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The Battle of a Small Island to Reclaim .nu on the Web

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The South Pacific island of Niue is one of the most remote places in the world. Its closest neighbors, Tonga and American Samoa, are hundreds of miles away. With a population of around 2,000 residents, the island is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. However, the advent of the internet promised to bring Niue closer to the rest of the world, allowing its residents to become more connected.

In the late 1990s, an American businessman offered to connect the island to the internet in exchange for the right to control the .nu suffix that Niue was assigned for its web addresses. At the time, the domain did not seem as valuable as others, such as .tv, which was allocated to Tuvalu, another South Pacific nation. The leaders of Niue agreed to the deal, but it wasn’t long before disagreements arose between the two parties.

Over two decades later, the dispute over the .nu domain is finally nearing a resolution in a court of law. Disputes over domain names were common during the internet’s early days, but experts are hard-pressed to recall one that has lasted as long as the one between Niue and the American businessman, Bill Semich.

It turned out that .nu was, in fact, very valuable, particularly among Scandinavians, as “nu” means “now” in Swedish, Danish, and Dutch. This led to thousands of Scandinavians registering websites with the suffix, creating a steady business for Niue’s business partner, Bill Semich.

Niue, an oval-shaped coral island of about 100 square miles, felt that it had been cheated out of a reliable stream of cash that could have helped it reduce its reliance on tourism and foreign aid. The island had explored unorthodox sources of income before, such as selling stamps and coins to collectors, as well as renting out its international dialing code. However, these ventures were not as sustainable as a consistent revenue stream from the .nu domain would have been.

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Niue canceled the deal with Mr. Semich in 2000 and has been attempting to reclaim the .nu domain ever since. The island is seeking about $30 million in damages from the Swedish Internet Foundation, which currently operates the domain. The amount could be transformative for Niue, which was recognized by the United States as a sovereign state only in 2022. The dispute has landed in the Swedish courts, and a ruling is expected in the coming days.

For the leader of Niue, Prime Minister Dalton Tagelagi, this is a fight for self-determination. Despite being self-governing, Niue heavily depends on New Zealand, and the two countries are in a political relationship known as free association. Prime Minister Tagelagi sees the .nu domain as an essential part of Niue’s identity and a symbol of its sovereignty.

If Niue wins the case and reclaims the .nu domain, it could help ensure the island’s long-term survival. With a population that is now only a third of what it was in the 1960s, Niue faces significant challenges. However, a victory in the case could fund its bid to join the United Nations, similar to how Tuvalu obtained U.N. membership after monetizing the .tv domain.

The legal battle has been long and arduous. Mr. Semich has repeatedly denied Niue’s claims of wrongdoing. In 2013, his company struck a deal to hand over the operation of .nu to the Swedish Internet Foundation, but Niue moved to sue. A years-long procedural battle ensued, ultimately leading to the Swedish courts hearing Niue’s case.

Jannike Tilla, a vice president of the foundation, has rejected Niue’s claims. She stated that the domain is highly relevant for Swedish users, particularly for many critical societal institutions. Despite the legal battle, websites currently using the .nu domain are not expected to face any changes even if Niue wins its case.

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As the dispute continues, the importance of the case is evident, but it is also complex and somewhat controversial. Critics question Niue’s claims of digital colonialism, arguing that sovereignty is not formally recognized in cyberspace. However, for the leaders of Niue, reclaiming the .nu domain is a matter of fairness and equality. Every nation, regardless of size, should be treated fairly and equally, according to Prime Minister Tagelagi.

The outcome of the case remains uncertain, but for the people of Niue, it represents a fight for their future and a quest for recognition on the world stage. Whether the island will succeed in its legal battle or not, the dispute over the .nu domain has brought long-standing geopolitical issues into the spotlight and underscored the challenges faced by a small island nation striving for independence and self-determination.

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NASA is Developing an Electrodynamic Shield to Address Lunar and Martian Dust Challenges

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NASA is tirelessly working on addressing the challenges posed by dust on the Moon and Mars. The lunar surface is covered in regolith, a jagged and abrasive material that can cause damage to equipment and pose health risks to astronauts. Additionally, dust accumulation on surfaces like solar panels can lead to decreased power output, creating further complications for manned missions to Mars.

To combat these issues, NASA has developed an innovative solution in the form of an Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS). This shield utilizes transparent electrodes and electric fields to electrically remove dust from surfaces, inspired by a concept developed by NASA in 1967. The technology has been in development since 2004 and is currently being tested by researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

The EDS has shown promising results in vacuum chamber tests simulating the space environment, with lunar regolith samples used for testing. The material was successfully ejected from surfaces within seconds, demonstrating the shield’s efficacy in removing dust. Additionally, EDS materials have been embedded on glass panels, test spacesuit fabrics, and even camera lenses onboard the International Space Station and lunar landers.

Dr. Charles Buhler, lead scientist on the project, emphasized the importance of protecting equipment and habitats from dust exposure on lunar missions. The abrasive nature of lunar dust, coupled with its ability to compromise seals and hatches, makes it a significant concern for future missions. The EDS technology shows great promise in mitigating these risks and ensuring the safety of astronauts and machinery on dusty worlds.

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As NASA continues to advance the development of the Electrodynamic Dust Shield, future missions will further test its capabilities in real-world environments. The technology holds great potential in safeguarding against the challenges posed by dust and ensuring the success of manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

For more information on NASA’s groundbreaking technology to combat lunar dust, visit the official NASA website at NASA Technology Helps Guard Against Lunar Dust.

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