Mars landing, Kitty goes to Washington and auctioning digital art

We gather the numbers to know from the week’s biggest economic and business news stories so you can impress yourself and your friends.

A NASA illustration shows the aeroshell containing the Perseverance rover guiding itself towards the Martian surface before becoming the fifth United States rover to touch down on the Red Planet Thursday [File: NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP]

It’s been a week of wild weather for regions across the globe — from snow in Jerusalem to a deep freeze in Texas.

After you dry your socks off and shake the snow out of your hair, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and dig into the biggest business and economic news stories you might have missed this week. We promise it’s more interesting than refreshing your weather app.


The number of times the United States has successfully landed a rover on Mars. Perseverance became the fifth rover to touch down on the Red Planet Thursday after a journey of 480 million kilometres.

Perseverance has some very cool new tech gear in tow, including the first microphones to be brought to Mars, as well as its first aircraft, more cameras than ever before and a life-detecting duo known as SHERLOC and WATSON, writes Al Jazeera’s Dee Ann Divis.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is shown landing safely on Mars in this illustration [Courtesy: NASA]

WATSON, the Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and eNgineering, will take microscopic images of the rocks, and SHERLOC will scan them with deep-ultraviolet light to classify the organic materials, minerals and chemicals on their surfaces. Its nickname is short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals. Whew. That’s a mouthful.

Perhaps the most straight-out-of-a-sci-fi-novel innovation on the mission, however, is a tiny helicopter called Ingenuity, which is similar in size to a toy drone here on Earth and will help test flight conditions in the Martian atmosphere.

Perseverance will also hopefully help in the decade-long effort to bring Martian rock back to Earth so researchers can study it.

More than 10 million

The number of Americans who are behind on their mortgage payments, according to the White House. This week, US President Joe Biden extended a foreclosure moratorium and forbearance programme designed to help struggling homeowners.

The policy, which covers borrowers with government-backed mortgages, is designed to keep people in their homes at a time when public health experts have warned that a wave of evictions and foreclosures could make the spread of COVID-19 worse.

Another 10 million American tenants were behind on their rent payments as of late December, according to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics and the Urban Institute. Altogether, tenants in the US owed more than $57bn in back rent at the end of last year — a stunning figure that only tells part of the story of the US’s looming housing crisis.

Millions of people in the US are at risk of losing their homes when federal eviction and foreclosure moratoriums expire. But it will take more than the next round of stimulus aid to address a crisis that hits Americans of colour the hardest, writes Al Jazeera’s Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath.

87 percent

After surging on a wave of interest from retail investors sourcing stock tips from social media, GameStop Corp’s shares remain 87 percent lower than their January record.

The Reddit-fuelled day trader frenzy prompted a Congressional hearing this week, with the CEOs of Reddit, brokerage app Robinhood, several hedge funds and investor Keith Gill — known online as Roaring Kitty  — all testifying before lawmakers on the House Committee on Financial Services.

“A few things I am not. I am not a cat. I am not an institutional investor, nor am I a hedge fund,” Gill told lawmakers Thursday.

“I am just an individual whose investment in GameStop and posts on social media were based upon my own research and analysis,” he added.

Keith Gill, who goes by the name Roaring Kitty online, is credited with inspiring GameStop’s rally and was part of a virtual House Committee on Financial Services hearing on Thursday [File: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg]

Thursday’s virtual hearing was just one of several high-level inquiries in Washington to troubleshoot the stock-market shenanigans that gripped headlines so far in 2021. Among the issues being evaluated — including by the Department of Justice’s criminal fraud division and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — are market manipulation, rules on short selling and brokerage solvency requirements, writes Al Jazeera’s Ben Piven.

But for the newcomer investors who are part of the excitement don’t plan to quit anytime soon. After losing his job as a line cook at a New York City restaurant, Pablo Batista threw himself into the stock market and said he turned $4,000 into $65,000. Batista said it hasn’t always been easy — he lost $14,000 in one day before recouping it.

“Throwing my money in the stock market probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do,” he told Al Jazeera. “But that’s why I think I’m kind of where I’m at right now. Because I took that risk.”

More than $54,000

The record-breaking height that cryptocurrency bitcoin soared to this week, part of its larger rally that has seen its value surge fivefold over the past year.

Tesla’s decision to invest in bitcoin — and its CEO, Elon Musk, hyping the digital coin on social media — have helped boost its value, as well as announcements from a slew of companies that have said they will invest or accept it as payment.

But sceptics warn that bitcoin’s boom could end in a bust, and it’s far too volatile to become a mainstream form of payment any time soon.


The starting bid for the first piece of purely digital art ever to be auctioned off by Christie’s. “Everydays – The First 5000 Days” is a composition by American artist Beeple and is a combination of his work over the past 13 years.

Bidding will start at $100 in the online auction, which opens on February 25. To prove its authenticity, the work features what is known as a “non-fungible token” that digitally attaches the artist’s signature to it and can’t be altered, Christie’s said.

Wondering how to pay for the first purely piece of digital art auctioned off? With a purely digital currency, of course. Christie’s said it will accept cryptocurrency as payment. So if you made a ton of money in this latest bitcoin rally, why not buy something beautiful to hang on your digital walls?

Source: Al Jazeera