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UPDATE: NASA halted the August 29 Artemis I launch attempt at approximately 7:34 am Monday. According to a statement, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft remain in a safe and stable configuration. Launch controllers were continuing to evaluate why a bleed test to get the RS-25 engines on the bottom of the core stage to the proper temperature range for liftoff was not successful, and ran out of time in the two-hour launch window. Engineers are continuing to gather additional data.

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In just a few days, NASA and its commercial partners are returning humans to the Moon in the first mission of the Artemis Program. All eyes will be on the rocket as it launches Monday, August 29.

Artemis I — the mission's first flight test of the NASA’s Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System rocket — is an uncrewed mission that will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida before circling the moon. The SLS rocket is targeted to launch during a two-hour window that opens at 7:33 am on Monday, August 29, from Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy.

Coverage of the launch has already started, and viewers can tune into the livestream of the rocket and spacecraft at the launch pad on the NASA Kennedy YouTube channel. Additionally, live coverage of events has started on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

The launch countdown will begin at 9:23 am on Saturday, August 27. While launch is the main event, the broadcast will also include celebrity appearances by Jack Black, Chris Evans, and Keke Palmer, as well as a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Josh Groban and Herbie Hancock. It also will feature a performance of “America the Beautiful” by The Philadelphia Orchestra and cellist Yo-Yo Ma (star of the next Fort Worth Symphony Gala), conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

“The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight test that will provide a foundation to extend human presence to the Moon and beyond,” NASA reports in a news release. “The mission will demonstrate the performance of the SLS rocket and test Orion’s capabilities over the course of about six weeks as it travels about 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back to Earth.”

A full itinerary of events — including press conferences, virtual social opportunities, and more — is available online. Interested parties can also follow NASA’s Artemis blog for updates.

Photo courtesy of NASA

NASA taps Texas companies to launch revolutionary new spacesuit project

top (flight) gear

Two startups — including Texas-based Axiom Space — have been tasked with helping NASA gear up for human space exploration at the International Space Station and on the moon as part of a spacesuit deal potentially worth billions of dollars.

NASA recently picked Axiom and Collins Aerospace to help advance spacewalking capabilities in low-earth orbit and on the moon by outfitting astronauts with next-generation spacesuits. While headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Collins has a significant presence in the Houston Spaceport; Axiom Space calls Houston home.

This deal will help support landing the first woman and the first person of color on the moon as part of NASA’s return to our lunar neighbor. The equipment also will help NASA prepare for human missions to Mars.

Under this agreement, NASA, Axiom, and Collins “will develop advanced, reliable spacesuits that allow humans to explore the cosmos unlike ever before,” Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, says in a news release. “By partnering with industry, we are efficiently advancing the necessary technology to keep Americans on a path of successful discovery on the International Space Station and as we set our sights on exploring the lunar surface.”

Axiom and Collins were chosen under an umbrella contract known as Exploration Extravehicular Activity Services (xEVAS). The contract carries a potential value of $3.5 billion.

Michael Suffredini, co-founder, president, and CEO of Axiom, says his company’s “innovative approach to xEVAS spacesuits provides NASA with an evolvable design that enables cost-efficient development, testing, training, deployment, and real-time operations to address a variety of EVA needs and operational scenarios for a range of customers, including NASA.”

NASA astronauts have needed updated spacesuits for years.

“The decades-old spacesuit designs currently in use on the International Space Station are well past their prime. NASA had been working on new suits and showed off a patriotic prototype of a moonwalking outfit — called the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or xEMU — back in 2019,” according to CNET.

A 2021 report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General called out delays in developing the spacesuits that would make a proposed 2024 human moon landing unfeasible, CNET says. Now, Axiom and Collins, instead of NASA, will create the spacesuits. Demonstration-ready spacesuits are supposed to be ready in 2025.

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This article originally ran on our sister site InnovationMap.

Photo courtesy of Kroger

Kroger begins grocery delivery across Dallas-Fort Worth with new facility

Supermarket News

Fort Worth has scored another way to get food delivered with the opening of a new delivery service from Kroger. According to a release, the grocery chain has opened a new Customer Fulfillment Center (CFC) in southeast Dallas at 4221 Telephone Rd.

In a statement, Kroger VP and head of e-commerce Bill Bennett says the new service will bring fresh food and ingredients to our doorsteps.

The delivery range extends all the way to Oklahoma City to the north and Austin and San Antonio to the south. The entire DFW Metroplex will be covered.

"Customers can use Kroger.com or the Kroger app to check the weekly circular, select personalized digital coupons, search products by dietary preference and ultimately place their delivery order, saving time and money," Bennett says.

Kroger Delivery is a partnership between Kroger and grocery e-commerce company Ocado Group that first began in 2018.

The delivery network relies on automated fulfillment centers with more than 1,000 bots that move around giant 3D grids. Dubbed "The Hive," the grids contain totes with products and customer orders. Bots retrieve products from The Hive and take them to pick stations where items are sorted for delivery.

That process is governed by algorithms that ensure items are intelligently packed. For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted, and each order is optimized to fit into the lowest number of bags, reducing plastic use.

Delivery vans are refrigerated, and can store up to 20 orders.

More algorithms are used to optimize delivery routes, considering factors like road conditions and fuel efficiency. Drivers can travel up to 90 miles with orders from facilities to make deliveries.

Kroger also just launched a membership program for $59 or $99 per year that offers benefits such as unlimited free delivery on orders of $35 or more and fuel points.

The facility will work in collaboration with "spoke" facilities in Austin, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City; each spoke facility will serve as a last-mile cross-dock that will enable Kroger Delivery to expand its services to more customers.

Kroger currently operates customer fulfillment centers in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Atlanta, and Detroit, with more centers slated for California, Maryland, Arizona, Cleveland, Charlotte NC, Denver, south Florida, and the Northeast.

Photo courtesy of Chili's

4 Chili's around Dallas-Fort Worth add little robot named Rita to service team

Robot News

Dallas-based Chili's, known for their baby back ribs and chili, has something new on the menu: a robot server named "Rita."

Rita is a Servi model made by Bear Robotics, a California-based company that debuted the robot in September 2020. Motto: "Servi Tackles The Dirty Work - Servi Runs, You Serve."

Chili's began testing the robot as a service backup in October 2020.

"Rita" is currently deployed in 61 of their locations across the U.S., including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, and Texas.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the robot can currently be found in four restaurants:

  • Tarrant Pkwy – 8485 Davis Blvd, North Richland Hills
  • Justin Road – 6251 Long Prairie Rd, Flower Mound
  • Castle Hills – 4570 Highway 121, Lewisville
  • Park & Preston – 5012 W. Park Blvd, Plano

"We find it very important to note that she is not taking anyone's job," a spokesperson says. "She exists to make the jobs of our Team Members easier and to actually allow guests to get more face time with our staff because our servers don’t need to run back and forth."

Rita's four duties include:

  • Hosting. Lead diners to their table, allowing the host to stay at the host stand to help those still waiting.
  • Food Running. Carry the bulk of the dishes, saving strain on servers and food runners and allowing servers to spend more time in the front of the house.
  • Bussing: Can be loaded up and sent to the kitchen to more quickly unload tables.
  • Birthday Song: Sings the Chili's birthday song and delivers a free dessert.

That last task is hugely popular for kids, and if you've ever worked at a restaurant and been forced to sing "Happy Birthday" to a customer, you already know that having a robot do this instead is infinitely preferable.

Not that one needs to clarify, but there is nothing human or female about "Rita" at all. The robot is a mobile cylinder with three shelves. It could have been nicknamed Roger or Randy or Roland or Ryan or Russell.

And Chili's is not the first to add robots to its service arsenal. Robots were pegged as the No. 1 trend in food & beverage for 2022, and are especially popular at Asian restaurants such as Bushi Bushi, a dim sum place in Addison.

Brinker has made other high-tech forays including its partnership with drone delivery company Flytrex to deliver Chili's It's Just Wings to customers in their backyards.

As far as mistakes go, Rita has been found to get it right more than 99 percent of the time, which easily exceeds the performance of most humans. But Chili's is still supporting the human race, with all its flaws.

"The hospitality industry is about people, and we have no interest in changing that," says Brinker's senior vice president of innovation Wade Allen.

"We are innovating in ways that make Team Members less likely to burn out or wear down," he says. "Rita can shoulder the physical load, leading to less exertion and more efficiency."

Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

Dallas-Fort Worth computes No. 3 ranking among America's top metros for tech jobs

Tech News

For the third year in a row, Austin ranks first on a closely watched list of the best places in the U.S. for tech jobs — and Dallas-Fort Worth isn't far behind, at No. 3.

For the latest version of its Tech Town Index, CompTIA, a trade group for the tech industry, looked at 20 metros with populations over 250,000 where demand for tech workers is highest. The metros were then ranked based on cost of living, number of postings for open tech positions in 2021, and projected job growth over both the next 12 months and next five years.

Austin landed at No. 1 again this year, followed in descending order by San Jose, California; Dallas-Fort Worth; Atlanta, Georgia; and Huntsville, Alabama. No other Texas metro appears in the top 10.

CompTIA says the Austin area offers “an attractive combination of opportunity, affordability, and good old-fashioned real estate that keeps technology companies — and talent — flocking to the Lone Star State’s capital city.”

Last year, 64,481 technology job openings were posted in the Austin area, according to CompTIA. The group says Austin continues to top the list for one-year (3.75 percent) and five-year (13.9 percent) projected growth in tech jobs. Companies like Deloitte, Dell Technologies, General Motors, and IBM are among the top recruiters of tech pros in the metro area.

But Austin wasn't first in every category. The area ranked sixth among U.S. metros for the addition of tech jobs last year (1,846), according to CompTIA. Dallas-Fort Worth grabbed the No. 1 spot, adding 5,321 tech jobs in 2021.

DFW is home to the state’s biggest tech workforce (313,447 workers in 2021, ranked sixth in the country). This year, that figure is expected to rise to 321,138, representing a one-year increase of 2.5 percent.

Houston had 134,436 tech jobs in 2021, CompTIA says. This year’s number is expected to be about the same (134,754). Meanwhile, San Antonio had 49,801 tech jobs last year, with the workforce projected to grow to 50,971 this year.

CompTIA poses the question of whether Austin can keep up its current pace of growth as a tech hub.

“Many believe it can. Experts cite ideal conditions for business creation like access to capital, skilled workers, and affordable office space as key factors appealing to startups and enterprise companies alike. … But the IT pros who live and work in Austin say that it’s the attention to work-life balance, access to educational opportunities, and the city’s distinctive culture that keep them working in Austin — and feeling wonderfully weird,” CompTIA says.

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Giant sea creatures made of recycled beach trash wash onto Galveston Island in must-see new exhibit

inspiring sea change

A giant great white shark, massive bald eagle, oversized octopus, and more enormous sea life have invaded Galveston Island.

"Washed Ashore," a compelling traveling art exhibit of giant sea animal sculptures made of trash collected from beaches, is now on display across 19 locations in Galveston.

The clever showcase features more than 20 pieces — most more than six feet tall and as much as 17 feet wide — such as coral reefs, jellyfish, penguins, sunfish, and more.

Sculptures can be found at museums, hotels, parks, attractions, and popular outdoor spaces. Thanks to a partnership between Oregon-based non-profit Washed Ashore and the Galveston Park Board, the exhibit, which is open though March 5, is free.

This innovative, powerful exhibit is designed to educate the public about the hazards of plastic pollution in the world’s waterways and comes at a touchstone environmental moment. Some 35 million metric tons of plastic entered the global aquatic ecosystems in 2020, according to the Ocean Conservancy’s research partners.

Similar "Washed Ashore" exhibits have been displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, as well as zoos, aquariums, and botanical gardens across the nation. Notably, this Galveston debut marks the first time the exhibit will not be behind a paid gate, per press materials.

“The sculptures are impressive,” Visit Galveston Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody says. “But they’re even more impressive when you look at them closely. The artists at Washed Ashore placed recognizable objects – like buckets and shovels – at a child’s eye view. This way, hopefully, they will learn to take with them what they bring to the beach.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit the official site.

Photo courtesy of Visit Galveston

Meet Greta the great white shark.

These are the 5 best food and drink events in Fort Worth this week

This week in gluttony

It’s a frigid start to February this week, but tasty events bring opportunities to warm up once the coldest weather passes. Get cozy with hand-made pasta and wine, a dim sum cooking class, two new Sunday brunch launches, and a complimentary educational class to watch online from the warmth of your own home.

Thursday, February 2

An Evening with Batasiolo Wine Dinner
Only 11 lucky individuals get to partake in this four-course dinner set to take place in il Modo’s intimate pasta-making room. Wines from Beni Di Batasiolo Winery will be paired with each course. Reservations are $199, plus tax and gratuity, and include valet parking. Dinner begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, February 4

Who Eats Cornbread? Who Eats Biscuits? Baking and Texas Identity Webinar by the TCU Center for Texas Studies
Curl up at home with hot biscuits or cornbread while watching this tasty and educational webinar led by Rebecca Sharpless, professor of history at TCU. She’ll talk through the history of baking in Texas and the American South, speaking from research conducted for her latest book, Grain and Fire. Learn who used white cornmeal, who used yellow, who used sugar, who didn’t, flour to fat ratios, and why it all matters. The free webinar begins at 10:30 am.

Jazz Brunch Launch at The Fitzgerald
The Camp Bowie Boulevard restaurant will channel New Orleans vibes with the launch of its new jazz brunch. The live jazz pianist will provide tunes on Fitzgerald’s heated patio both Saturday and Sundays from 11 am-2 pm. Plan for brunch dishes like crab cake Benedict, shrimp and grits, crawfish omelets, and bananas Foster banana pudding.

Dim Sum Time at Indulge Cooking Studio
The downtown cooking studio located inside Third Street Market hosts an array of classes regularly. This one will feature dim sum, the traditional Chinese meal made up of small plates featuring various dumplings and snacks. The menu will include chicken shumai, Chinese greens, spring rolls, and an egg custard tart. The class is $89 and will begin at 11 am.

Sunday, February 5

New Sunday Brunch at Craft & Vine
The Roanoke restaurant, wine bar, and craft cocktail lounge will launch Sunday brunch with new buffet-style stations. Enjoy eggs Benedict, a carving station, waffle bar, and more, as well as champagne flights, a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and even a bar cart for crafting Old Fashioneds. The price is $39 per person and $15 for kids 12 and under. Brunch service begins at 10 am and the live music starts at 11 am.

Luke Bryan trucks to Dallas-Fort Worth for 2 tour stops, including Dickies Arena

Country on

Luke Bryan fans, clear your calendars in late September 2023. The five-time Entertainer of the Year and American Idol judge is making not one but two stops in North Texas on his "Country On Tour."

He'll play Dallas' Dos Equis Pavilion on September 28, then scoot over to Fort Worth for a show at Dickies Arena on September 29. The only other Texas stop on his 36-city tour will be in Lubbock, on July 27. (So sorry, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.)

Special guests throughout the tour will include up-and-coming country artists Chayce Beckham, Tyler Braden, Ashley Cooke, Jackson Dean, Jon Langston, Conner Smith, Alana Springsteen, Hailey Whitters, and DJ Rock.

According to the tour site, Beckham, Dean, Whitters, and DJ Rock will play the Dallas-Fort Worth shows.

Bryan has a history of investing in new artists by inviting them to join him on tour, a press release reminds.

“Artists get into the business to make music and perform it for the fans,” Bryan says in the release. “Leaving it all out on that stage is what it’s all about for me. I’m excited to support and have so many talented new artists along for the ride this year. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of our job.

The tour is named for Bryan's 30th No. 1 single, “Country On” - a celebration of farmers, truckers, military, first responders, and all of Americana that hit the top of the country singles charts around Christmas 2022. He has amassed a career tally of 56 total weeks at #1.

Bryan launches his 2023 headline dates at Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas on February 1. He's also returning as a judge on ABC's American Idol this spring.

Bryan's "Country On Tour" kicks off June 15 in Syracuse, New York.

Tickets go on sale on at 10 am Friday, February 3 at Lukebryan.com.

Presale for Bryan's fan club members will run 8 am Tuesday, January 31 through 5 pm Thursday, February 2. For details, go HERE.

Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets from 10 am Wednesday, February 1 to 10 pm Thursday, Feb 2 through the Citi Entertainment program. For complete presale details visit www.citientertainment.com.