Japan lands spacecraft on the moon, and other technology stories you need to read

From Japan's moon landing to GPS spoofing endangering passenger aircraft, here are the latest technology stories.
Image: Unsplash/Ganapathy Kumar
  • This monthly round-up brings you the latest stories from the world of technology.
  • Top technology stories: Japan lands space probe on lunar surface; GPS hacking puts aircraft at risk; China achieves big solar energy capacity increase.

1. Japan lands spacecraft on the moon

Japan has become the fifth nation to land a spacecraft on the moon. The Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency hailed what it called "a pinpoint landing", Reuters reports.

While the landing position was accurate to within 100 metres of the target site, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon toppled over on an incline, reducing its ability to generate power using its solar panels.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), captured by LEV-2 on the moon.
Japan's lunar probe suffered problems after landing on the moon.
Image: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), TAKARA TOMY, Sony Group, Doshisha University /via REUTERS

Despite the setback, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said: "We proved that you can land wherever you want, rather than where you are able to. This will inspire more and more people, desirably Japanese missions, to try to land on unexplored places on the moon."

Japan's moon landing followed the failure of a private US consortium to successfully land its Peregrine vehicle on the lunar surface after experiencing propulsion system problems.


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2. GPS interference endangers aircraft

Airlines and global aviation regulators are warning that interference with GPS signals over war zones is putting passenger places at risk. A meeting of interested parties on 25 January found no quick technical fix to the problem, Reuters reports.

The concerns follow a series of incidents where GPS systems were compromised and gave false locations or inaccurate timestamps. There has been no disruption to the control of the aircraft involved.

GPS jamming and spoofing has become more common in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea and the Middle East.

The first international meeting to discuss GPS-related risk was held in Cologne, Germany. It was attended by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and global trade group the International Air Transport Association.

3. In brief: Other tech stories to know

Engineers have created a fast-charging lithium battery that could overcome the so-called "range anxiety" associated with electric vehicles. A report from Cornell University details how a team developed a battery that can be charged in less than five minutes without compromising safety or the long-term performance of the battery.

Tiny robots modelled on insects have been revealed by engineers at Washington State University (WSU).

The WaterStrider weighs 55 milligrams and can move at 6 millimeters per second
A robot based on a water-skimming insect has been developed in the United States.
Image: Bob Hunter/WSU Photo Services

The team at WSU says the robots are the smallest of their type ever created, and could be used in applications including artificial crop pollination, search and rescue, or robot-assisted surgery.

China's installed solar electric power generation capacity rose by 55.2% in 2023, according to data released by the National Energy Agency on 26 January. The country generated more than 216 gigawatts of solar power this year, while its wind power generation capacity jumped by 20.7%.

Fifteen US companies, including semiconductor firms, have expressed interest in investing $8 billion in Vietnam's clean energy sector, according to a report from Reuters. The deal comes with a condition that chips would be manufactured using renewable energy.

More on technology from Davos 2024

The power of technology to tell compelling environmental stories was on show at the World Economic Forum's 2024 Annual Meeting in Davos. Caribbean marine biologist and explorer Diva Amon joined a discussion panel live from a deep-sea submersible.

Marine biologist Diva Amon aboard a submersible off the coast of the Seychelles.
Marine biologist Diva Amon aboard a submersible off the coast of the Seychelles.

Diva was examining the health of coral reefs off the coast of the Seychelles. Marine ecology experts discussed the potential of technology to help improve and protect marine environments. You can watch the whole session here.

Similarly, the Forum's new report Innovation and Adaptation in the Climate Crisis: Technology for the New Normal explores how technology can help society adapt to climate-related risks, such as flooding or wildfires.

The potential of AI to analyse earth observation (EO) data was detailed in the Forum's briefing paper The Catalytic Potential of Artificial Intelligence for Earth Observation. EO data is used to monitor and measure the status of the environment and the impact of human activity on it.

Drones are transforming access to healthcare in some in India's poorest communities. The World Economic Forum's Medicines from the Sky programme delivers vaccines to remote areas using unmanned aerial vehicles. More than 300 trial flights have been completed successfully.

Fields carpeted with solar panels are an increasingly common sight. On the surface, it can seem as if solar energy is swallowing up vast tracts of farmland. But a twin-track approach, known as agrivoltaic farming, sees food crops thriving beneath the rows of solar panels. Experts say, "this increases land-use efficiency, as it lets solar farms and agriculture share ground, rather than making them compete against one another".

Understanding the quantum revolution and its implications for digital security highlighted the need to explore strategies for developing quantum-resistant technologies and securing digital infrastructure against quantum vulnerabilities. And a session on Quantum's Black Swan addressed the promise of solving previously unsolvable problems.

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