Older Mars rover marks milestone
The Mars rover Opportunity is quietly embarking on its 10th year of exploration. But since landing in January 2004, it has made many discoveries including that Mars was once warmer and wetter than today. Opportunity and its twin Spirit were only supposed to explore for three months, but both outlasted their original mission. Opportunity is now studying interesting rocks in a massive crater. But after so many years crater-hopping, the rover is showing its age: It has an arthritic joint in its robotic arm and it drives mostly backward due to a balky front wheel — more annoyances than show-stoppers. Spirit lost communication with Earth in 2010 after getting stuck in sand. A third rover, Curiosity, arrived on the planet five months ago.
Cuba turns on fiber-optic cable
Cuba apparently has finally switched on the first undersea fiber-optic cable linking it to the outside world nearly two years after its arrival, according to analysis by a company that monitors global Internet use. In a report posted Sunday on the website Renesys, Doug Madory wrote that Cuba began using the cable on Jan. 14. He said all the traffic appears to be to the country, leading him to conclude that outgoing data is still traveling via satellite. The $70 million cable, strung from Venezuela to Cuba, came ashore in February 2011.
N. Korea eases cellphone curbs
North Korea is loosening some restrictions on foreign cellphones by allowing visitors to bring their phones into the country. However, regulations still prohibit mobile phone calls between foreigners and locals. North Korea had required visitors to relinquish cellphones at the border until their departure, leaving many without an easy way to communicate with the outside world. Satellite phones are still prohibited.