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Space. The final frontier. Or, more likely, the next logical frontier for travel.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Michiel Mol, Founder and CEO of Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), a Netherlands-based company pioneering affordable and sustainable commercial space flight.
Mol has dreamt of traveling to space for as long as he can remember and is a self-described nerd. It was at the age of 11 that he caught his first glimpse of space, through a telescope he built himself. In 1993 Mol and friends established Lost Boys, now known as LBI, to develop software. Getting in on that industry's frontier has thus paved his way towards this ultimate goal of breaching yet another.
SXCs first operational spacecraft, the Lynx (built by XCOR Aerospace), is due to perform its test flight from SXC’s Mojave spaceport as soon as April this year, marking SXC's first solid step towards the goal of rocketing willing, paying travelers nearly 65 miles up and into the blackness above Earth. A year of testing will then ensue, with the first commercial flights scheduled for the latter half of 2014. SXC-built spaceports at both Mojave, CA and Curaçao are also due to open in 2017.
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If you’re more bah humbug than ho, ho, ho, there are trees out there for you too: Moon Trees. These trees, located all over the U.S., don’t have sparkly lights or flashy ornaments but they have been to the moon.
Back in the 1971 Stuart Roosa brought along close to 500 seeds from five tree species on the Apollo 14 mission as part of an experiment. As Apollo 14 re-entered Earth's atmosphere the container carrying the seeds opened and the seeds all mixed together.
You can't exactly take a trip there (yet), but the International Space Station keeps on keepin' on with its outer space research even as the Space Shuttles settle into their retirement. Did you know the ISS is the third brightest thing in the sky? The Hairpin, one of our favorite blogs, even notes that the Space Station has a system where you tell it where you are on Earth and NASA will email you when the conditions are best for you to get outside and spot the floating lab far away from Earth.
It's called "Spot the Shuttle" and it's brilliant.
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If you missed the move of the Space Shuttles to their new homes in New York City and Los Angeles—don’t worry—there’s still one more NASA orbiter that has yet to reach its final resting place This time the transportation is taking place in Florida and not too far from where the astronauts and crew did their thing for decades. That means that there will be no piggyback-plane flyover, but at least you’ll have the chance to pay your respects to one of the country’s remnants of NASA space travel technology.
This time it’s the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and it's scheduled to head over to Kennedy Space Center on November 2. It only needs to travel around 10 miles or so to park and ready a new $100 million exhibit, but much of the path is through restricted areas and other limited access places.
That means you’re going to need to buy your way along the route and the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex will be happy to sell you some tickets for exactly that.
NASA has always been very eager to showcase "practical" space travel spin-offs. Voters have generally been reluctant to fund the space agency merely because it takes humanity into the stars and builds telescopes that peek into the origins of the universeeven the Apollo program had problems getting support at the timeso NASA tells people that space technology will also help scientists build better toasters or whatever. It's actually kind of depressing.
That said, and luckily, people who can land bus-sized rovers on other planets with tick-tock precision are obviously going to create some really cool stuff. And since it's already there, why not spin it off?
This last Saturday, the Space Shuttle Endeavour caused a little Los Angesles gridlock of its very own, traveling on the Over Land Transporter (OLT) for 12 miles through the city in order to reach its new home at the California Science Center’s Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. No surprise that it was 10 hours late.
Endeavour, built as a replacement for space shuttle Challenger, completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit, and orbited Earth 4,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles. The public will be able to visit the Shuttle at the CSC beginning October 30. For more images of Endeavour both on the LA streets and during her fly days, check out the Endeavour Flickr Group.
It also shouldn't come as any surprise that NASA themselves scored the best images from the entire drive, posting them to their Flickr. Hey, NASA may not have flying Space Shuttles anymore, but they do have a killer Flickr stream! From the NASA shots and a few others, we chose 10 images you just have to see:
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Houston, Texas isn't in the best mood today. After all, around sunrise this morning "Space City" lost what it should have kept: the NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour, which departed for the last time from Houston's Ellington Field, en route to its final resting place in Los Angeles. The Endeavour first hit the sky in 1992, flying 25 times, with 123 million miles in space and 4,700 circles around Earth.
It won't be a direct flight to LA for the Endeavour, atop its modified Boeing 747 carrier plane; it's booked to stop at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, Texas, before heading to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California. Then, tomorrow, the journey in the skies completes at LAX Airport before the shuttle takes to the streets in October.
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Enterprise, not Endeavour, atop NASA's 747
September 20. Mark that in your iCal for your next chance at NASA shuttle-spotting as the Endeavour mounts NASA's specially configured Boeing 747 for the cross-country trip to the shuttle's final resting place in Los Angeles.
We've already filled you in on what's going down for the parade through the streets of LA on October 12, but Cape Canaveral isn't about to let the opportunity for extra cash pass by almost two weeks earlier.
Whereas standing street-side will be free in LA, Florida's Space Coast is selling tickets for a viewing of the flyaway, and they're not cheap...
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Last week's Blue Moon, which coincided with the burial of Neil Armstrong
It's getting crazy in Cairns. Even though the total solar eclipse is still over two months away, our Aussie embed assures us that hotel rooms are booking up and excitement is growing for the celestial event best visible from this Aussie city.
As we had actually considered heading down under for it, we were a tad dismayed. But wait! There's still plenty other astronomic occurrences to travel for yet this year and here's several:*
September 29: Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. You'll need a telescope for this one, or give your local observatory a call and see if they'll be hosting an event.
October 20-21: Orionids Meteor Shower. Wake up super early or stay up really late between Oct 20-24, head outside with a thermos full of good stuff and look up into the night sky for what will hopefully be 20 meteors and hour. Get outside the city and suburbs, beyond light pollution, to take in the show.
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What you already know by now is that Neil Armstrong, NASA pilot and first man on the moon, died Saturday at age 82 of complications from cardiovascular procedures. What you probably don't know is that the man already has a museum dedicated to him, and it's been around for thirty years! The museum opened in 1972, three years after the famous first moonwalk 1969.
The Armstrong Air and Space Museum sits in the tiny (under 10,000 people) town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong's birthplace. Since Ohio has a reputation as a breeding ground for aviators, astronauts and presidents, the structure branches out beyond Neil to cover all Ohio's contributions to the history and politics of space flight.
Among the items on display are Armstrong's uniforms, an F5D Sky Lancer, the Gemini VIII spacecraft (in which Neil flew and which also made the first space docking), Apollo 11 artifacts (Neil's backup Apollo 11 spacesuit!) and a moon rock. Even the architecture of the museum is notable; it resembles the moon rising and the dome that gives this effect contains a star theater.
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The Enterprise lands at JFK
We know, we know. Just as New York City got its breath back back hyperventilating over the arrival of the Enterprise Space Shuttle, Los Angeles is all set to steal the thunder with their very own Shuttle arrival.
If the weather is good, expect the Space Shuttle Endeavour to land on the back of a NASA Boeing 747 (a bit like this) at LAX on September 20. Plane your plane spotting now!
It seems like only yesterday that NASA's Space Shuttle Enterprise was flying around the city atop a 747, then being towed by barge and hitting a railroad bridge. Sigh. Now our baby's all grown up and nearly one month into her retirement. Well, she's not really our baby but that of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum aircraft carrier docked on the west side of Manhattan.
$30 per adult ($28 if bought online) is the admission price to enter the Intrepid Museum and also the Space Shuttle; there is no just-Space-Shuttle ticket. So, what do you get for that? To find out, this past weekend we finally made it up and under the temperature-controlled tent the Enterprise calls