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Aug. 3, 2012 at 6:56 PM
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NASA awards 'space taxi' funding

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Two U.S. companies will split almost $1 billion in federal funds for development of the next-generation of manned spacecraft, industry officials say.

Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. have been awarded the bulk of the funding NASA is offering for the development of commercially-owned and operated vehicles, dubbed space taxis, intended to shuttle crews to and from the International Space Station, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Chicago-based Boeing reportedly will get $460 million for its seven-person CST-100 capsule, which will launch on an Atlas rocket with the first test flight set for 2016.

NASA said it would give SpaceX $446 million for ongoing development of its Dragon capsule, which SpaceX has already successfully launched into orbit atop its own Falcon rocket.

The Dragon can accommodate seven people and will have its first manned test launch in 2015, SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said.

NASA said it has chosen a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville, Colo., to receive a smaller amount -- $212 million -- for development of a mini-shuttle crew vehicle called Dream Chaser, that carries seven people and could be flown without a pilot.

The ship is based on an old NASA test ship design but is behind SpaceX's Dragon in test flight time.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said the funding of the three companies "will help keep us on track to tend the outsourcing of human spaceflight."

Poll identifies common cellphone problems

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Mobile phone users commonly experience four common problems concerning technical glitches and unwanted intrusions, a U.S. poll indicated.

The Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project said 72 percent of cellphone owners asked reporting dropped calls at least occasionally and 32 percent say they encounter this problem at least a few times a week or more frequently than that.

In the poll, 68 percent of respondents said they receive unwanted sales or marketing calls at one time or another, with 25 percent seeing them at least a few times a week or more frequently.

Of those with phones that have texting capabilities, 69 percent told pollsters they get unwanted spam or text messages.

Finally, of those who use their phones to go online -- to browse the Internet, exchange e-mail or download apps -- 77 percent of those asked complained of slow download speeds that interfere with the process.

Telephone interviews were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from March 15-April 3, among a sample of 2,254 adults, age 18 and older.

The sampling error was 2.4 percentage points.

Double impact crater seen on Mars

PARIS, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A spacecraft orbiting Mars captured images of interconnected impact craters astronomers say were formed by a single object that split in two just before impact.

The overlapping craters dubbed Sigli and Shambe, photographed by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, are located in an area of the Red Planet dubbed the Ladon Basin, an ESA release said Thursday.

The two impacts have formed an elliptical crater, often seen when asteroids or comets strike the surface of the planet at a shallow angle, scientists said.

A fluidized ejecta pattern of material surrounding the double crater suggests the presence of subsurface ice that melted during the impact, they said.

The Ladon region, imaged on 27 April by the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express, is of great interest as it also shows significant signs of ancient lakes and rivers, astronomers said.

U.S. opposes changes in Internet control

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The United States says it will resist efforts to have control of the Internet transferred to the United Nations.

The Internet's technical specifications and domain name system are overseen by several non-profit U.S. organizations that operate separately from government control although they are officially under the remit of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

There has been speculation other countries will seek a change in those arrangements this year.

In documents filed with the International Telecommunications Union, the U.N. agency responsible for encouraging the development of communications technologies, the Unites States set out its opposition to any changes.

"The United States is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector or perhaps even extended to the Internet sector," Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to an upcoming ITU conference set for December in Dubai, said in a statement.

"The United States also believes that existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all its benefits," he said.

The ITU said any changes to the current setup must have unanimous support and it would block members trying to put any such matter to a vote.

"We never vote because voting means winners and losers and you can't afford that," ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure told the BBC.

"Whatever one single country does not accept will not pass."

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