Tag Archives: Travel

It’s Time to Rethink Who’s Best Suited for Space Travel
January 27, 2019 12:30 pm|Comments (0)

In 1961, a college student named David Myers traveled from Washington, DC, to the US Naval School of Aviation Medicine in Florida to take part in a new experiment. “I had a very limited understanding of what I was getting myself into,” Myers told me recently over email. “So I was extremely curious and mildly excited that first day.”

Myers was one of 11 men specifically recruited by Dr. Ashton Graybiel to help test the feasibility of human spaceflight, at a time when nobody knew whether the human body could withstand a trip beyond our atmosphere. For nearly a decade, the US Navy put 11 eleven men through countless tests. Four of the men spent 12 straight days inside a 20-foot room that rotated constantly. In another experiment, they were sent out to notoriously rough seas off the coast of Nova Scotia. On the boat, the men played cards while the researchers were so overcome with seasickness that they had to cancel the test and go home. Others were sent up in the so-called “Vomit Comet,” an aircraft designed to simulate zero gravity. That’s the test Myers is still most fond of. “This free floating was a fascinating experience,” he says. “No other tests came close as my favorites.” But Myers and the other men would never go to space. In fact, they would never be allowed. They were recruited for these tests for the exact reason they would never pass the NASA astronaut qualification exams: All 11 men were deaf.

Rose Eveleth is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the creator and host of Flash Forward, a podcast about possible (and not so possible) futures.

Now known as the Gallaudet Eleven, Myers and his colleagues were recruited from Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University), a school for d/Deaf students. (“Big D” Deaf refers to Deaf culture and community, while “small d” deaf refers to people who don’t identify with that community.) Ten out of the 11 men had become deaf because of spinal meningitis, an infection of the fluid in the spinal cord. The infection ultimately damaged each man’s inner ear, including their vestibular system, which also happens to be the system that is mainly responsible for motion sickness. This made the men perfect test subjects for a space program that was trying to understand what might happen to people in places where the inner ear can’t sense up and down. “Through their endurance and dedication, the work of the Gallaudet Eleven made substantial contributions to the understanding of motion sickness and adaptation to spaceflight,” wrote Hannah Hotovy of the NASA History Division. Harry Larson, another one of the Gallaudet Eleven, put it this way: “We were different in a way they needed.”

It’s no secret that it’s incredibly difficult to become an astronaut. NASA’s selection process is notoriously rigorous—strict enough that it was the most plausible kind of place to set the movie Gattaca, where only the perfectly genetically engineered get to board rockets bound for space. Writer Tom Wolfe documented the space program’s strenuous astronaut training program in his book The Right Stuff.

The assumption has long been that this training is a necessity—traveling to space is a mentally and physically grueling endeavor. We need the strongest, smartest, most adaptable among us to go. But strength comes in many forms, as do smarts. And if you want to find people who are the very best at adapting to worlds not suited for them, you’ll have the best luck looking at people with disabilities, who navigate such a world every single day. Which has led disability advocates to raise the question: What actually is the right stuff?

“Crip bodies were built for space travel. Crip minds already push the outer limits,” Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, tweeted last year. “We already master usage of breathing apparatuses and can handle challenging situations.” Wong went on to coedit an issue of the literary magazine Deaf Poets Society called “Crips in Space” with writer and performer Sam de Leve.

Take, for example, people who use ostomy bags. Right now, pooping in space is actually an important technical challenge. During takeoff, landing, and spacewalks, astronauts wear diapers. While in the space station, they use a toilet that requires a fair amount of precision and training to use. Astronauts have told all kinds of stories about rogue poop, or situations in which the toilet has backed up or generally gone awry. In 2008, NASA spent $ 19 million on a Russian toilet for the International Space Station. None of this would be an issue for an astronaut with an ostomy bag. “I could plug into the wall and just empty the container that’s been collecting,” says Mallory K. Nelson, a disability design specialist who uses an ileostomy bag—a pouch that connects to her intestine and collects waste. “I’ve moved the output location of poop, which creates a lot more flexibility in the kind of systems I can have. I could attach it to a space suit.”

Or consider movement in space. You’ve certainly seen videos of astronauts zipping around the space station using their arms and legs to push off surfaces and direct their motion. This is a type of movement that people who use wheelchairs and other mobility aids are already familiar with. In fact, the various devices and ways of moving the body in space are likely more familiar to people with disabilities than to able-bodied people. “We move our bodies in so many different ways, and the disabled community has an exuberant amount of options,” says Nelson, who is an amputee and who has used crutches, a wheelchair, a scooter, and a prosthetic to get around. Nelson even coined a term for this recently: transmobility, the idea that there are lots of ways to get around besides putting one foot in front of the other.

Nelson also points out that most astronauts have no prior experience relying on technology for their movement and lives, whereas people with disabilities do so every day. In a space suit, for a space walk, an astronaut has to be trained in how to move their body in unison with a piece of technology. They have to get used to the idea that, if that technology should fail, they could be in grave danger. This, again, is an experience people like Nelson live with every day. “I’m always moving my body in motion with another object. That’s all we do,” Nelson says.

Or take blind astronauts. In a piece for Scientific American, Sheri Wells-Jensen lays out the case for designing spaceships for blind space travelers:

“After all, in a serious accident, the first thing to go might be the lights! This generally means that the first thing a sighted astronaut must do for security is ensure visual access to the environment. He hunts for a flashlight, and if emergency lighting comes on, his eyes take a moment to adjust. Meanwhile, the blind astronaut is already heading toward the source of the problem. In the fire aboard the Russian Mir space station, in 1997, the crew struggled as smoke obscured their view. The blind astronaut, while still affected by the lack of good air, would not be bothered by either dim lighting or occluding smoke. She would accurately direct the fire extinguisher at the source of heat and noise.”

In the Mir fire that Wells-Jensen mentions, one of the problems that arose was the sighted astronauts’ inability to locate the fire extinguisher through the smoke. Had the ship been laid out with a blind participant in mind, there would have been a nonvisual signal already built in to such a critical piece of equipment.

Or consider d/Deaf astronauts once again. The Gallaudet Eleven were tapped for their immunity to motion sickness—John Glenn even reportedly said he was envious of their ability to withstand the tests without getting sick—but there are other reasons why bringing a d/Deaf astronaut along could be useful. “Studies have shown that using sign languages confers cognitive advantages in one’s visual working memory, enhancing how we see, remember, and manipulate objects in our mind,” says Joseph Murray, a professor at Gallaudet University and the scholar behind the term Deaf Gain, the idea that deafness should not be considered a loss of something but, rather, a gain of a whole host of other things. “The challenge Deaf Gain offers for NASA and all workplaces is to rethink their automatic assumptions about deaf people’s capabilities,” Murray says. “If there is a mission need for people with advanced spatial processing skills who do not get motion sick, then there are quite a few deaf people ready and willing to serve.”

And it’s not just on a trip to space that people with disabilities might have an advantage. Take a situation in which astronauts are going somewhere to settle: Able bodies might no longer behave the way we expect. “Humans have an environmental niche on Earth, like all other creatures do, and we exploit it in different ways,” says Ashley Shew, a professor at Virginia Tech. Mars, or even a space station, is nothing like that niche. “The conditions in which our bodies have grown up are so drastically different that our existence in space will be much more like being a disabled person on Earth than like being an abled person on Earth.” Who better to send than those who are used to navigating environments not built for them—those who experience that every day on Earth? “Disabled people will fare better in space because disabled people have learned to negotiate hostile situations in ways that able bodied people are completely unaware of,” Shew says. Wong agrees. “The way we communicate, function, and exist with our diverse bodyminds sets us up as ideal space explorers and ambassadors of Earth, ready to make first contact with sentient beings,” she told me.

Whether this will actually happen is hard to say. NASA didn’t respond to my request for comment on their astronaut selection policy (like all government agencies, NASA personnel are currently not working due to the government shutdown). Nor did Mars One or SpaceX. Online, Mars One has a whole page of qualifications for candidates for their proposed Mars mission, stating, “In general, normal medical and physiological health standards will be used” and disqualifying anybody without “normal range of motion and functionality in all joints,” anybody with less than 20/20 vision, and anybody who is deemed not “healthy.” NASA’s FAQ section says that “for maximum crew safety, each crewmember must be free of medical conditions that would either impair the person’s ability to participate in, or be aggravated by, space flight, as determined by NASA physicians.”

Changing these requirements won’t be easy. Spacecraft are designed with certain assumptions about what kinds of bodies will be sitting in the seats and operating the controls. The opportunity to change those parameters is small and must be seized while ships are being designed, not down the road. Plus, many people with disabilities who might want to go to space can’t get access to the pipeline that delivers so many astronauts: “Astronauts come via the military and that’s a closed door for disabled individuals,” Myers says. “Those kinds of obstacles need to be removed for those individuals who are otherwise qualified.” And NASA itself has had no reason to rethink their stance, because no one has really pushed them to. Yet, that is.

But all that could change. In 2017, Johanna Lucht became the first Deaf engineer to work at NASA. Eddie Ndopu, a South African activist and humanitarian, has said he wants to be the first disabled person in space. He plans to book a flight on a commercial trip into space and deliver an address to the UN while he’s up there. (MTV is slated to film the entire thing.) Julia Velasquez, a Deaf woman from California, has gone through many of the steps traditionally taken by astronauts—she’s interned at NASA, recently received her pilot’s license, and even lived in a simulated Mars colony in Hawaii.

When I asked Myers if he ever wished he could have been an astronaut, he said, “Yes, absolutely. At one point I told Dr. Graybiel, ‘If you ever develop an experiment involving a flight into space, I want to be first in line.’” Myers likely won’t wind up in space in his lifetime. But he might live to see a disabled person make the journey, opening up space to a whole new set of uniquely qualified astronauts.


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3 Smart Ways to Market Travel to Millennials in 2019
December 31, 2018 12:01 am|Comments (0)

In 2018, travel and tourism was a ~$ 1.5 trillion industry.

By 2028, it’s projected to grow to $ 2.4 trillion. And a good chunk of those contributing to those trillions are Millennials–a group that has now become the largest generation of travelers. In fact, Millennials (aged ~21-38 in 2019) now represent $ 50 billion worth of travel consumerism in the U.S. alone.

So what are the biggest things Millennials want when it comes to travel? Valentino Danchev, founder and CEO of travel marketing firm Fidelis Marketing Group, says there are a few standout things:

1. Authenticity

Millennials prefer authentic experiences over perfectly curated, manicured ones. According to Danchev, Millennials want “boutique travel experiences that will transform them from the inside out.”

In other words, they don’t just want to hang out all day by the pool. They want transformational travel–the chance to learn, grow, and explore. They like experiencing local culture in as real a way as possible, so facilitate ways they can do that. Prioritize interactive experiences over passive ones–for example, a small, hands-on cooking class with a local person instead of a day trip to the most famous museum in town.

Don’t be shy about protecting the environment, either. Millennials are the most environmentally-conscious generation in recent history–a full 73 percent are willing to spend more on sustainable goods (as opposed to 66 percent of non-Millennials).

So be green, and then don’t keep it a secret. Make it part of your marketing. Fidelis’s own Grand Luxxe resorts in Mexico, for example, have received a Distinction “S” recognition for environmental sustainability from UNWTO, EarthCheck, and the Rainforest Alliance.

2. Creativity

When looking at what to highlight, don’t focus solely on your amenities. Yes, of course you want to show off your beautiful pool–but be creative in the activities you offer and show people enjoying, because those will often be equally as important to Millennials.

Danchev suggests courses or other immersive activities in fields like art, fitness, or entertainment. Think a craft beer-making workshop in Europe; a wine-and-painting night on the roof of your hotel where guests get to meet one another; a yoga class on standup paddleboards. You could also liaise with a local volunteer site to give travelers the chance to volunteer for a half- or full-day (being on a build site for Habitat for Humanity, for example). 

3. Connection

If I have a question for a company, I’d much rather ask them via their latest Instagram post than scour their site for contact info. I myself used to be the social media coordinator for a large company and know that not only can social media be an efficient way to get ahold of someone, but I’m probably going to reach someone like me, which is appealing.

According to Danchev, you must have a high-quality website if you want to compete for the trillions of travel dollars up for grabs, and you want to back it up with high-quality social media. Statistics back up his recommendation: 62 percent of Millennials are more likely to be loyal to a brand with an interactive social media presence.

If you don’t have a social media presence, consider having a chat feature on your website to field questions. You’d be surprised at how many more interactions you’ll get that way than waiting for Millennials to email or call you.

In the end, generational distinctions like Millennials and GenX are arbitrary. Remember that people are people, and people love to travel. Remember to enjoy the journey yourself, and that will come across in your marketing.

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

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How to Fix America's Holiday Travel Mess—And Why Doing It Would Ruin America
December 23, 2017 12:58 pm|Comments (0)

Holiday travel sucks, and probably has ever since a bunch of shepherds, wise men, and angels converged on a stable in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Every November, every December, every year, America’s highways and airports runneth over, and not in the good way.

Thus, a question: What would it take to make the US a transcontinental Whoville, where the only thing louder than the roar of efficient travel is the constant caroling? And would it be worth the price?

The Fix

“Well, for starters I would design a system where the power didn’t go out in the world’s busiest airport for 50 hours,” says Sean Young, a civil engineer at Ohio University’s Center for Aviation Studies. (It was 11 hours, but still, ouch Atlanta.)

More seriously, Young says the problems with holiday travel begin because most people are moving through major airline hubs. The best ways to alleviate that strain? Build more runways at smaller, regional airports, and route more flights through them. This would free up the larger hubs to handle the bulk of long distance holiday travel, all those people choosing Florida and Mexico over winter and extended family.

For those big city airports, Young recommends investing in frequent, reliable public transportation linkages. “People leave for the airport much earlier than they need to, which creates additional volumes of traffic,” Young says. If they know they can make their flight with time to spare, they’re less likely to show up mega early and spend six hours taking up space.

As for ground travel, adding lanes and freeways seems like the straightforward fix, unless you’ve completed your Armchair Associate’s Degree in Transportation Theory. “In any situation where you expand the infrastructure, you will encourage travel on that infrastructure,” says Megan Ryerson, a transportation engineer at the University of Pennsylvania. This is the rule of induced demand: If you build it, they will crowd. The real answer, then, is more investment in things like Amtrak, high speed rail, or, because we’re fantasizing anyway, hyperloop. Basically anything that spreads demand over multiple modes.

Of course, no transportation dreamscape would be complete without autonomous vehicles. Instead of a carpool lane, think of a dedicated roadway for robocars, shuttling people to the airport in orderly, automated fashion, no long term parking fees required.

Finally, infrastructure dollars could stretch a long way when applied to little technological fixes, like simply giving people accurate, real time information about their travel. Think Waze, but for everything: traffic, train times, whether the TSA security checkpoint has only one lane open (seriously, why do they do this?). The more information people have, the more rational their travel decisions become, and the less likely they are to trigger gridlock.

Crisis Reverted

Say we did it all: enough runways, planes, and lanes to handle humanity at its most itinerant and quiet the grumblers. Now we’ve got another question: What happens to to all that infrastructure during the 50 weeks a year Americans aren’t trading gifts and political opinions with their weirdest blood relations? Our best guess: disaster.

“If you force Delta to buy an extra 300 jets to satisfy demand for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they would then have to cover the cost of those extra jets,” says (Paul Lewis)[https://www.enotrans.org/profiles/paul-lewis/], the vice president of finance and policy at the Eno Center for Transportation. “They would do that by increasing prices on all flyers through the rest of the year.”

Then there’s the cost of maintaining all the additional runways. Airports, which are usually owned by their host cities, make money by charging airlines a landing fee to use their facilities.

Think of this like a fraction, where each airfield’s numerator is the cost of maintaining those facilities. This stays fairly static. The denominator is the number of flights that use those facilities. “When an airport has relatively robust levels of service, it is able to offer more competitive landing fees to airlines,” says Ryerson. Less traffic means higher fees, and in turn, more expensive flights.

That’s why, if you’re going from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Los Angeles, it may well be cheaper to Uber to the Philadelphia airport and go direct than to make a connecting flight from Allentown’s regional airport. (Factor in layovers, and the Uber might be quicker too.)

Even if built-up regional airports did well during the holiday crush, they’d likely become prohibitively expensive to travel through the rest of the year. And the cost of maintaining the airfields would probably be passed along to local taxpayers.

So once again, air travel would consolidate at large airports, triggering congestion. In a recent study, Ryerson and some coauthors looked at car traffic within a 300 mile radius of large airports in cities like Atlanta, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Phoenix. On roads leading from smaller cities nearby—think Oklahoma City for Dallas, or Tucson for Phoenix—about 1 to 3 percent of the traffic could be attributed to people driving to access these larger airports. “The rural highways had an even higher amount, between 5 and 10 percent of traffic, from people driving to or from the airport,” she says.

Which brings us to the other problems surface transportation would face in this holiday travel utopia. Remember our old pal induced demand? Well, if historical trends and hard data still mean anything to anyone, those bigger roads would entice people to move farther from urban centers, where land is cheaper. More sprawl leads to more traffic, and brings you back to the search for meaning in a world where your commute never stops sucking.

Meanwhile, taxpayers would be stuck with a huge bill for maintaining all that extra capacity. American infrastructure is already more than $ 4 trillion short of adequate, and the federal gas tax hasn’t budged since 1993. More roads to maintain would make the problem even worse.

“The way I explain this to undergrads is that you wouldn’t buy six fridges for your dorm room just because you have one big party a year,” Ryerson says.

Learn From Experience

We’ve never had a transportation wonderland, but we have tried it in bits and pieces. During the late 1990s, the economy was so flush that WIRED ran a 42,000-word article about undersea fiber optic cablesin print—good reading material for all the people traveling like crazy. Airports across the country paved dozens of new runways, and airlines beefed up their fleets to meet the demand. Then the dot com bubble burst. The industry contracted; airlines went out of business or were swallowed up by their competitors. Less than a decade later, the same thing happened: More planes, more runways, more jetsetting, until the financial crisis hit, and the industry consolidated again. “The top four airlines now control 75 percent of all passenger traffic,” Lewis says.

And so this transportation utopia remains a dream, and not the kind you actually want to come true. In that case, the best advice may come from Mary and Joseph: Host the party, and make everyone come to you.


Travel Dreams

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Uber opens up Paris travel database to help city planners
October 20, 2017 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Uber [UBER.UL] said on Friday it would open up its trove of travel data in Paris to the public to help city officials and urban planners better understand transportation needs, as the company seeks to woo national authorities.

FILE PHOTO: The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London, Britain, September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The U.S. ride-hailing app collects huge amounts of data from the billions of trips taken by customers which it uses to improve its services and has recently started to make it available for a number of cities including Washington D.C., Sydney and Boston.

“We get asked all the time ‘Is there any way you can share more data? We’d love to see where people are traveling in our city’,” Adam Gromis, who is responsible for environmental sustainability at Uber, told Reuters.

The service, called Uber Movement, shows how long it takes to make a journey between two points in a city at different times of the day.

Uber is making the data available via a free website which can be accessed by anyone with an Uber account, but it is aimed particularly at city planners. (movement.uber.com)

To respect users’ privacy, Uber Movement uses only aggregated anonymised data.

Uber, which launched in Paris in 2011, has had a rocky relationship with regulators across Europe who have accused it of flouting their traditional licensing rules.

Protests by taxi drivers against the smartphone app turned violent in 2015 when Paris cabbies overturned cars and burned tyres.

Uber has suffered a tumultuous few months that led to former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick being forced out after a series of boardroom controversies and regulatory battles in a number of U.S. states and around the world.

Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has struck a less confrontational approach than his predecessor – particularly in London where Uber is challenging a decision by the transport regulator to strip it of its operating license in the city.

“As a technology company we can play a role in helping cities make data-driven decisions for the benefit of the environment and its citizens,” Alexandre Droulers, Uber’s general manager for new mobility in western Europe, said.

Transport planning usually relies on expensive household travel surveys which are conducted on average every 10 years in the Paris region, making Uber’s data a lot more up to date.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Adrian Croft

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Here’s Why Google Is Focusing on Travel
November 24, 2016 6:10 pm|Comments (0)

Recently, Alphabet Inc.’s subsidiary Google introduced “Google Trips” – a mobile app intended to reduce travel related hassles by aggregating all trip information relating to day plans, reservations, things to do, etc., bundles within the app. The company has also ensured that the “download” button for each trip can save this information on the users phone offline. This launch comes nearly six years after Google acquired flight information firm ITA software and indicates the Google is finally ready to foray into the travel segment. In 2015, direct leisure travel spending by domestic and international travelers in the U.S. was more than $ 650 billion and nearly four out of five domestic trips were taken for leisure purpose. This indicates the strong potential of the market for leisure travel – the segment which Google Trips targets. We believe the company can generate significant revenues from this segment, given that its Maps app is already a hugely popular product among travelers, with more than a billion active users globally. The potential power of the platform is considerable. Google Trips leverages both Gmail and Google Maps to combine information relating to flight information and hotel reservations (via Gmail); and it additionally generates customized itineraries, based on a desired locations pinned on Google Maps via the address and location information therein. Given these breadth of these offerings, Google Trips has huge potential to capture a significant share in the online travel market.


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5 great deals to help you travel with confidence
March 5, 2016 2:15 pm|Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 11.36.45 AM
While traveling is a great opportunity to expand your horizons and experience new adventures in foreign lands, if you’re unprepared you’ll quickly find yourself inconvenienced and overwhelmed. We’ve put together a selection of offers on the TNW Deals shop to help prepare you for the challenges that come with traveling, whether that’s international charging adapters, all-access streaming, an organizer travel bag or beyond.   Rolo Travel Bag: $ 45 Traveling can be a hassle, so it’s important to remove as much friction from the process as possible. The Rolo Travel Bag is here to help, offering an innovative way to carry your belongings…

This story continues at The Next Web


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Apple CarPlay Review: Siri’s a Boring But Useful Travel Pal
January 8, 2016 6:55 pm|Comments (0)

The first time I saw CarPlay in action, I couldn’t believe it . You could plug your plug your iPhone into the infotainment system and then get iOS on your dashboard?! It seemed like Apple finally found a way to turn an automobile into a rolling computer like Knight Rider.

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