Industry insiders say a space startup’s fuel could pose serious health risks on Earth
Underneath its Silicon Valley sheen, Apollo Fusion Inc. may be keeping a toxic secret. In Mountain View, Calif., a mile from the Google headquarters where its co-founder and several of its scientists used to work, the space startup is trying to develop better, cheaper propulsion systems for a new generation of satellites. Investors led by LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman handed the two-year-old company $10 million in venture funding earlier this year, on the promise of breakthrough technology that Hoffman has said will “enable the second space race.” But if Apollo sticks with a plan it has shared with some potential customers, the losers may include everyone on Earth.
Apollo Fusion has designed its propulsion systems to use mercury as a fuel, according to four industry insiders with direct knowledge of its technology. NASA began moving away from mercury in the 1970s, owing to concerns about contamination on the ground. Even tiny doses of mercury, a powerful neuro toxin, can impair a person’s cognitive functions, leading to lower IQ, impeded motor skills, and decreased memory. Apollo pitched the toxic element as part of its technology to potential customers as recently as this summer, three of the insiders say. All four spoke on condition of anonymity, because they’d signed nondisclosure agreements. Propulsion experts say mercury is a tempting choice, despite the safety hazards, because its performance is better than that of alternatives like xenon or krypton.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The Novo Abides
Mike Novogratz, former Goldman Sachs partner and the loudest crypto bull on Wall Street, has made and lost a fortune on Bitcoin. He’s still all-in.
Trump’s tariffs were meant to make the U.S. a safe option for businesses looking to expand. It’s not working out that way.
The Immigration Hackers
An Obama-era department of techies is working to streamline paperwork from inside the Trump administration. Results are mixed.
Letter From London, March 2029
A message from post-Brexit Britain about what the 2019 split from the EU hasn’t delivered.
Saudi Weighs More Bank Mergers
Gulf bank consolidation trend gathers pace with Saudi plans.
Money Markets Mixed Over Fed Rate Hikes
There is little agreement among commentators as to whether the Fed will continue to hike rates in 2019.
Hey, Paul Ryan, What's Up? Budget Deficits
The professed fiscal hawk leaves behind a legacy of unsustainable shortfalls.
Dell EMC Bullish On 2019 Outlook
Cloud and technology giant plans further expansion in the Middle East.
Artificial Intelligence Has Some Explaining To Do
Software makers offer more transparent machine-learning tools—but there’s a trade-off.
What Buffalo Got, And Didn't Get, When Tesla Came To Town
After $750 million in subsidies and years of delays, critics say Elon Musk hasn’t done enough for his solar panel factory
01 / SpaceX For flying past competitors in the space race by launching astronauts for NASA
More Than a Startup
LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company has become a media and branding juggernaut that empowers communities and is built for the future.
FALLING IN LOVE
LEMMINGS still haunts my nightmares almost three decades later.
The blueprint for 3D shooters has lots to teach in 2021.
Camille François Chief innovation officer at Graphika
LORD OF CHAOS
How XCOM’s JULIAN GOLLOP improved on the board games he loved