As if the war in Ukraine weren’t bad enough right here on Earth, it threatens knock-on effects that could be felt as far away as Mars. One victim of the deteriorating relationships between nations is the next phase of the ExoMars project, a joint ESA-Roscosmos mission that includes the Rosalind Franklin rover. The long-delayed mission was most recently set for launch in October 2022, but the ESA says that hitting the narrow launch window is now “very unlikely.” That’s a shame, since the orbital dynamics of Earth and Mars will mean that it’ll be 2024 before another Hohmann Transfer window opens. There are also going to be repercussions throughout the launch industry due to Russia pulling the Soyuz launch team out of the ESA’s spaceport in Guiana. And things have to be mighty tense aboard the ISS right about now, since the station requires periodic orbital boosting with Russian Progress rockets.
If you wear a fitness band, chances are pretty good you do so for health reasons. The idea of keeping track of your activity and vitals around the clock makes sense — right up until your wrist bursts into flames. At least that’s what’s reported to have happened to 174 Fitbit smartwatch users, resulting in a recall of 1.7 million units. The problem, unsurprisingly, is the lithium battery, overheating of which has resulted in 78 reported cases of burns. Injuries from overheating seem to be pretty rare, but Googling around for some images of injuries is pretty risky for the weak-stomached. You’ve been warned.
If you’re into embedded design and RT-Thread, you might want to take a look at the contest LCSC and other companies are sponsoring. The challenge is to come up with a design that uses the CH32V307, a 32-bit RISC-V microcontroller. Whatever you come up with needs to use RT-Thread as an OS. If you’ve got an embedded idea that you’re itching to try, this might be a good contest to try. Accepted entries all get either a CH32V307 dev board or chip, and you have until April 30 to get your entry in.
Here’s one from the “Malicious Compliance” files, with just a touch of social engineering. It’s the story of the most ridiculous railway ever built, and how it’s used to skirt around protectionist trade laws. The Bayside Canadian Railway is all of 200 feet (61 meters) long, and goes exactly nowhere other than from one side of a parking lot to the other in the province of New Brunswick. It has a small locomotive and exactly one flatbed car. Frozen fish from Alaska are shipped through the Panama Canal to a port in New Brunswick, loaded onto semi-trucks, and then are driven onto the flatbed rail car.
After their 45-second trip down the track, they’re driven back off the railway and across the border into Maine, thereby completing part of their journey to market on a railroad in Canada. This allows the load to qualify for an exemption to the USA’s 1920 Jones Act, which prevents foreign vessels from moving cargo between American ports. Figuring out exactly how all this makes financial sense is left as an exercise for the reader, but we suspect that it will boil down to something like, “Technically legal is the best kind of legal.”