News may be like a fine wine—it takes a few years to watch i


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One of the true privileges of being a journalism outlet that's been around for a minute is simply time. Just as site designs change and evolve and cause eyeballs to bleed across trends within a decade, news itself often takes years to play out and reveal the big picture.

For instance, the world first caught wind of the 3D-printed gun file toting folks at Defense Distributed back in late 2012, and their legal battles started almost immediately. And just when those cases and initiatives appeared near the finish line this month (some seven years later), new filings arrived to change the game and likely elongate the overall story here. We've similarly seen overclocking go from forum fringes to the data center mainstream and AR go from kitschy tech glasses to thing we may actually use soon on a smartphone.

For this week's Orbital Transmission, we're allowing time to be a flat circle (or something like that) and highlighting a few recent stories literally years in the making. Sometimes the news of the day plays out as you expect, sometimes it doesn't. So, let's all plan on revisiting this idea with seal poop-resistant USB sticks and finger pinch emojis in about a decade.

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Orbital Transmission 02.13.2019
At Firefly Aerospace, testing a turbopump as the Sun sets in Texas

In 5 years, Firefly Aerospace may go from death to space

When we first visited small-satellite launch company Firefly in 2014, it... was literally a big patch of dirt. But all the positive indicators seemed to be there: a founder who'd helped NASA and SpaceX with his expertise in rocket engines and a niche use case with a market rapidly forming. Yet just three years later, initial funding had run dry and Firefly was forced to file for bankruptcy. In 2019, things have changed again—the company has re-emerged thanks to a partnership with a Ukrainian entrepreneur. Last year it test-fired its Lightning engine, and now it's moved on to the more powerful Reaver, which might keep Firefly on target for a 2019 launch after all.

A chart showing RDR2's initial popularity v. some recent viral hits

Four months later, just how popular is RDR2?

Everyone does game reviews, especially when a release is as high-profile as Red Dead Redemption 2. We'd been reading social media tea leaves about the game since 2016, so naturally it founds its way into our 2018 Games of the Year list. But a game's story doesn't end upon release or even Dec. 31 of that year—so with RDR2 passing its 100-day mark recently, Ars was able to put it truly in context. (Spoiler: It's really not that far off from initial Fortnite hype.)

A Google Fiber fan in Louisville

Google Fiber has been around awhile, though not in L'ville

Google Fiber has been in our lives since 2012 by this point (time flies when you're at 700Mbps speeds, eh?). But in its near-decade existence, no deployment has been quite like Louisville. In 2017, Google entered the market through a new technique—microtrenching—that allowed a faster deployment. Instead of using existing utility poles or making giant holes in the ground, microtrenching relies on inch-wide, four-inches deep digs to lay fiber cables. Unfortunately, those shallow cables some times ended up exposed (Louisville Fiber used two-inch "nano-trenches" at times). Pushback on the situation combined with the effort necessary to remedy everything is leading to Google Fiber exiting the market after just a year. That might be the quickest entry in Ars' newly long-running series of stories, "Google kills product."

A Mars One drawing

Funding Mars missions via marketing maybe isn't ideal

Within the last decade, Mars became the Next Big Thing™ in space goals. Elon Musk famously wants to get human there; NASA too. But one of the most peculiar efforts in this burgeoning space started in 2013: Mars One. This startup asked for applicants willing to take a one-way trip to Mars, offering training and supplies in exchange for the whole thing being documented like crazy for public consumption. Some 30,000 people (including a few Ars readers) applied. It seemed fishy from the start, and some two years later signs that pointed towards "scam" appeared. But just this past week, the story reached its expected conclusion. Mars One's commercial arm filed for bankruptcy this week, perhaps concretely jeopardizing the already aspirational effort. As Ars' Space Guru Eric Berger put it, "To believe that a small company selling 'marketing rights' as a means of getting to Mars would solve all of the technical problems along the way was absolutely laughable. But it is no laughing matter that it trivializes the very real challenges of spaceflight."

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