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It may not be "Follow Friday," but if you only follow one social media account this week, let it be that of the International Space Station.
Instagramming as @iss, the crew frequently post photos of the Earth below them, completely blowing away any other cappuccino foam or macro flower photo on Instagram.
Christopher Nolan's Interstellar follows Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to planets beyond our star as they attempt to save the human race.
In reality, that type of trip is impossible, but it might not be for long. The head of the 100 Year Starship Project (100YSS), Mae Jemison, recently told Popular Science that she is hopeful the colonization a distant star system is on the horizon, but it won't look anything like Nolan's version.
Sure, we love all the speed and comfort of modern travel, but it didn't get that way overnight. Every Thursday, we're going to take a look back at travel the way it used to be, whether that's decades or centuries ago. This is Throwback Thursday, travel edition.
A tourist trip to space wasn't just a science fiction fantasy for Pan Am, even though it may have seemed that way after their cameo as an airline-turned-spaceline in Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In the late 1960s, the Space Race and the Apollo programs had the United States daydreaming of travel beyond Florida or Paris. Pan Am channeled that enthusiasm for outer space into an alignment with their brand, founding the "First Moon Flights Club."
Space Travel / Space Tourism / Virgin Galactic / SpaceShipTwo / WhiteKnightTwo / MHV / Richard Branson / Tragedies / Accidents / Virgin / Astronauts / Pilots / Scaled Composites / The Spaceship Company / → All Tags
The accident immediately killed test co-pilot Michael Tyner Alsbury [memorial fund] and wounded pilot Peter Siebold, who emergency ejected and parachuted to the ground.
Preliminary NTSB reports note that no explosion occurred, and that an early deployment of the craft's feathering systema function that adjusts SS2 into something of a shuttlecock shape for re-entrymay have been the cause of the spacecraft's breaking apart.
Many are wondering if this will shut down the program, but Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides are clear in their statements that this tragedy is an obstacle, not an end. "Space is hardóbut worth it. We will persevere and move forward together."
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Above: SpaceShipTwo (center) hangs from her carrier plane, WhiteKnightTwo, as they prepare for today's test flight at MHV
[Update: California Highway Patrol verifies that, of the two SpaceShipTwo pilots, one is confirmed dead and the other suffered serious injuries and was transported from the scene by helicopter. The names of the pilots have not been released.]
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo was destroyed during a test flight today, shortly after setting out under its own rocket power over the California desert.
The spacecraft first left the runway under its carrier plane, WhiteKnightTwo, at 9:19am PST this morning. SpaceShipTwo was then released and fired up her rocket engine around 10:07am, which is when Virgin Galactic tweeted, "Ignition! #SpaceShipTwo is flying under rocket power again. Stay tuned for updates."
Tragically the next update, only 6 minutes later, announced that the craft had experienced an "in-flight anomaly."
SpaceShipTwo currently only seats two pilots, both of whom are equipped with parachutes for emergency ejection. Early reports indicate that at least one parachute was observed after the mid-air explosion, although the status of the pilots hasn't yet been ascertained (see updates at top of story). Wreckage of the craft is visible on the ground.
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[Update: This feature was written and published prior to the tragic events of 31 October, 2014, when SpaceShipTwo suffered an "anomaly" and was lost, with one fatality.]
How about Paris for the weekend, or a two-week trip around Southeast Asia? Forget itthat's so 2014, so terrestrial. Should Virgin Galactic have their way, 2015 will be the year you book a vacation of suborbital space travel, or perhaps a supersonic 45-minute flight from California to London.
This month SpaceShipTwo completed her 54th test flight, improving the odds that next year will indeed be the one to finally kick off space tourism. In fact, Virgin Galactic has already begun the big move from Mojave, CA to Las Cruces, NM, the latter being home to Spaceport America and, hopefully soon, flights to space full of paying passengers (6, to be specific, plus 2 pilots).
Seeing as the US treats spaceship technology with something of the same intense secrecy as defense technology, much of what Virgin Galactic's been up to out in their hangar in the California desert is hush-hush top secret. The 10th Anniversary of their Ansari X Prize win however opened up a small window for us to peek behind those massive doors. Here's what we can tell (and show!) you:
Footage and photos of yesterday's Antares rocket explosion during launch from Wallops Island, VA are making their way around the internet, but all have been from a pedestrian perspective. This morning, however, a video emerged of the incident as seen from 3,000' up, which actually shows the immensity of the "pow."
It's obvious the pilot had taken the plane up with the express purpose of watching the launch of Antares, a 14-story unmanned Orbital Sciences supply rocket destined for the International Space Station. Flying in a plane during a space launch used to be a popular way to get a new perspective on the events, and the last Endeavour launch was captured this way, as was a Discovery launch.
Here's what the pilot/cameraman had to say about this video:
I took this video of the very unfortunate Orbital Sciences rocket explosion on my iPad Mini. Video was taken in our Cessna 177 Cardinal from an altitude of 3000ft.
We usually turn our attention towards New Mexico when it comes to space travel and space tourism, as thatís where Virgin Galactic has been preparing and planning for the last few years. However, thereís another spot to add to your space race map; the United Kingdom have their own sky-high dreams and they're focusing them on Scotland.
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We have been following the goings-on from the folks over at Virgin Galactic for quite some time, and it seems like only a matter of time before tickets are offered up for sale and passengers head towards the great beyond.
Things are getting one step closer, as Virgin Galactic recently submitted all kinds of paperwork and presentations to Uncle Sam and his buddies over at the Federal Aviation Administration. Thankfully everyone seems to be onboard with the plan, and that means weíre one step closer to taking off into outer space.
Hereís something to watch thatís even better than the stuff freshly recorded onto your DVR. A few weeks ago a new live feed was flipped on for the first time, and now viewers from across the globe can check out whatís going on out in outer spaceólive.
The link can be found right here, but just note that sometimes things might be a little more interesting than other times. Black scenes are common, as that means itís the night side of the Earth. Sometimes cameras are switching things up, and there are times when the downlink isnít work quite right. Remember that this is a live look into space, so we can expect a couple hiccups in the connectivity every now and then.
What else is there to see in the sky this season? After today's first solar eclipse of 2014 (visible only in Australia and Antarctica), thirst is high for more nights spent with an eye to the sky. For a clue or two, we turn to one of our favorite Facebook pages, i fucking love science (IFLS). The page, which describes its mission as existing for "the funny side of science...quotes, jokes, memes and anything your admin finds awesome and strange," has over 13 million "likers."
Filed in among those memes and jokes is some spectacularly useful information, good enough to inspire summer travels. For example, take their quick guide to dates with celestial events (above) and meteor showers (below).
We checked out the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum when we were kids, and when we visited it recentlyóit looked exactly as we remembered it. Turns out that things havenít really changed much since the placeís debut back in 1976, but thankfully thatís about to change as the place is undergoing a little bit of a 21st century facelift.
There will be some temporary closures of exhibits over the next two years, but itís a small price to pay to get things looking shiny and new once again. Obviously history hasnít really changed, but the curator folks are changing up what theyíre showing off. Things from the Apollo moon landing will now be one of the main features that greet guests, while great goodies from the past like the Spirit of St. Louis, the Mercury capsule from the first Earth orbit, and an Apollo Lunar Module will all be some of the stuff on display.