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The move, touted by a company exec at the time as “an exciting advancement,” was intended to streamline the process for homeowners considering selling to Zillow as part of its home-flipping business. Zillow promoted this option as a way to make it convenient to sell a home while minimizing interactions with others during the pandemic. Just eight months later, however, the company is shutting down that business, Zillow Offers, entirely.The decision, announced last week, marks a stunning defeat for Zillow. The real estate listing company took a $304 million inventory write-down in the third quarter, which it blamed on having recently purchased homes for prices that are higher than it thinks it can sell them. The company saw its stock plunge and it now plans to cut 2,000 jobs, or 25% of its staff. The fallout from this business venture doesn’t just point to the challenges in buying and selling homes for profit, however. It also highlights how hard it is to use AI to help make expensive, real-world decisions, particularly in an ever-changing market that can be hard to predict months or even weeks out, and with prices that can be based as much on feel as on clear data points. Zillow CEO and cofounder Rich Barton explained the shuttering of Zillow Offers by citing “unpredictability in forecasting home prices” that “far exceeds” what the company had expected.The “iBuyer” model used by Zillow and other other real estate companies entails purchasing homes directly from sellers and then re-listing them after doing minor work. For Zillow, one of the first steps in its decision to purchase any home is the “Zestimate” — a machine-learning-assisted estimate of a home’s market value that is calculated by taking into account oodles of data about the property gathered from sources including tax and property records, homeowner-submitted details such as the addition of a bathroom or bedroom, and pictures of the house. Rival platforms such as Redfin have their own estimates that take similar data into account.”The Zestimate, facts you provided, and comparable homes nearby are used to calculate an estimated sale price,” Zillow explained on its Zillow Offers webpage to homeowners who may be interested in selling their property to the company. (The page now notes the company is “winding down” the service, and isn’t making new offers on homes.) After that estimate, the page explained, Zillow conducts an in-person evaluation of a property, determines the amount it deems necessary for repairs before it could resell the house, and then makes a final offer. Zillow has bought tens of thousands of homes since the launch of Zillow Offers, but has sold many fewer than it snapped up: according to its quarterly results, it purchased 27,000 homes from April 2018 through September 2021, and sold nearly 17,000.Zillow declined a request for an interview with Krishna Rao, the company’s vice president of analytics. In a statement, Zillow spokesperson Viet Shelton told CNN Business the company used the Zestimate for Zillow Offers “the same way we encourage the public to use it: as a starting point.””The challenge we faced in Zillow Offers was the ability to accurately forecast the future price of inventory three to six months out, in a market where there were larger and more rapid changes in home values than ever before,” Shelton said.Indeed, since Zillow entered the home-flipping business in 2018, real estate markets have changed in wildly unpredictable ways. The pandemic led to a temporary housing market freeze, followed by a supply and demand imbalance that caused an unprecedented rise in home prices. This may only have complicated the company’s decision to include the Zestimate — which Zillow points out is not an appraisal, but a “computer-generated estimate of the value of the home today, given the available data” — as part of the Zillow Offers process in more than 20 cities.Artificial intelligence can look at far more information, far more quickly, than a single human could when considering a fair price for a home, weighing factors like comparable home sales in an area, how many people are looking in a specific neighborhood and so on. Still, “you can have a real estate agent look at a house and in one second pick out one critical factor of the valuation that just doesn’t exist as ones and zeroes in any database,” said Mike DelPrete, a real estate technology strategist and scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado Boulder. A key part of ZillowThe Zestimate has been a key part of Zillow’s brand since the company first launched its website in 2006. The term is featured prominently on millions of Zillow’s home listings; it’s trademarked by the company; and it’s mentioned 61 times in its IPO paperwork from 2011.”Three times a week, we create more than 500,000 unique valuation models, built atop 3.2 terabytes of data, to generate current Zestimates on more than 70 million US homes,” the company wrote in a securities filing in 2011. More than 10 years later, the company publishes Zestimates for more than 100 million US homes. If you’re looking up homes on Zillow’s website or app, the Zestimate is featured prominently in each listing, whether the home is for sale or not. If the house is currently for sale, a red dot is shown next to the words “House for sale,” and the Zestimate, if it’s available for that home, will appear on the same line.Though the company points out that the Zestimate is not a home appraisal, the feature’s accuracy has been called into question over the years. For example, it became the subject of a lawsuit brought by homeowners in 2017. (That suit was dismissed.)Zillow has spent years improving the Zestimate, going so far as to run a multi-year data science competition to improve the accuracy of the algorithm behind it. The company awarded a three-person team the $1 million prize in early 2019.The Zestimate currently has a median error rate of 1.9% for homes that are on the market, Shelton said, meaning Zillow’s estimates for half the homes on the market come within 1.9% of the actual selling price. That percentage of error is much higher — 6.9%, according to Shelton — for off-market homes. Being off by as little as 1.9% on a property with a Zestimate of $500,000 is still nearly $10,000; that figure multiplies over many, many homes in different cities across the United States.An art, not just a scienceIt’s one thing to build a model on a website that’s often reasonably accurate. It’s another to then try to use that model in the real world to make very costly bets — and do so at scale, according to Nima Shahbazi, a member of the team that won the Zestimate algorithm competition and CEO of Mindle.AI, which helps companies use AI to make predictions. For instance, if any homes Zillow purchased had hidden problems — such as a missed crack in the foundation — the Zestimate would not be able to predict those issues, he said. “There are many different parts between a very decent model and deploying the model into production that can go wrong,” he said.Zillow was using the Zestimate to help it make purchasing decisions for homes it hoped to make a profit off of over time. But Nikhil Malik, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, said algorithms tend to be good at making fine-grained, short-term predictions, such as for predicting stock prices a second in advance. But there simply isn’t enough data for an algorithm to learn about longer busts and booms, according to Malik, who researches algorithmic pricing and has studied the Zestimate in particular. There are also many unquantifiable aspects of putting a price tag on a home, DelPrete noted, such as the value of living in the same neighborhood you grew up in or down the street from your parents. These can vary from person to person, which makes it even harder to outsource a home valuation process to a computer. “It’s a good tool for what it is,” DelPrete said of the Zestimate, but it’s a mistake to think it can be used to accurately predict house prices now or in the future. He sees it as “almost a toy,” meant more for piquing your curiosity when looking up your home or your neighbor’s home online. “If you want to do iBuying and you’re going to make thousands of offers every day you have to be really good at valuing homes, not only today but three to six months in the future,” he said. “And that’s an art and a science.” — CNN’s Anna Bahney contributed to this report.

The Apple-1 that is going under the hammer on Tuesday is one of the few surviving examples of Apple’s (AAPL) first computer in the world, according to John Moran Auctioneers.The lot includes an Apple-1 “NTI” motherboard and an Apple Cassette Adapter in a koa wood case, as well as a Datanetics Keyboard Rev D, a 1986 Panasonic video monitor, an Apple-1 connecting cable and a power supply, the listing states.It also comes with an Apple-1 Basic Manual, the Apple-1 Operations Guide, an original MOS 6502 programming manual and two Apple-1 software cassette tapes.The computer was designed by Steve Wozniak and assembled and tested by Steve Jobs.The Apple-1 on sale has only had two owners. This particular example was bought by an electronics professor, who then sold it to a student in 1977, said the auctioneer.”This Apple-1 has recently undergone an extensive authentication, restoration, and evaluation process by one of the foremost experts in the field, who inspected all components and generated a full condition report for the Apple-1,” reads the listing.There are only six examples of the koa wood Apple-1 case left, according to the auction house. The wood has become rarer and more expensive as koa tree numbers have been reduced due to cattle grazing and logging.Only 200 Apple-1s were made in total, with 175 sold.Fifty of the 175 computers were sold to Paul Terrell, owner of a store named ByteShop in Mountain View, California, the listing adds.Terrell was reportedly disappointed when they were delivered because he was expecting a self-contained computer unit that was ready to be plugged in, rather than a kit, according to the auctioneers.However, Jobs placated him by saying that each box contained all the elements to make a fully-functioning computer, and ByteShop could make money upselling the product.In 2013, a rare working model of the Apple-1 sold for more than $671,000 at an auction in Germany.The computer sold along with a letter from Apple co-founder Jobs to its original owner.Jobs and Wozniak famously created the Apple computer in Jobs’ family garage, building the device by hand and financing the company through the sale of Wozniak’s fancy calculator and Jobs’ VW camper van.Now Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, worth around $2.5 trillion.

Their journey kicked off Monday just after 2 pm ET when the astronauts strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule, which had remained attached to the International Space Station since it arrived with the crew in April. The spacecraft spent nearly nine hours slowly maneuvering through orbit, approaching the thick inner layer of Earth’s atmosphere before the Crew Dragon lit up its thrusters to safely slice into the air, deploy parachutes and splash down in the Gulf of Mexico around 10:30 pm Monday. A fleet of rescue ships awaited their arrival and brought the four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency, and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan — to safety. “It’s great to be back to planet Earth,” Kimbrough was heard saying in the moments after splashdown on NASA’s webcast. During their stay in space, Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide oversaw numerous science experiments and even tested the first chile peppers grown in space. They also conducted spacewalks — in which they don the iconic puffy white spacesuits to exit the space station to work on its exterior — and endured some harrowing challenges, such as working through the misfire of a new Russian module that attached to the ISS and briefly knocked it out of position. The trek home presented one last challenge: Issues with the toilet on board SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule left the astronauts without a bathroom option during their trip back home. Instead, the crew was forced to rely on “undergarments” — essentially adult diapers — during the nine-hour journey. During a press conference conducted remotely from the ISS on Friday, McArthur said using undergarments rather than the toilet is “suboptimal.””But we are prepared to manage,” she said. “Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges. This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission, so we’re not too worried about it.”TAKE THIS QUIZ: Your body in spaceKimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet and Hoshide made their return to Earth before the next crew of astronauts was able to get to the ISS to replace them. The goal of NASA and SpaceX’s partnership for their jointly operated ISS missions is to keep the 21-year-old space station fully staffed, making maximum use of the orbiting laboratory while it’s in operation. Keeping enough staff onboard was a constant pressure for NASA during the nearly 10 years that the United States did not have a spacecraft capable of getting astronauts to orbit. After the space agency’s Space Shuttle program retired, it had to rely on its partnership with Russia and the country’s Soyuz spacecraft for getting NASA astronauts to the space station.The next SpaceX astronaut launch, called Crew-3, was delayed — first by weather issues and then by a “minor medical issue” with one of the astronauts. NASA said last week that it’s expecting that medical issue to clear before takeoff, which could happen as soon as Wednesday.NASA is also hoping to bring another launch provider on board: Boeing was contracted alongside SpaceX to develop its own crew-worthy spacecraft, but Boeing has been beleaguered by numerous testing and development hangups. At this point, its spacecraft, called Starliner, is years overdue and was most recently taken off the launch pad after issues with its propulsion system were discovered shortly before a scheduled test flight of the vehicle.

Comcast customers in various areas across the United States, including parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Illinois, reported outages early Tuesday with their Xfinity internet service. Outage tracking service Downdetector recorded more than 52,000 outage reports around 9 a.m. ET, with most complaining of a “total blackout” of service.In response to one tweet Tuesday morning, the company’s verified Xfinity Support Twitter account acknowledged “widespread interruptions to the XFINITY Services,” which it said was “due to unforeseen circumstances.” In response to another tweet, the account said: “We are currently having connection concerns around the nation, our network team is working hard toward a resolution.”Some users reported issues connecting to Xfinity’s status center webpage, which shows where issues might be occurring.”Some customers are experiencing intermittent service interruptions as a result of a network issue,” a tweet from the Xfinity account sent around 11 a.m. ET read. “Our teams are actively working to bring impacted customers back online, as we continue to investigate. We apologize to those who have been affected.”Around noon, the company confirmed in a statement to CNN Business that an earlier network issue had caused “intermittent service disruptions” for some customers. “We have addressed the issue and service is now restoring for impacted customers, as we continue to investigate the root cause,” a Comcast spokesperson said. The spike in outage reports lasted for the better part of an hour before tapering off. By around 9:30 a.m. ET, the number of reports on Downdetector had fallen to just over 20,000 and some users on Twitter were reporting that their internet had been restored, or that they’d at least been able to access Xfinity’s support page to see when their service was expected to resume. By 11 a.m. ET, there were only around 3,000 outage reports on Downdetector.

“I don’t want to put any labels on me, it’s just that it’s something, from a personal point of view, I’m interested in,” the Apple CEO told journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times DealBook Summit Tuesday. Cook didn’t specify which tokens he owns but said, “I think it’s reasonable to own [crypto] as part of a diversified portfolio. … I’ve been interested in it for a while.” Still, cryptocurrency enthusiasts shouldn’t hold their breath for the day when they can buy an iPhone using bitcoin. Cook said he has no plans in the immediate future to accept crypto as a means of payment for Apple (AAPL) products. He added that he also doesn’t plan to invest any of Apple’s cash in cryptocurrency. Some other companies, most notably Tesla and Jack Dorsey’s payments company Square, have invested in crypto directly and, for a short time, Tesla accepted bitcoin as payment.”I don’t think people buy an Apple stock to get exposure to crypto,” Cook said. “If they want to do that, they can invest directly into crypto through other means.” But, he said, “there are other things” related to crypto “that we’re definitely looking at. … I wouldn’t have anything to announce today.” In terms of Apple’s other future plans, Cook declined to comment on the longstanding rumors that an Apple car could be forthcoming. “We try not to talk about the future too much, because we’ve got so much going on in the current day that we try to be secretive about the future,” he said. “It wouldn’t be us if we didn’t keep something up our sleeves.” Cook also addressed a number of other issues facing the tech giant, including criticisms that its App Store allows it to act as a gatekeeper between app developers and the millions of customers in the Apple ecosystem. Apple is currently engaged in a legal battle with Fortnite maker Epic Games over its App Store and the commission fees it charges to developers. Apple critics and even some lawmakers have called on the company to allow third-party App Stores, a move sometimes referred to as “sideloading.” Apple has defended its commissions as consistent with other app stores and that the exclusivity of the App Store on its devices is necessary to ensure security.”If you want to sideload, you can buy an Android phone,” Cook said. He added that giving iPhone users the option to “sideload” apps from platforms outside the Apple App Store would, from Apple’s point of view, “be like, if I were an automobile manufacturer, telling me not to put airbags and seatbelts in a car. You would just never think about doing this. In today’s time, it’s just too risky… and it wouldn’t be an iPhone if it didn’t maximize security and privacy.” The company has also faced a steady stream of criticism over its operations in China, where concerns have been raised about human rights abuses by the Chinese government (which the government denies). “I think that we have a responsibility as a business to do business in as many places as we can,” Cook said. “I believe in what [former IBM CEO] Tom Watson said, ‘world peace through world trade.’ … In terms of what we speak up on, we speak up on some [issues] privately, we speak up on some publicly, we do it in different ways. And you have to get your head around, when you’re operating outside the US in any country in the world, that there are different laws. That’s part of the complexity and part of the beauty of the world is that everybody has their own laws and customs.”

“I’ve had a lot of time to think, and there’ve been multiple lessons and multiple regrets,” said Neumann, speaking publicly for the first time in two years, at the New York Times DealBook Summit on Tuesday. Under Neumann’s leadership, WeWork raised billions of dollars, scaled its coworking operations to hundreds of cities around the world, and was valued at an eye-popping $47 billion during one investment round, a valuation that he acknowledged “went to his head.” But also under Neumann, the company failed spectacularly in its attempt to go public in large part because its IPO paperwork revealed his unchecked power and numerous potential conflicts of interest, as well as WeWork’s staggering losses. Last month, WeWork went public on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of about $9 billion. Despite being forced out, Neumann ultimately walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars.WeWork wasn’t just about selling co-working spaces; it aimed to sell a new way of life. Neumann’s vision included co-living apartments with bustling communal areas so you never feel alone, schools that promised to teach entrepreneurial superpowers to children, a WeBank and an airline. Neumann was ultimately ousted in 2019 following pressure from investors. Shortly after, WeWork halted its plans to go public and later laid off thousands of employees. In the interview Tuesday, Neumann expressed regret for the workers who lost their jobs and saw the value of their equity in the company collapse. He also addressed the criticism he received for the way he ran the company, including allegations of drug use and excessive spending.”We had a fun culture, but first let’s start with the fact we built a global brand and in over 110 cities in over 40 countries,” he said. “We became a household name. So that culture had a lot of things that worked really well. …. But there also comes a moment where you grow out of that to the next stage. I think that could have happened sooner.”Neumann said the $47 billion valuation was partially to blame for exacerbating his management style. As more high-profile investors came on board and the valuation increased, it “made me feel that whatever style I was leading at was the correct style at the time,” he said. “At some point [it went to my head]. I think the moment you lose focus on really the core of your business and why this business was what it meant to be.” The disgraced founder also recalled a 90-minute sit-down meeting with Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook about two and a half years ago. “In that meeting with one of the biggest CEOs on the planet … I spoke so much, instead of listening,” he said. “I had the chance to sit in front of a great person like that and learn, and I was busy talking again.”Cook had appeared via a video chat during the DealBook conference about an hour before Neumann. “I actually hoped that he was going to be here today,” Neumann said. “I was going to apologize to him and tell him that if I ever get a chance to speak to him again, I will listen. I apologize for being an idiot back then.”Neumann, who reportedly sold shares worth more than $700 million to start his own family office, said he’s particularly interested in investing in crypto companies right now. He added that, despite a tumultuous few years, he continues to stay open to learning.”I’m not the same,” he said. “There was a moment where we thought [the money] was all gone. [My wife] Rebecca looked into my eyes and told me, ‘We’re okay.’ If you can have your loved ones and your family and your friends, things will work out in the future. Take it as a lesson. Enjoy the journey and be present.”

Targeted advertising has long been central to the company’s massive digital ads business. But for years, Facebook has faced criticism for allowing highly specific targeting that could, for example, allow advertisers to direct racist ads to users based on their activity on its platforms. In 2019, Facebook settled several lawsuits that alleged its advertising platform allowed for discrimination in housing, employment and credit ads. As part of the settlement, it set up a new portal for such ads. Tuesday’s announcement marks the broadest action the company has taken yet to address concerns related to ad targeting. In a blog post Tuesday, Meta (FB) vice president of product marketing for ads Graham Mudd said the move is a “difficult decision” made to “better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.” The announcement comes as the company faces scrutiny over the real-world harms caused by its platforms that were revealed in the “Facebook Papers,” a trove of internal documents offering unprecedented insight into some of the company’s biggest problems. The documents were provided to lawmakers by former employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen, and obtained by dozens of news organizations, including CNN. In an announcement that coincided with its scramble to contain the fallout from the Facebook Papers, the company announced last month that it would change its name to Meta. It also said last week it will stop using facial-recognition software that could automatically recognize people in photos and videos on its Facebook app (although the company may still use such software in other products now and in the future). Even after Tuesday’s announcement, there will still be thousands of other detailed targeting categories that are not considered sensitive, such as users who are interested in football or more general categories like age, gender and location, that advertisers will still be able to use. That leaves open the possibility of tangential terms being used to target the same audiences they previously reached using sensitive keywords. “We strongly believe that the best advertising experiences are personalized,” Mudd said. He added that advertisers will have other options for targeting users, such as directing ads to people who have engaged with their pages or videos. The change will apply globally to the Facebook, Instagram and Messenger apps, as well as Meta’s “audience network,” through which it places ads on third-party apps. It will start rolling out on January 19, 2022, when advertisers will no longer be able to select keywords from sensitive categories for new ad campaigns, and in March, existing campaigns reliant on such keywords will no longer function, according to the company. The company places users in the categories based on their interactions on the platform, such as which pages they like and which ads they click on. Targeting keywords that will now be removed include terms like “Catholic church” and “chemotherapy.” Meta also said it plans to give users greater control over what kinds of ads they see. “Today, people can opt to see fewer ads related to politics, parenting, alcohol and pets,” Mudd said. “Early next year, we will be giving people control of more types of ad content, including gambling and weight loss, among others.” While the ad targeting changes will apply to Meta’s existing products, it’s not clear whether the company will apply the same rules to future platforms as it pursues its ambitious plan to build the “metaverse,” a new, immersive version of the internet using VR and AR technologies.

The research, shared exclusively with CNN, points to the challenges that hospitals and other facilities have had in keeping sensitive software updated as the resource-absorbing coronavirus pandemic continues. It’s also an example of how federal agencies are working more closely with researchers to investigate cybersecurity flaws that could affect patient safety.Nearly 4,000 devices made by a range of vendors in the health care, government and retail sectors are running the vulnerable software, according to cybersecurity firms Forescout Technologies and Medigate, which discovered the issue. There is no evidence that malicious hackers have taken advantage of the software flaws — and doing so would require prior access to networks in some cases, Forescout said. Siemens, the industrial firm that owns the software, has issued updates fixing the vulnerabilities.Siemens worked with federal officials and the researchers to verify and address the vulnerabilities through software updates.The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is expected to issue an advisory Tuesday encouraging users to update their systems in response to the report, according to researchers.”It is important for medical device manufacturers to have a mechanism to quickly ascertain if their devices are affected,” Dr. Kevin Fu, acting director of medical device cybersecurity at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, told CNN.After learning of the vulnerabilities, “We began working with our partners across all potentially affected critical infrastructure sectors, including in the health care sector, to inform potentially at-risk vendors of this vulnerability and provide guidance on remediating it,” CISA Deputy Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Matt Hartman said in a statement to CNN.The vulnerabilities affect versions of the Nucleus Real-time Operating System, a suite of software owned by Siemens that manages data across critical networks.Fu said the vulnerabilities could affect a range of medical devices, but that it depends on what version of the software is running and whether the device is connected to the internet. In addition to patient monitors, certain anesthesia, ultrasound and x-ray machines could be affected by the software flaw, according to the research.Forescout researchers tested the software vulnerabilities in a lab. In one case, they sent malicious commands to a building automation system used in hospitals, taking it offline and cutting off the lights and HVAC system in a mock hospital room, according to the research report. (For that to work in practice, a hacker would either need to be on the local hospital network already or the building automation device would need to be exposed to the internet.)Elisa Costante, vice president of research at Forescout Technologies, told CNN that her research team wanted to highlight how aging software used in key industries needs to be closely examined for security flaws. “Our smart world relies on legacy software” that is often harder to maintain, Costante said.”Today, I have no evidence of this being exploited [by hackers] yet in the wild,” she added. “But do we really need to wait for something major to happen rather than create the awareness [needed to address the vulnerabilities]?”The FDA has invested more in cybersecurity in recent years in an effort to address how the digitization of patient care opens up risks to hacking. The agency in June 2019 advised patients to stop using a certain insulin pump after researchers showed how a hacker might alter the pump’s settings.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is slated to take off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at precisely 9:03 pm ET Wednesday — a time chosen because it’s the optimal moment to get the spacecraft on track to link up with the ISS. The astronauts will spend a full day onboard the spacecraft after it reaches orbit and begins slowly maneuvering toward the ISS, with which it’s scheduled to dock at 7:10 pm Thursday.SpaceX had intended to launch this mission, called Crew-3, on Halloween, but liftoff was delayed because of some rough weather over the Atlantic Ocean that could’ve impacted rescue operations if the rocket were to misfire and force the astronauts to make an emergency splashdown landing in the ocean. Crew Dragon’s ability to jettison a crew to safety if something goes wrong is one of the reasons the space agency says it is among the safest spacecraft ever flown. Such an emergency exit has never had to be carried out by SpaceX, but having that option — and ensuring a recovery could be smoothly executed — is one of the reasons the space agency says Crew Dragon is among the safest spacecraft ever flown. The flight was then delayed further by a “medical issue involving one of the Crew-3 astronauts,” according to NASA. The issue was not a medical emergency nor was it Covid-related, the space agency said, though it declined to give further details.The four astronauts who make up the Crew-3 team —NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer — will be the first to launch aboard a Crew Dragon since SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission in September. That mission carried four people, none of them professional astronauts, on a three-day tourism mission that orbited higher than any spacecraft has traveled since the moon landing missions.In a press conference last month, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager described the Inspiration4 mission as a “gift” because it exposed issues with a key component on the Crew Dragon spacecraft — the toilet — so the problem could be fixed for future NASA missions.The Inspiration4 crew were alerted to an issue with the onboard toilet’s fan, which is used to create suction that is necessary when going to the bathroom in microgravity. After the spacecraft returned home, SpaceX disassembled the capsule and found “contamination.””There’s a storage tank where the the urine goes to be stored [and] there’s a tube that came disconnected or came unglued,” said William Gerstenmaier, a former associate administrator at NASA who now works as SpaceX’s head of mission assurance, during a press conference last month. “That allowed urine essentially to not go into the storage tank, but essentially go into the fan system.”The issue also prevented a group of astronauts from using their Crew Dragon spacecraft’s on-board toilet during their trek back to Earth from the International Space Station on Monday. The astronauts had found their capsule also had evidence of “contamination” from a leaky toilet, according to NASA. They were forced instead to rely on undergarments — essentially adult diapers — during their nine-hour return trip. On the brand new Crew Dragon capsule that will fly the Crew-3 mission on Wednesday, SpaceX welded the tube in place to prevent a similar issue. NASA has spent more than a decade working to boost staffing aboard the 21-year-old space station after the retirement of its Space Shuttle program in 2011 left Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as the only option for getting astronauts to and from the ISS. Meet the Crew-3 astronautsKayla Barron, who has a a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017 and comes directly from a field of work that involves extreme living conditions and long bouts of isolation: submarines. Barron became one of the first women ever to serve on a Navy submarine back in 2010.”It wasn’t until I had that experience of living and working beneath the surface of the ocean and made the connection to living and working in the vacuum of space and understanding the kind of team it took to do that successfully,” Barron told reporters last month. “All those parallels are what gave me the confidence to…apply [for NASA’s astronaut corps] in the first place.”Raja Chari also joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017 as one of its newest inductees, and this will also mark his first flight to space. He has a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School, which has a long history of providing a pipeline to the astronaut corps.Chari and Barron have also both been selected for NASA’s corps of Artemis astronauts, who could fly on future missions to the Moon. Barron added that taking a trip to the ISS is “the best possible training for us” to prepare for an eventual lunar mission, “in terms of personal development and the opportunity to learn from experienced people.” It also will be the first time in space for Germany’s Matthias Maurer of the ESA, who’ll have the opportunity to conduct a spacewalk and activate a new robotic arm, which was recently transported to the space station aboard a Russian spacecraft. “This arm will be able to bring science payloads through an Russian airlock from the inside of the station towards the outside, and then we [will be] able to run experiments on the outside without performing a spacewalk,” he said. The mission’s pilot, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, will be the sole veteran astronaut among the crew. He has a background in physics and holds a doctorate of medicine, and he first joined NASA in the early 1990s as a flight surgeon. He joined the official astronaut corps in 2004 and has since flown on one Space Shuttle mission and one Russian Soyuz mission to the ISS.When asked what he’s most looking forward to, Marshburn told reporters that “certainly one of the pinnacles of your time up on board is having the opportunity to do a spacewalk, but what we’re doing day to day in the laboratory is going to be what many of us look forward to the most.”The ISS has for two decades hosted astronauts from all over the world to conduct scientific research. The space station is unlike any laboratory in the world — in the microgravity environment, physical and biological phenomena aren’t bogged down by the Earth’s pull. So, doing the same experiment on the station that’s been done on the ground can give scientists a better fundamental understanding of how something works.The research the Crew-3 astronauts will oversee includes an attempt to grow a “perfect crystal” to enhance our understanding of biological processes, a test of the impact of diet on astronaut health, and the testing of a smartphone video guidance sensor for guidance, navigation, and control of the Astrobee free-flying robot.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is slated to take off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at precisely 9:03 pm ET Wednesday — a time chosen because it’s the optimal moment to get the spacecraft on track to link up with the ISS. The astronauts will spend a full day onboard the spacecraft after it reaches orbit and begins slowly maneuvering toward the ISS, with which it’s scheduled to dock at 7:10 pm Thursday.SpaceX had intended to launch this mission, called Crew-3, on Halloween, but liftoff was delayed because of some rough weather over the Atlantic Ocean that could’ve impacted rescue operations if the rocket were to misfire and force the astronauts to make an emergency splashdown landing in the ocean. Crew Dragon’s ability to jettison a crew to safety if something goes wrong is one of the reasons the space agency says it is among the safest spacecraft ever flown. Such an emergency exit has never had to be carried out by SpaceX, but having that option — and ensuring a recovery could be smoothly executed — is one of the reasons the space agency says Crew Dragon is among the safest spacecraft ever flown. The flight was then delayed further by a “medical issue involving one of the Crew-3 astronauts,” according to NASA. The issue was not a medical emergency nor was it Covid-related, the space agency said, though it declined to give further details.The four astronauts who make up the Crew-3 team —NASA’s Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as the European Space Agency’s Matthias Maurer — will be the first to launch aboard a Crew Dragon since SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission in September. That mission carried four people, none of them professional astronauts, on a three-day tourism mission that orbited higher than any spacecraft has traveled since the moon landing missions.In a press conference last month, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager described the Inspiration4 mission as a “gift” because it exposed issues with a key component on the Crew Dragon spacecraft — the toilet — so the problem could be fixed for future NASA missions.The Inspiration4 crew were alerted to an issue with the onboard toilet’s fan, which is used to create suction that is necessary when going to the bathroom in microgravity. After the spacecraft returned home, SpaceX disassembled the capsule and found “contamination.””There’s a storage tank where the the urine goes to be stored [and] there’s a tube that came disconnected or came unglued,” said William Gerstenmaier, a former associate administrator at NASA who now works as SpaceX’s head of mission assurance, during a press conference last month. “That allowed urine essentially to not go into the storage tank, but essentially go into the fan system.”The issue also prevented a group of astronauts from using their Crew Dragon spacecraft’s on-board toilet during their trek back to Earth from the International Space Station on Monday. The astronauts had found their capsule also had evidence of “contamination” from a leaky toilet, according to NASA. They were forced instead to rely on undergarments — essentially adult diapers — during their nine-hour return trip. On the brand new Crew Dragon capsule that will fly the Crew-3 mission on Wednesday, SpaceX welded the tube in place to prevent a similar issue. NASA has spent more than a decade working to boost staffing aboard the 21-year-old space station after the retirement of its Space Shuttle program in 2011 left Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as the only option for getting astronauts to and from the ISS. Meet the Crew-3 astronautsKayla Barron, who has a a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017 and comes directly from a field of work that involves extreme living conditions and long bouts of isolation: submarines. Barron became one of the first women ever to serve on a Navy submarine back in 2010.”It wasn’t until I had that experience of living and working beneath the surface of the ocean and made the connection to living and working in the vacuum of space and understanding the kind of team it took to do that successfully,” Barron told reporters last month. “All those parallels are what gave me the confidence to…apply [for NASA’s astronaut corps] in the first place.”Raja Chari also joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 2017 as one of its newest inductees, and this will also mark his first flight to space. He has a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT and graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School, which has a long history of providing a pipeline to the astronaut corps.Chari and Barron have also both been selected for NASA’s corps of Artemis astronauts, who could fly on future missions to the Moon. Barron added that taking a trip to the ISS is “the best possible training for us” to prepare for an eventual lunar mission, “in terms of personal development and the opportunity to learn from experienced people.” It also will be the first time in space for Germany’s Matthias Maurer of the ESA, who’ll have the opportunity to conduct a spacewalk and activate a new robotic arm, which was recently transported to the space station aboard a Russian spacecraft. “This arm will be able to bring science payloads through an Russian airlock from the inside of the station towards the outside, and then we [will be] able to run experiments on the outside without performing a spacewalk,” he said. The mission’s pilot, NASA’s Tom Marshburn, will be the sole veteran astronaut among the crew. He has a background in physics and holds a doctorate of medicine, and he first joined NASA in the early 1990s as a flight surgeon. He joined the official astronaut corps in 2004 and has since flown on one Space Shuttle mission and one Russian Soyuz mission to the ISS.When asked what he’s most looking forward to, Marshburn told reporters that “certainly one of the pinnacles of your time up on board is having the opportunity to do a spacewalk, but what we’re doing day to day in the laboratory is going to be what many of us look forward to the most.”The ISS has for two decades hosted astronauts from all over the world to conduct scientific research. The space station is unlike any laboratory in the world — in the microgravity environment, physical and biological phenomena aren’t bogged down by the Earth’s pull. So, doing the same experiment on the station that’s been done on the ground can give scientists a better fundamental understanding of how something works.The research the Crew-3 astronauts will oversee includes an attempt to grow a “perfect crystal” to enhance our understanding of biological processes, a test of the impact of diet on astronaut health, and the testing of a smartphone video guidance sensor for guidance, navigation, and control of the Astrobee free-flying robot.