In this week of Science Saturday, we keep you updated with the latest science and tech news making headlines around the world, ranging from a billionaire’s new mission in space to China’s 5G market.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos successfully blasted himself into space. The launch of the New Shepard rocket shot Bezos and a team of three others into the sky from a West Texas launch site on Tuesday. The ride lasted just over 10 minutes and 20 seconds. It’s the first attempt by Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, to carry a manned vessel into space. The billionaire businessman hopes this mission will kick-start a new era for human space travel. Blue Origin has now opened ticket sales for future flights. It says it’s approaching $100 million dollars in sales, with two more crewed missions this year.
A man with paralysis turned his thoughts into words – with a little help! An experimental implanted device helped to decode signals in the man’s brain that once controlled his vocal tract. The man is currently limited to just 50 words and communicates at a rate of about 15 words per minute – much slower than natural speech. Currently, people with paralysis, who can’t speak, rely on devices that use eye or head movements to spell out words, one letter at a time. Some use a device that allows them to control a computer cursor with thoughts. Researchers say this new device is more natural and hopefully, effortless compared to current devices.
COVAX signed a deal for 550 million Chinese COVID-19 vaccines. The agreement includes up to 170 million doses of the Sinopharm shot and up to 380 million shots of the Sinovac vaccine, through to the middle of next year. Under the agreement, the Chinese vaccine makers will begin to make 110 million doses immediately available. The World Health Organization approved the two Chinese shots for emergency use earlier this year. COVAX, which distributes vaccines to poorer countries, is now on track to deliver more than two billion doses by early 2022.
China has become the world’s largest 5G market. Official data shows China had more than 160 million 5G network users by the end of last year. This accounts for about 89 percent of the global total. There are 916,000 5G base stations in the country, making 70 percent of the global total. An official report says China’s 5G users are estimated to reach over 560 million by 2023, and the penetration rate of the 5G network in individual users will surpass 40 percent.