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NASA to fly remote-controlled helicopter on Mars

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WASHINGTON — NASA said on Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

The US space agency said it will send a small helicopter to Mars as part of the agency’s 2020 mission to place a next-generation rover on the Martian surface, marking the first time such an aircraft will be used on another world.

Known as ‘The Mars Helicopter,’ the device weighs less than four pounds (1.8 kilograms), and its main body section, or fuselage, is about the size of a softball.

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“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling.”

It will be attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover, a wheeled robot that aims to determine the habitability of the Martian environment, search for signs of ancient life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers.

Mars 2020 is planned for launch in July 2020 with an arrival on the surface of Mars expected in February 2021.

Agencies

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Google+ to shut down after private data of about 500,000 users exposed

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KATHMANDU — Alphabet Inc’s Google is going to shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data-sharing policies after announcing that private profile data of about 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers, the company said on Monday.

Google, however, kept silent for more than six months its discovery of a bug that put at risk the personal data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users.

The issue was discovered and patched in March as part of a review of how Google shares data with other applications, Google said in a blog post.

But the delay until October in revealing the incident could reignite long-standing complaints from federal and state officials that tech giants such as Google are reckless with user privacy.

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Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier.

The Journal reported that Google opted not to disclose the security issue at the time due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, citing unnamed sources and a memo prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff for senior executives, adding that chief executive Sundar Pichai had been briefed on the issue.

Google announced in its blog post Monday that it will mostly discontinue Google+ limiting it to only business and other enterprise customers.

The search engine giant has also announced new curbs on the information, such as call logs and contact lists, that outsider developers can gather on Android, the Google operating system used by most of the world’s smartphones. And it will also impose new limits on the data shared about users of its popular email service, Gmail.

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