Weekend edition—#Russia’s failing space program, #Shenzhen copycats, terrible ballot design

Good morning, Quartz readers!

This week the ExoMars team placed a satellite in orbit around the red planet but failed to land the accompanying spacecraft. Scientifically the mission was largely a success: the satellite will soon start sniffing the Martian atmosphere for signs of present or past life. But the lander’s failure is symbolic of the fortunes of Russia’s Roscosmos, which built the landing gear and is an equal partner with the European Space Agency (ESA) on ExoMars.

Russia is one of two nations (the other is China) currently capable of putting humans into space, and at that job it’s been spectacularly reliable. Without Russia’s Soyuz rockets, there would be no US astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). But on other fronts the once mighty Russian (previously Soviet) space program has floundered. Its last successful interplanetary mission was to Venus in 1984. With Mars, it’s had a string of almost unmitigated failures since its first attempted flyby in 1960.

At its height, Soviet spending on space rivaled America’s (pdf, p. 5). But now Roscosmos’s budget for the coming decade is equal to NASA’s for a single year. The $7.5 billion Vostochny Cosmodrome—a new launch site intended to restore Roscosmos’s glory—has been hit with spiraling costs, delays, strikes, and even admissions of embezzlement. Russia has also had to delay an ambitious new moon program, which includes building a lunar complex and orbital station. Worse still, Roscomos’s lucrative contracts to send NASA astronauts to the ISS may not continue beyond 2017, when SpaceX or Boeingstart human launches.

So ExoMars matters a lot to Roscosmos. The mission’s next phase involves sending a rover to Mars in 2021. ESA is to build the rover while Roscosmos is to redesign the failed landing gear based on the data gathered this week. If that mission fails too, it’ll wound ESA’s pride, but it could ruin Russia’s.—Akshat Rathi


The lightning-fast copycats of Shenzhen. Put an idea up on Kickstarter, and it could be on sale online in China before you’ve even raised your funding. Josh Horwitz looks into what entrepreneurs can do to profit from their inventions despite the certainty that they will get ripped off.

Work-life balance is possible, even in America. Patagonia, the sports gear company, boasts a remarkable 100% retention rate of workers who’ve become mothers. Jenny Anderson and Erik Olsen examine its template for child-care and parental leave policies and suggest they don’t have to be unique.

What a computer thought of the presidential debates. A team of grad students showed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s performances to software that interprets emotions from facial expressions. Sarah Slobin and Michael Tabb present the results, which, while crude, are surprisingly revealing.

Why Donald Trump is obsessed with borders. The real-estate mogul grew up in the New York borough of Queens at a time when, as Marina Budhos explains, it was “defined by tribalism, racial segregation, and simmering resentments.” These forces, she argues, perfectly explain both Trump’s outlook and his appeal to a large swathe of America.

The ADHD generation at work. Millennials who took Adderall to get through university have brought it to the workplace. Are they addicts, or just workaholics? As companies have little incentive to make employees less productive, Carey Dunne asks what the long-term effects will be for both employer and employee.


Meet the Russians hacking the US election. A group known as (among other names) “Fancy Bear” has been identified for years as the culprit behind various high-profile hacks. But only now has the US openly accused it of taking orders from the Kremlin. Buzzfeed’s Sheera Frenkel describes its tactics.

Can a millennial rich kid save San Salvador? Nayib Bukele, the El Salvadorean capital’s 33-year-old mayor, is widely admired. But are his projects for revitalizing the world’s murder capital just PR, or as he calls it, “inspiration”? Lauren Markham tries to find out, in a profile at the Guardian’s Long Read.

America’s unbelievably badly designed ballot papers. Hundreds of thousands of votes will be miscast this November because of fiendishly complicated and confusing ballots. ProPublica’s Lena Groeger shows off a rogue’s gallery of design awfulness—some of it required by law—and looks at how simple changes could make big improvements in the world’s most powerful democracy.

The opioid epidemic ravaging the developing world. From farmers in Cameroon to cab drivers in Cairo, people are becoming addicted to tramadol, a synthetic painkiller described as more powerful than morphine. Lax international regulations are enabling its spread in poor countries, writes Justin Scheck in the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

A white supremacist comes to Shabbat. A boy goes to college, makes new friends, and forms new ideas. Only in this case, the boy is Derek Black, the son of a prominent American white nationalist, and his new friends are from Jewish scripture and German multiculturalism classes. Eli Saslow of the Washington Post relates how those encounters led Black to disavow white supremacism and his own father.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, ADHD drugs, and confusing ballot papers to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.



Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Google+ photo

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Google+. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )


Connessione a %s...