons to run Windows 11, is now available to Windows 10 users, in the latest version and with all its features. WSL dropped its “preview” label with this 1.0 release, and aims to simplify its installation from here on out.

Getting the best version of WSL used to mean installing big, system-level Windows updates (including 11 itself). As part of its broader moving of key apps into its Store, Microsoft now offers the most feature-rich version of WSL there. “The in-Windows version of WSL will still receive critical bug fixes, but the Store version of WSL is where new features and functionality will be added,” Windows Developer Platform Program Manager Craig Loewen noted in a blog post.

Loewen noted that the “WSL community’s requests” drove Microsoft to make the latest, GUI-ready framework version available to Windows 10 users. Now a Store installation is the default, even if you use the command line (PowerShell) to install and update WSL. Now anyone whose system is capable of running WSL has access to graphical apps and (optional) systemd support, and can hopefully spend less time wondering which WSL version they have, what they need, and what the differences are.

And yet even Microsoft understands this leaves a lot of versions of WSL in existence. There’s WSL 1 and WSL 2, and Linux distributions for both of them. There’s the in-Windows version of WSL—enabled as an “optional component” in Windows—and the Store version. This update, Loewen writes, should “simplify our versioning story.” WSL 2 is the default distro version and Store install. It’s how you run Linux with direct integration into Windows.

I got the Store version of WSL running on my Windows 10 desktop, but only after five restarts and quite a bit of support forum wandering. This might have been due to having previously tinkered with WSL on the system.

I installed every system update waiting for me, but that wasn’t the cause of the “incompatible version” errors I was receiving. I visited “Turn Windows features on or off” from the Start menu (separate from “Manage optional features”) multiple times to check and ensure that “Virtual Machine Platform,” “Windows Hypervisor Platform,” and “Windows Subsystem for Linux” were all enabled. I checked my BIOS for hypervisor support (enabled), double-checked that I had WSL 2 set as my default (it was), and installed Ubuntu two or three times from the command line until it actually happened.

Once installed, it was rather impressive to have Linux apps up and running in Windows (even if they complained quite a bit about various dependencies and warnings). For someone who needs that one specific utility not offered on Windows, or is just Linux-curious without wanting to go the full partition-and-dual-boot route, it should be an easier on-ramp now that it’s in the Microsoft Store.

Listing image by Microsoft

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