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Bulletins

SpaceX won a NASA contract to explore an asteroid named Psyche.

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rockets will get $117 million to launch NASA's payload on its journey to study the asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter.


Why Psyche? Because it's made of "the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet — one of the building blocks of our solar system." NASA thinks that by studying this asteroid, it can learn more about the Earth's core as well. (It's kind of like the plot of "Armageddon," but for science instead of saving the world.) The launch is set for July 2022.

Martin Cooper with his original DynaTAC cell phone.

Photo: Ted Soqui/Getty Images

Martin Cooper helped invent one of the most consequential and successful products in history: the cell phone. And almost five decades after he made the first public cell phone call, on a 2-pound brick of a device called the DynaTAC, he's written a book about his career called "Cutting the Cord: The Cell Phone Has Transformed Humanity." In it he tells the story of the cell phone's invention, and looks at how it has changed the world and will continue to do so.

Cooper came on the Source Code Podcast to talk about his time at Motorola, the process of designing the first-ever cell phone, whether today's tech giants are monopolies and why he's bullish on the future of AI.

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

People

The breakthrough list: 17 people who had a big 2020

They cut through the noise and found themselves in the spotlight this year.

Clockwise from left: Rashad Robinson, Chamath Palihapitiya, Gwynne Shotwell, Vanessa Pappas and Brian Armstrong all found themselves in the spotlight this year.

Photo: Getty Images and Protocol

It was a big year for Big Tech, with the CEOs of Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter all appearing before Congress and billionaires like Elon Musk becoming even richer. But they're not the only people with power in the tech industry.

This year, Protocol wanted to highlight the people in tech who broke through the noise and became a name you should know. Some, like Snowflake's CEO Frank Slootman, celebrated giant business successes, while others, like TikTok's Vanessa Pappas, found themselves in a global political match over an app. Coinbase's Brian Armstrong managed to play both the hero and the villain in a year, alienating some employees with a reportedly hostile workplace while being championed by many in Silicon Valley for taking a no-politics stance during a highly political year.

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Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Power

Microsoft fires up Stage Two of its cloud computing plans for space

Two years after AWS kicked off the extension of cloud computing into space, Microsoft is detailing plans for services and partnerships that link satellites and data centers.

The Azure Modular Datacenter is a trailer-sized collection of servers and networking equipment that will be able to link up with Azure-powered satellites in space for internet connectivity.

Photo: Microsoft

Building on the announcement of Azure Orbital last month, on Tuesday Microsoft plans to unveil a much broader strategy for linking its earth-based cloud computing servers and networking technology with satellites orbiting the earth. Azure Space will be led by two recent hires from U.S. government agencies focused on space exploration and development, and partners such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and satellite giant SES are also on board.

The company is also introducing the Azure Modular Datacenter, a trailer-sized collection of servers and networking equipment that will be able to link up with Azure-powered satellites in space for internet connectivity. The idea is to bring mini data centers to difficult terrain around the world, building on Microsoft's underwater data center experiment, Project Natick.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

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