So what’s the latest from the wonderful world of high tech as I hit the halfway point of my Tech Tour> I’m ever so glad you asked…
* NASA is paying $424 million more to Russia to get U.S. astronauts into space, and the agency’s leader is blaming Congress for the extra expense. Russia currently provides the only means of getting people to and from the space station, and its ticket prices have soared with each new contract. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said if Congress had approved the space agency’s request for more funding for its commercial space effort, the latest contract would have been unnecessary. He is urging full funding of the Obama administration’s 2014 budget request of $821 million for the commercial crew program. “Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017,” Bolden, a former shuttle commander, wrote in a NASA blog.
* The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium is driving Michigan’s growing role as a major investment hub. Check the facts here as presented by the folks at UM. UM says world-class university programs, organizational support for high-growth startups and tons of knowledge workers are driving Michigan’s increasing investment success.
* Michigan shined again at last weekend’s FIRST Robotics competition. The Detroit area’s Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and the Bloomfield International Academy were on the runner up alliance at the recently held FIRST Robotics world championships in St. Louis. The Plymouth-Canton team placed third in the world after losing in the semis. Michigan has dominated at the FIRST Nationals (now Worlds) since 2002 — winning eight titles in nine years.
* Happy 20th birthday, World Wide Web! Twenty years ago today, a team lead by Tim Berners-Lee at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that a project they were working on, to connect computers around the world, would be a free and open platform for all to use. On April 30, 1993, the World Wide Web was born. Often nicknamed WWW, W3 or the Web, the platform should not to be mistaken for the Internet, which is the infrastructure that the Web runs on.
* Two-year-old Hannah Warren lived her whole life in an intensive care unit with a breathing tube. She was born without a windpipe and has been unable to talk, swallow, or eat on her own. er only hope was an artificial windpipe; an experimental device which had been tried in only five other patients, none in the United States, and none of them children. Her medical team custom-designed a tube using tiny plastic fibers. It was then bathed in stem cells taken from Hannah’s bone marrow to promote tissue growth. In a nine-hour surgery on April 9, the bio-engineered windpipe was placed inside Hannah. So far, so good — it’s working.
* With the complete depletion of its stored helium, which was used to cool the spacecraft’s instruments, the Herschel space observatory is experiencing a rise in temperatures, rendering its sensitive equipment unusable, according to a report issued by NASA and the European Space Agency yesterday. The spacecraft is now being set adrift.
* Boo, Netflix — It appears to be expiration time again for certain movies on Netflix streaming, according to Slate. This time around, hundreds of classic titles from Warner Bros., MGM, and Universal will allegedly disappear from Instant queues on May 1. That means goodbye Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories,” “10 to Midnight” starring Charles Bronson, the James Bond hits “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger,” and many more.
* With his comment that tablets will soon die out, BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins is just the latest to offer a bold prediction about the future of technology. Will he be the latest to blow it?
* CNet News.com found a Web site pulls keyword data from Twitter to measure happiness around the world on any given day. Is the globe feeling good today?
* Verizon and MySpace scored a zero out of a possible six stars in a test of how far 18 technology service providers will go to protect user data from government data demands. Twitter and Internet service provider Sonic.net scored a perfect six in the third annual Electronic Frontier Foundation “Who Has Your Back?” report.