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LIVE: Astronauts spacewalk to fix space station

NASA astronauts are undertaking a spacewalk lasting more than six hours today to repair the International Space Station.

Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold are going to replace a failed cooling component and install a camera system and communications receiver on the outside of the craft.

The pair previously completed another six-hour walk on 29 March to install wireless communications antennas and fix a buggy cooling system.

It will be the 210th spacewalk at the ISS since 1998, and the fourth so far this calendar year.

Specifically, the pair will be swapping out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep the station's systems cool.

Image: There have been 209 spacewalks at the ISS. Pic: NASA

Any time an astronaut gets out of a vehicle while in space it's called a spacewalk.

The first ever spacewalk was conducted by Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov on 18 March 1965 and lasted for 10 minutes.

American astronaut Ed White followed on 3 June 1965 and lasted 23 minutes.

The typical spacewalk today takes place outside of the ISS and lasts between five and eight hours, depending on the job.

The astronauts wear spacesuits which provide them with the oxygen they need to breathe and the water they need to drink, and put these on several hours before the walk.

In February 1984, astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first astronaut to move about in space without being connected to a spacecraft. He used a jet-propelled backpack to move around.
Image: In 1984, Bruce McCandless became the first astronaut to move about in space without a tether. Pic: NASA

While in their suits they breathe pure oxygen for a few hours, getting rid of all the nitrogen in their body to avoid getting the bends – also common among divers.

When on a spacewalk, the astronauts are tethered to their spacecraft to stop them floating off into space and their tools are tethered to their suits to stop them from floating off as well.

The real safety mechanism for astronauts is their SAFER backpack, which stands for Simplified Aid for Extra-vehicular activity Resure".

SAFER uses small jet thrusters to let the astronauts move around in space and is controlled with a small joystick.

IN SPACE - AUGUST 3: In this NASA handout, mission specialist, Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, is anchored to a foot restraint on the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm, during his space walk to repair the underside of the space shutttle Discovery August 3, 2005. Space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to return to Earth August 8. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
Image: Astronaut Stephen Robinson anchored to a foot restraint during a spacewalk. Pic: NASA

Before going into space, the astronauts train for spacewalks by swimming.

Astronauts practice spacewalks underwater in a large swimming pool called the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, or NBL near NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The pool holds 6.2 million gallons of water and astronauts spend seven hours training in the pool for every single hour they will spend on a spacewalk.

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They also train by using virtual reality, wearing a helmet with a video screen inside and special gloves.

A video of what they will see during a spacewalk is shown on the screen inside the helmet and when the astronaut moves, the special gloves allow the movements to be shown with the video.

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Hi-tech Russian robot exposed as man in costume

Footage of an artificial intelligence robot that Russian state television used as an example of the country's technological prowess has been exposed as a man wearing a robot suit.

The Rossiya 24 news channel broadcast footage of what it presented as Boris the dancing, singing robot at a technology forum for school pupils.

But viewers and other journalists spotted some human-like movements and other discrepancies – and discovered Boris was in fact a human wearing a robot costume sold by a Russian company.

As the "machine" danced on stage, a presenter had said: "At the forum there's the opportunity to see state-of-the-art robots. Boris the Robot has already learned to dance, and not badly at that."

In the report, the robot also appeared to speak in a metallic voice as lights flashed on its face in different colours, saying: "I'm good at maths but now I want to study art and musical composition."

But images shared online from backstage at the event clearly showed a human inside a robot outfit, through a gap between a bodysuit and a headpiece.

Bloggers found the Robot Show website where the suit, identical to the one shown in the news clip, can be purchased.

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After the clip went viral, Rossiya 24 broadcast an interview with the journalist who made the original report.

"I was absolutely sure everyone would realise it was a costume, like Santa Claus, that this was a project created for children," he said.

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UK’s most Googled people and stories of 2018

The Duchess of Sussex, Khloe Kardashian and GDPR were among the most searched topics in the UK this year, according to Google's Year In Search project.

With both a royal wedding and baby announcement, perhaps the least surprising name on the list is Meghan Markle, the actress and activist turned royal.

Fellow American Khloe Kardashian was searched for online when she gave birth to her first child in April, and British actress Roxanne Pallett landed in search boxes after claiming fellow Celebrity Big Brother contestant Ryan Thomas had hurt her by punching her during a playfight.

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After quitting the show, she said she felt she was "the most hated girl in Britain".

The top trending search query overall in the UK was the World Cup, in a year in which many England fans hoped the trophy would finally come home. The team reached the semi-finals of the tournament.

More unusually, also on the list is GDPR, the new European data protection legislation introduced in May.

UK top trending Google queries

UK top trending people

UK top trending news events

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Where to find self-driving cars on the road right now

Self-driving BMW 5 series vehicles.

Aptiv

Headlines abound about self-driving cars, but there’s a big difference between reading about them and seeing one, replete with all its sensors, on the street. Or, for that matter, taking a ride in one. While you may have heard about companies such as Uber working on autonomous vehicles, plenty of other outfits are making progress and running their cars in states like California, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Here’s an evolving round-up of what’s going on with self-driving cars on public roads, from Aptiv to Waymo.

Aptiv

Las Vegas, Boston, Pittsburgh, Singapore

The name “Aptiv” might not ring a bell, but if you visit Las Vegas, you could ride in one of their autonomous vehicles after hailing a Lyft. They first began offering rides in their cars during the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 2018, and the program has grown from there. The company currently has 30 autonomous cars on the roads in Sin City; they cruise around 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Aptiv says they’ve completed more than 25,000 trips and hauled around more than 50,000 passengers, and while the vehicles are autonomous, a real human sits behind the wheel and in the passenger seat, too. Aptiv—which purchased self-driving car company nuTonomy last year—also tests their cars in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Singapore.

Aurora

Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh

Like Aptiv, Aurora may not be a familiar name, but the company is developing its own self-driving technology while working with Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Byton. Their self-driving VW e-Golfs and Lincoln MKZs are on the streets of Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh—with two vehicle operators on board, too.

Cruise

San Francisco; Scottsdale, Arizona and Orion, Michigan

General Motors has owned autonomous car company Cruise since 2016, and their gen-three autonomous Chevy Bolts are the roads of San Francisco, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Orion, Michigan. (The Bolt is Chevy’s all-electric vehicle, and not to be confused with their hybrid Volt, which they recently put out to the asphalt pasture.) These self-driving Bolts have safety drivers behind the wheel, and in San Francisco, they’re part of an internal ridesharing program, called Cruise Anywhere, for over a 1,000 employees who can use hail one to catch a ride. Cruise and General Motors have also made a splash by revealing their generation-four concept vehicle, a Bolt that has no steering wheel or pedals.

self-driving cars

A self-driving van in Texas.

Drive.ai

Drive.ai

Frisco and Arlington, Texas

Like Aptiv and Aurora, the name Drive.ai may not be familiar, but they’re already offering a self-driving service in two places in Texas: Frisco and Arlington. Both of those towns are in the Dallas, Fort Worth area, and both services use self-driving vans and safety drivers to shuttle people around in a specific, geofenced region. The service in Arlington is the more public of the two—so if you’re visiting Arlington, you could summon a self-driving van, for free, via an app or through a kiosk. The vans even have signs on them to let pedestrians know what they’re doing.

Ford

A Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Ford

Ford

Dearborn, Miami, and Pittsburgh

Ford is working with a company called Argo AI for its self-driving cars. The company has autonomous vehicles on the road in Dearborn, Michigan, and Miami and Pittsburgh; they also plan to expand into Washington, DC in 2019. Those cars also have two safety personnel on board—one behind the wheel, and one in the passenger seat.

The automaker has also been working with Dominos, Postmates, and Walmart to explore the intersection of self-driving cars and business deliveries; interestingly, those cars are designed to look like self-driving cars, but actually are just regular ol’ vehicles with humans driving them. These fake self-driving tests are so the company can learn about logistics and human-car interactions at the pick-up and drop-off points.

Finally, it has been eying a 2021 launch in Miami and Washington, DC, for an autonomous commercial service that would carry people and goods.

Uber

Planning to return to Pittsburgh

Uber, through its internal Advanced Technologies Group, was ploughing ahead on self-driving cars—and then one of their vehicles hit, and killed, a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. While they yanked their autonomous cars off the road after that tragedy, they’re planning to bring them back, but with a much smaller scope, as The New York Times wrote in early December in an article that also reports that Uber’s “autonomous car technology has faced considerable issues.” When—and if—they return to testing in Pittsburgh, their testing area will take place on an approximately mile-long loop, with two people in the car, and they won’t run them at night, over 25 miles per hour, or in bad weather. An Uber spokesperson also said, via email: “While we are working to get back on public roads, we would never compromise on safety in order to get there. As we have said many times before, our return is predicated on successfully passing our rigorous track tests and having our letter of authorization from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in hand.”

shuttle

A self-driving shuttle in Ohio.

Smart Columbus

Waymo

Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, and Gilbert, Arizona

Waymo began as an internal self-driving project from Google, and is now an Alphabet-owned company in its own right. They recently launched an autonomous taxi service in four cities in the Phoenix, Arizona area, which is only open to hundreds of people, according to the company; those people can use an app to summon a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica (which has two Waymo-employed humans up front) and then go somewhere in it, like Uber or Lyft.

Waymo One is an evolution of testing the company had already been doing in the Phoenix area, called the Waymo early rider program. A leader in the autonomous car space, Waymo has racked up more than 10 million miles of running autonomous cars on public roads, and billions of simulated miles, too.

Finally, others continue to work in the autonomous car industry, from the little to big. A self-driving shuttle began operations on December 10 on a small loop in Columbus, Ohio, for example. And of course, Tesla produces a semi-autonomous feature for its vehicles, called Autopilot, to assist drivers and even suggest making a lane change.

This article will be updated as news develops.

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Gloucestershire street has the UK’s slowest broadband

The worst street for broadband in the UK is almost 2,000 times slower than the fastest, an annual survey has found.

Greenmeadows Park in Bamfurlong, Gloucestershire has average download speeds of 0.14mbps, which is 1,899 times slower than Abdon Avenue in Birmingham, where the average is 265.89Mbps.

The different means those in the Greenmeadows Park houses have to allow 102 hours to download a two hour HD film from Netflix, while those living in Abdon Avenue could download it in four minutes.

The average speed in the UK is 46.2bps but about a quarter (26.3%) of homes struggle with speeds of less than 10mbps and one in eight get less than 5mbps.

The statistics were compiled by comparison site uSwitch.

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Five of the fastest streets in Britain are in the South West, including Wiltshire, Dorset and Cornwall, while nine of the slowest streets in the north of the UK, including South Yorkshire, Scotland and Merseyside.

According to uSwitch, there are more broadband users getting faster speeds now compared with three years ago, but the comparison site says speeds are still a "postcode lottery".

Superfast speeds are available to customers living on a third of Britain's slowest streets, but uSwitch believe there's a lack of awareness about better services, leaving people with poor speeds.

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Dani Warner, broadband spokesman for uSwitch, said: "It's almost comical that it would take someone in Bamfurlong more than 100 hours to download a two-hour HD film yet someone living just an hour's drive away on Abdon Avenue in Birmingham can download the same film in just over four minutes.

"Awareness of fibre broadband availability continues to be the biggest hurdle to people getting faster download speeds. Over a third of the slowest streets have access to superfast speeds, so people living there have no need to be crawling along on completely unusable internet services."

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Twitch audience soars amid child protection concerns

By Rowland Manthorpe, technology correspondent

Live-streaming service Twitch has increased its UK audience by 50% in the last year, Sky News has learned.

Twitch, which is best known as a place to watch and chat about gaming, has enjoyed a year of huge growth as audiences for traditional TV remained stagnant.

The firm recently announced that, on average, more than one million people were on Twitch at any given moment, watching an average of 95 minutes per session.

That makes Amazon-owned Twitch the second-largest streaming platform for total minutes watched per viewer, behind only Netflix.

Image: Twitch is best known as a place to watch and chat about gaming

By contrast, the UK's biggest TV channel, BBC1, reaches around 25,000 people a week, who watch around five hours on average, according to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.

"Our audience is growing in every geography that we operate in and we're seeing just improving year on year growth," Sara Clemens, Twitch's chief operating officer, told Sky News.

"We've over a hundred million people globally who watch Twitch and fifteen million daily who tune in to watch Twitch."

Twitch, which is funded by advertising, recently opened a new European headquarters in London's West End, staffed primarily by sales teams.

Employees work at the offices of Twitch
Image: Twitch, which has offices in San Francisco, has opened a European HQ in London

The service, which recently started showing the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" games, has been increasing its range and number of partners, channels which earn revenue by accepting subscriptions from viewers.

In the UK, Twitch told Sky News that the number of partners had increased 20% year-on-year and partner revenue had increased 80%.

Asked whether Twitch might consider a partnership with the Premier League, Ms Clemens replied: "Maybe."

However, the platform's popularity among young people has raised questions about its policies around addiction and gaming.

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Andrew Burrows, head of online safety at the NSPCC, said: "On a site like Twitch children can live-stream or live broadcast themselves and chat to any other user on the platform."

The charity's research shows that one in 20 children who have live-streamed have been asked to undress on camera.

Ms Clemens told Sky News that Twitch had robust guidelines around the content in its servers.

"We are not only investing in technology tools to do that, we also have moderators who can investigate any reports and concerns about conduct," she said.

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Asked if she was concerned viewers were spending too much time on Twitch, Ms Clemens said: "Engagement on Twitch is an engagement with a community and being concerned about people spending time is the same as being concerned about people spending time with a group of friends."

In June, the NHS launched its first clinic for internet addiction, with a special focus on video games.

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