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Update  December, 2019


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China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

A lander is lifted during a test of hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities at a facility in Huailai in China’s Hebei province, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Samuel McNeil

Huailai, China (AP) — China showed off its Mars spacecraft during a landing test Thursday as the country pushes for inclusion in more global space projects.

The demonstration of hovering, obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities was conducted at a site outside Beijing simulating conditions on the red planet, where the pull of gravity is about one-third that of Earth.

China plans to launch a lander and rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet, one of four scheduled missions. The U.S. and Europe are also sending rovers to Mars next year, and the United Arab Emirates plans to launch an orbiter.

China’s burgeoning space program achieved a lunar milestone earlier this year by landing a spacecraft on the mysterious far side of the moon.

It has developed rapidly, especially since it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003, and has sought cooperation with space agencies from Europe and elsewhere.

The U.S., however, has banned most space cooperation with China out of national security concerns, keeping China from participating in the International Space Station.

Despite that, China’s ambitions continue to grow as it seeks to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in space and cement its position as a regional and global power. It is gradually constructing its own larger, more permanent space station in which it has invited foreign participation.

The lander on Thursday successfully avoided ground obstacles during a simulated low-gravity descent, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Chinese space program’s main contractor.

The refrigerator-sized craft was lowered gently on 36 cables through the air for about a minute and used onboard jets spraying rust-colored fumes to alter its downward course.

“After the probe is launched, it will take about seven months to reach Mars, and the final procedure of landing will only last about seven minutes, which is the most difficult and the most risky part of the whole mission,” said the Mars mission’s chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao, standing before the 140-meter (460-foot) -tall testing facility.

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russia and other countries have been lost or destroyed over the years. Only the U.S. has pulled it off and has made eight successful landings.

The remote test site lies an hour north of the Great Wall from Beijing.

Guests at Thursday’s event came from 19 countries and included the ambassadors of Brazil, France and Italy.

“This event is the first public appearance of China’s Mars exploration mission, also an important measure for China to pragmatically carry out space international exchanges and cooperation,” the China National Space Administration said in a statement.


Yahoo Japan, Line to merge business to form online giant

(Shinji Kita/Kyodo News via AP)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) — Online services Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. have announced they are merging.

Z Holdings Corp., which owns SoftBank Corp. that operates Yahoo Japan, and Naver Corp. of South Korea, which owns a majority stake in Line, said Monday they are aiming for a final agreement by next month.

The combination in a joint venture through a tender offer will form an online giant with retail services, advertising and other mobile services such as messaging.

The combined sales would be the largest among Japanese online business operators, surpassing Rakuten Inc., according to Kyodo News service.

The companies said combining forces will allow them to stay competitive in a drastically changing market, including expansions into robotics and other new areas.

The integration will be carried out equally, according to the companies, but the price is expected to be decided in December.

Discussions had been ongoing between Naver and Z Holdings since June, they said. After a deal is completed, Line will get delisted.

The new company will primarily focus on the Japanese market, seeking to answer to Japan’s social needs such as a shrinking worker population and natural disasters, SoftBank said in a statement.

“Social and industrial conditions surrounding us are changing drastically and daily on a global basis,” it said, adding that Japan needs to catch up, and coming together might help.

“Particularly in the internet market, overseas companies, especially those based in the United States and China, are overwhelmingly dominant.”

The chief executives of both companies later appeared together at a Tokyo hotel, wearing ties with the other company’s colors — green for Line and red for Yahoo.

They said the companies not only shared similar values but also the same sense of crisis of being dwarfed by American and Chinese rivals, even after the two companies come together, by size in terms of sales, research investment amount and number of employees.

“We both felt we needed to act now to prepare for the future,” said Line Chief Executive Takeshi Idezawa.

The merger is planned to be completed by October next year, with the new entity having 10 board members, three from each company and four outside members, they said.

They said the companies are a good match because they both operate online content and financial services, but can complement each other. Line, for instance, is stronger in messaging and Yahoo in online commerce, they said.

“Yahoo values surprising its users, and Line values wowing its users, and so by coming together we hope to excite our users around the world,” said Kentaro Kawabe, chief executive of Z Holdings..


UPDATE

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

China tests Mars lander in international cooperation push

Yahoo Japan, Line to merge business to form online giant