Tech Talk

• The German government is extending a system of incentives to buy electric cars by 18 months until the end of 2020.

The programme launched three years ago was supposed to expire at the end of June, but demand for electric cars has remained disappointing. It is backed by a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.3 billion) fund, half financed by the federal government and half by the auto industry.

Announcing the extension on Friday, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said that “we need continuity in support” for electric cars. The incentives will continue at their current level: buyers of purely electric cars will continue to get 4,000 euros and people buying plug-in hybrids will get 3,000 euros.

Altmaier said applications for the incentives have been rising “but more slowly than we had hoped.”

• Young space enthusiasts in Virginia will be able to chat live with NASA astronaut Christina Koch about what it’s like to live in space.

The Slover Library in Norfolk will be the host site for a live downlink event from the International Space Station on Aug. 9. Koch is set to be in space for 328 days, setting the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.

Approximately 200 students will at the library to ask Koch questions.

Slover Library was selected because of its strong attachment to the Space Science community. The library previously hosted STAR Net’s Discover NASA exhibit. It is currently partnered with Old Dominion University and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing through an intergenerational contest.

• NASA’s major projects are busting budgets and schedules like never before, according to a congressional watchdog agency.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported last week that NASA’s major projects are more than 27 percent over baseline costs and the average launch delay is 13 months.

That’s the largest schedule delay since the GAO began assessing NASA’s major projects 10 years ago.

The still-in-development James Webb Space Telescope is the major offender.

The projected launch date for this advanced successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is now 2021, with an estimated $9.6

billion price tag, the GAO noted.

Its original target launch date was 2007, with initial cost estimates as low as $1 billion.

NASA’s yet-to-fly mega rocket, the Space Launch System, also faces big cost overruns because of production challenges and, likely, even more launch delays.

On the bright side, the Parker Solar Probe launched last summer and looping ever closer around the sun came in millions under budget and was also on time.

The GAO defines a major project as having at least $250 million in lifetime costs. Altogether, NASA plans to invest $63 billion on the 24 major projects listed in the GAO’s latest report.

The partial government shutdown, which stretched from December to January, was not factored into the report.


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