Microsoft and Facebook have announced plans to lay a trans-Atlantic communications cable from Virginia to Spain.
Running from Virginia Beach, Virgina to Bilbao, Spain, MAREA (which is Spanish for “tide”), it will be the first cable to connect the US to southern Europe, over a distance of 6,600 km (4,100 miles). From Blibao, it will connect to network hubs in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with the goal of improving speed and reliability. For Microsoft this means improvements for users of its cloud services, such as Bing, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, and Microsoft Azure, while for Facebook it means improvements for users of its eponymous social network.
I find this story very puzzling. The whole reason communication satellites exist is because they have historically been far cheaper to build and launch with far greater capacity than ocean cables. Thus, the decision of these companies to go with an undersea cable instead of satellites suggests that something has changed in that equation, though I can’t see what. Have undersea cables improved so much that they have a bigger capacity than satellites, so much bigger that it compensates for the higher cost of installation and maintenance?
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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