‘Mars’: National Geographic Network’s Moonshot

National Geographic is releasing “Mars,” a six-part series that follows a dramatized mission to Mars while real scientists and thinkers discuss the challenges of such a journey.

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WSJ‘s Lee Hawkins and John Jurgensen discuss “Mars” and the rise of the “premium nonfiction” genre on television. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] A Quick History of Space Exploration 

Orbital Sciences will once again attempt to rendezvous with the International Space Station when it launches the Cynus spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket, shown here in a file photo of an earlier launch. Photo courtesy Orbital Sciences

Orbital Sciences will once again attempt to rendezvous with the International Space Station when it launches the Cynus spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket, shown here in a file photo of an earlier launch. Photo courtesy Orbital Sciences

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Artist's concept of the new SpaceX Dragon, which may one day fly from Brownsville, Texas (Image: SpaceX)

Artist’s concept of the new SpaceX Dragon, which may one day fly from Brownsville, Texas (Image: SpaceX)

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From the first rocket launch in 1926 to Gagarin, Armstrong, Hubble, Curiosity and beyond, take a fast ride through the 90 years of human space exploration. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture 

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Startup Proposes to Land Payload of Scientific Gear on Lunar Surface Some Time Next Year.

Andy Pastor reports: U.S. officials appear poised to make space history by giving the green light to the first private mission aiming to go beyond Earth orbit, according to people familiar with the details.

The government’s endorsement would eliminate the largest regulatory obstacle to plans by Moon Express, a relatively obscure space startup, to land a roughly 20-pound package of scientific hardware on the Moon sometime next year. It also would provide the biggest federal boost yet for unmanned commercial space exploration and, potentially, the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system.

The expected decision, said the people familiar with the details, is expected to set important legal and diplomatic precedents for how Washington will ensure such nongovernmental projects comply with longstanding international space treaties. The principles are likely to apply to future spacecraft whose potential purposes range from mining asteroids to tracking space debris.

Approval of a formal launch license for the second half of 2017 is still months away, and the proposed mission poses huge technical hurdles for California-based Moon Express, including the fact that the rocket it wants to use hasn’t yet flown.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

But the project’s proponents have considered federal clearance of the suitcase-size MX-1 lander and its payload as well as approval of a planned two-week operation on the Moon itself to pose the most significant legal challenges to the mission.

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After months of lobbying by Moon Express officials and high-level deliberations among various federal agencies led by the White House science office, the people familiar with the matter said, the company appears close to obtaining what it has called “mission approval.” Until recently, Moon Express faced a regulatory Catch-22 because there was no template for getting Washington’s blessing for what it proposed.

Official action coordinated through the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates U.S. rocket launches and is responsible for traditional payload reviews, could come as soon as the next few weeks, these people said. Read the rest of this entry »


Drone Degree Develops at East Texas University 

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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) – Alex Osiadacz reports: A budding drone program at one East Texas university is giving students more career options in the aviation industry.

LeTourneau University‘s degree in the unmanned aircrafts has students looking to get involved, and the economics of the industry might be the leading factor. It’s a practice ground for the next generation of pilots, and the developing industry is driving more into the field.

“You don’t often think about that for every drone there’s a pilot behind it controlling it,” aviation professor Ruedi Schubarth said.

There’s not a flight deck, but it’s more than just a remote control, and that’s getting some excited about the opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] How to Fold an Origami F-16 Plane

In this instructable, I will teach you how to fold the plain awesome origami F-16! This model is not nearly as hard to fold as it looks, so don’t be deterred by its complex appearance.

Despite the sad fact that this particular plane doesn’t fly too well, it never fails to impress. If you want to see my youtube video on how to make this same model, just click How To Fold an Origami F-16 to see a tutorial that is slightly easier to follow. So lets get started!

My printer paper is standard 8.5×11 inch. Fold it in half lengthwise, or hotdog style as some people call it, then unfold….(more)

See the rest here.

Source: instructable.com


[VIDEO] Grand Canyon from the Stratosphere: A Space Balloon Story 

In June 2013, a group of friends launched a weather balloon a few miles from Tuba City, Arizona. The amazing footage was found two years later by an Arizona hiker. Enjoy the video of our launch preparations, video footage, and some data analysis of the flight.


British Airways: ‘What Happens in Vegas Gets Flame-Retardant Sprayed on it in Vegas’

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British Airways Flight Catches Fire on Las Vegas Runway

At least two people were injured after an engine on a London-bound British Airways jet caught fire on a  Las Vegas airport runway Tuesday.

McCarren Airport said the incident involved British Airways flight 2276, which was headed to London’s Gatwick Airport.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says the plane’s left engine caught fire Tuesday afternoon while it was preparing for take off. A plume of black smoke could be seen billowing into the sky but firefighters quickly doused the aircraft with fire retardant. Read the rest of this entry »


OH YES THEY DID: Washington Driver Gets Six Months for ‘Marijuana-Related’ Crash That May Have Had Nothing to Do With Marijuana

 writes: Today a Vancouver, Washington, pot smoker received a six-month jail sentence, followed by five years of probation, in a case that seems to illustrate the vancover-accident-kptvinjustice caused by his state’s new definition of stoned driving. Scotty Rowles was driving his 1995 Ford pickup truck on East Mill Plain Boulevard around 6 p.m. on December 17, 2012, when Donald Collins stepped from the median into the street in front of him. According to KPTV, the Fox station in Portland, Oregon, “Investigators said Collins was close to two different lit and controlled intersections, but stepped out in the middle of traffic to try and cross the road.” On the face of it, Collins’ death was not Rowles’ fault. But a police officer smelled marijuana on Rowles, who admitted that he had smoked “a little bowl” one or two hours earlier. He was charged with vehicular homicide.

[Read the full text here, at Reason.com]

Prosecutors dropped that charge after concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support it. But they changed their minds after a blood test put Rowles’ THC level at 7.2 nanograms per milliliter, 2.2 nanograms above Washington’s new cutoff for driving under the influence of marijuana. Because of that rule, which was included in the marijuana legalization intitiative that voters approved a month before the accident, Rowles was guilty of DUI even if he was not actually impaired. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] LUCKY STRIKE: Lightning Strikes Two Jets on Approach to Sea-Tac Airport

Mid-Air Scare When Lightning Strikes 2 Planes Over Seattle 

SEATTLE —  reports: Some of the people on their way into Seattle Wednesday evening got quite the hello from Mother Nature as lightning struck two different jets as they approached Sea-Tac Airport.

“We were flying in and out of clouds, sunshine then darkness, sunshine then darkness. I was looking out the window when I saw this bright flash and this streak of lightning hit the top-middle of the right wing near the engine.” 

University of Washington student Owen Craft was out in the University District trying to film lightning strikes as a thunderstorm moved through and caught the two massive bolts as they passed through the planes’ fuselage.

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“Airplanes themselves are prepared for this kind of stuff and have the mechanics to manage lightning strikes. We did not receive any reports of precautionary landing alerts from any pilots Wednesday night either.”

—  Sea-Tac Airport public relations manager Perry Cooper, to ABC News

“I was stunned for a second because I couldn’t believe what I just saw,” Craft said. “After the second (plane) got hit, I knew I was on to something spectacular!”

One of those planes was an Alaska Air Flight 515 inbound from Orange County while another was Alaska Air Flight 731 that was coming into Seattle from Houston. Kim Dodge was sitting in Row 9 on the right side of that plane when the bolt hit.

“I think it hit the wing because there was an immediate loud crack and the cabin was bright for that brief second. There was this loud gasp in the cabin after it happened. The people behind me were starting to worry if it was going to affect the landing. It didn’t.”

— Passenger Kim Dodge, who was sitting in Row 9

“We were flying in and out of clouds, sunshine then darkness, sunshine then darkness,” she said. “I was looking out the window when I saw this bright flash and this streak of lightning hit the top-middle of the right wing near the engine.”

She said it looked like the bolt exited right below the wing.

“Instantly a sound, a plane move and a flash of light; probably the worst turbulence you’ll ever feel for 2 solid seconds,” said Anthony Porter. “It got people pretty shook up.”

— Anthony Porter, on the Orange County flight that was also hit by lightning

“I think it hit the wing because there was an immediate loud crack and the cabin was bright for that brief second,” she said. “There was this loud gasp in the cabin after it happened. The people behind me were starting to worry if it was going to affect the landing. It didn’t.”

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“We landed safely,” Dodge said. “It was startling.”

Anthony Porter was on the Orange County flight that was also hit by lightning:

“Instantly a sound, a plane move and a flash of light; probably the worst turbulence you’ll ever feel for 2 solid seconds,” said Anthony Porter. “It got people pretty shook up.”

But Porter said aside from the moments surrounding the strike, the flight was totally normal.

“It was alarming, but it was so quick, people knew something happened, but no one knew what happened,” he said. “It was a direct hit and 5 seconds before and 5 seconds after — smooth sailing, there was no turbulence.” He said the plane landed without further incident.

While being struck by lightning would sound frightening to those on board, airplane lightning strikes are not that uncommon and the jets are built to withstand the jolt. Read the rest of this entry »


BREAKING: Libertarian Senate Candidate Doug Butzier Killed in Plane Crash

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DUBUQUE, Iowa —The wife of Doug Butzier confirmed Tuesday morning to KCRG-TV that it was Butzier who was killed in a plane crash Monday.

View video

Butzier is running for U.S. Senate as the Libertarian candidate against Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley.

The crash was reported Monday night near Dubuque Regional Airport.

“I was just sitting in there watching TV and all that I heard was an airplane going vrrrmmm — boom! Blew up, came up and seen big ole flames on the neighbor’s yard,” plane crash witness Jeremy Becker told KCRG-TV.

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Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Lynn Lunsford said the Piper PA-46 crashed around 11 p.m. Monday on approach to the airport, about a mile north of the runway.

Lunsford said law enforcement told him the sole occupant of the aircraft was killed in the crash.  Lunsford said the plane took off from Ankeny Regional Airport about an hour before the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash. Read the rest of this entry »


Study: More Pilots Testing Positive For Drugs

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Tests of pilots killed in plane crashes over more than two decades show an increasing use of both legal and illegal drugs, including some that could impair flying, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“The tests also revealed increased pilot use of all kinds of drugs, including drugs that could impair a pilot’s functioning as well as drugs used to treat potentially impairing conditions such as seizure disorders and psychiatric illness.”

The study examined toxicology reports for almost 6,700 pilots killed in crashes from 1990 to 2012. Not only did the share of pilots testing positive for a drug increase over that period, but the share of pilots who tested positive for multiple drugs increased as well. Pilots testing positive for at least one drug increased from 9.6 percent to 39 percent, while positive tests for two drugs rose from 2 percent to 20 percent and three drugs from zero to 8.3 percent.

Over the same period, new drugs were coming into use and the U.S. population was aging, creating greater demand for drugs. The toxicology tests “reflect tends in the general population and likely indicate a significant increase in drug use” by pilots as well, the study said. Read the rest of this entry »


FAA Extends WTF Travel Ban to Israel for Another 24 Hours

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ABC News reports: The FAA announced today that they have not lifted their ban against travel to or from Tel Aviv‘s airport and will prohibit travel to the country for an additional 24 hours.

[See [VIDEO] Lowry: FAA Ban ‘an Overreaction and a Real Blow to Israel’]

“The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible,” the FAA said in a statement.

This comes a day after they barred all American air carriers from flying to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv following a rocket attack within a mile of the airport. Read the rest of this entry »


Honda Jet with Engine Mounted Over the Wing Takes its First Flight.


News Helicopter Crash Near Seattle Center, Two Killed

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Two people have been killed after a KOMO news helicopter crashed on top of at least three vehicles outside Seattle Center Tuesday morning and caught fire. A third person was taken to the hospital in critical condition.

The crash happened around 7:45 a.m. in the 400 block of Broad Street next to Fisher Plaza, which is home to KOMO.

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

The photographer was identified as Bill Strothman, who worked for several years at KOMO and whose son also works there. The name of the pilot has not yet been released.

“Not only were the cars on fire, the fuel running down the street was on fire.”

— Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore

Bo Bain, a construction worker, said he saw the helicopter land and stay on the pad for about a minute or two.

“When he went to take back off, the sound of the helicopter changed kind of drastically and I looked and the helicopter was almost immediately pitched sideways and off balance and he kind of nose-dove over the trees and clipped the top of the trees and crashed on the other side of the street,” said Bain. Read the rest of this entry »


Science: Inside the minds of the JFK conspiracy theorists

Driving into a conspiracy? (Image: REX/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Driving into a conspiracy? (Image: REX/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Will Saletan writes:  To believe that the US government planned or deliberately allowed the 9/11 attacks, you’d have to posit that President Bush intentionally sacrificed 3,000 Americans. To believe that explosives, not planes, brought down the buildings, you’d have to imagine an operation large enough to plant the devices without anyone getting caught.

[More punditfromanotherplanet coverage on JFK]

To insist that the truth remains hidden, you’d have to assume that everyone who has reviewed the attacks and the events leading up to them – the CIA, the Justice Department, the Federal Aviation Administration, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, scientific organisations, peer-reviewed journals, news organisations, the airlines, and local law enforcement agencies in three states – was incompetent, deceived or part of the cover-up.

And yet, as Slate’s Jeremy Stahl points out, millions of Americans hold these beliefs. In a Zogby poll taken six years ago, only 64 per cent of US adults agreed that the attacks “caught US intelligence and military forces off guard”. More than 30 per cent chose a different conclusion: that “certain elements in the US government knew the attacks were coming but consciously let them proceed for various political, military, and economic motives”, or that these government elements “actively planned or assisted some aspects of the attacks”.

How can this be? How can so many people, in the name of scepticism, promote so many absurdities?

The answer is that people who suspect conspiracies aren’t really sceptics. Like the rest of us, they’re selective doubters. They favour a world view, which they uncritically defend. But their worldview isn’t about God, values, freedom, or equality. It’s about the omnipotence of elites.

Read the rest of this entry »


Drone Skies: The Unmanned Aircraft Revolution Is Coming

Call them what you want—flying robots, unmanned aircraft, or drones—vehicles such as this 5-pound Indago quadrotor are changing the skies over America. Craig Cutler

Drones over America. Photo:Craig Cutler

Richard Whittle writes: It’s a quiet morning in San Francisco, with soft sunlight illuminating patches of thick fog billowing over the Golden Gate Bridge. A solitary unmanned aircraft—a 4-pound, battery-powered wedge of impact-resistant foam with a 54-inch wingspan, a single pusher-propeller in the rear, and a GoPro video camera attached to its body—quietly approaches the landmark.

Raphael “Trappy” Pirker controls the aircraft from a nearby hill. The bridge is within sight, but the 29-year-old enjoys the scenery through virtual-reality goggles strapped to his head. The drone’s-eye view is broadcast to the goggles, giving Pirker a streaming image of the bridge that grows larger as he guides the radio-controlled aircraft closer. Read the rest of this entry »