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NASA has awarded Cedar Park company Firefly Aerospace with $93.3 million to deliver a module of 10 science experiments and technology demonstrations to the moon in 2023.
The company, which specializes in providing spacecraft and other space technologies, will not perform the launch itself but will create the spacecraft and lander, known as the "Blue Ghost," for the mission.
The award is a part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services, an initiative that brings American companies into upcoming lunar projects.
Firefly's lander will head for the Moon's Mare Crisium basin, a basin on the "light" side of the moon facing Earth. The spacecraft will be loaded up with technologies meant for testing the moon's mantle, a laser that will identify the exact distance from Earth to the Moon and other tools to test the Moon's surface. The project is also a part of the Artemis project and will help gain information for future human habitation.
Firefly will develop the "Blue Ghost" at its Cedar Park location, according to lander program manager Shea Ferring.
"We are utilizing our Austin-based AS9100-certified engineering, test, and production facilities to build and operate world-class spacecraft," Ferring said. "NASA's support for our lunar program allows us to increase our capabilities for in-space services to the benefit of both U.S. government and commercial customers."
Although this isn't Firefly's first NASA order, it is the first delivery project awarded to the company and by far its largest-scale project to date. Dr. Max Polyakov, founder of Firefly's largest investor Noosphere Ventures, said in a press release that the contract is rewarding and will help the company gain recognition toward national projects in years to come.
"This award is further validation of Firefly, its team and its mission to become a versatile provider of a broad range of space-related services,'' Polyakov said. "It's extremely gratifying to know that NASA recognizes the tremendous talent we've assembled at Firefly. Our recently appointed board members bring the highest level of U.S. Government expertise and provide strategic guidance to further strengthen the company as we move into this next phase of accelerated growth. It's an exciting time.''
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."