This article appeared in the January 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/07 edition

Hey Elon, what’s that glittering necklace in the night sky?

Photo courtesy of Dr Marco Langbroek
The first "train" of Starlink satellites crosses the night sky in May 2019.

Our five selected stories in today’s edition cover security in Iraq, a shift in how U.S. colleges measure merit, closing the inequality gap for low-wage workers, why age doesn’t define Democratic voters, and challenging injustice in South Africa. 

Sometimes the path to progress goes through space.

On Monday night, 60 satellites were launched into orbit. Yes, 60. These little digital moons – about the size of a desk – are the next step in Elon Musk’s plan for high-speed internet access around the world. Literally.

But SpaceX is just getting started. This mission is the first of 20 planned Starlink launches this year. The company is creating an initial Earth necklace of 1,500 satellites. In low orbit (340 miles), there’s less signal delay, so internet speeds should be comparable to current broadband. By year-end, Starlink expects to sell internet access to the northern United States and Canada. 

Yes, I’m a fanboy because I live in a rural area without internet. That may sound like we live in Henry David Thoreau’s cabin, but there are about 15 million to 20 million U.S. homes without broadband. Worldwide, half of the population doesn’t have regular internet access. It’s a huge digital info equality gap. And, that’s nearly 4 billion people who can’t play Fortnite. Devastating, right? 

Starlink is one of four companies (including Amazon) racing to create low-orbit satellite internet. Skeptics say the economics won’t work. Astronomers hate the orbital clutter. And Facebook, Google, and other companies are also seeking cheaper – less ambitious – rural solutions. But Mr. Musk is leveraging SpaceX reusable rockets to quickly get this idea off the ground in hopes the revenues will someday fund his $200 billion Mars mission. 

Look up: On a clear night, you can see ingenuity circling the globe. 

This article appeared in the January 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/07 edition
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