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 »


PANIC CENTRAL: That Thing Drudge Do

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Amtrak train was traveling at twice speed limit

An Amtrak train in Philadelphia was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour, over twice the speed limit, when it entered a curve in the tracks and derailed, killing seven STAMP-panic-red-250people and injuring more than 200, federal investigators said on Wednesday.

While the precise cause of Tuesday night’s crash remains to be determined, experts from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) believe the derailment would have been prevented by installation of an advanced safety system called “positive train control,” NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said.

The engineer of the New York City-bound passenger train applied the locomotive’s emergency braking system just after entering the curved stretch of track, where the maximum allowed speed is 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour), Sumwalt said. Read the rest of this entry »


May 8, 2015: FBI’s Weekly Intelligence Bulletin Warned of Train Derailment Threat

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FBI’s Intelligence bulletin reported nine derailers stolen

Jason A. Ryan reports: Nine derailers, a piece of railroad equipment used to derail train cars for safety purposes in railyards have been stolen recently, sources said, citing the FBI’s weekly intelligence bulletin.APPROVED-non-stop-panic

“The theft of these items is strange since they are of little use outside of the rail industry, according to the bulletin.”

Railroads have been targeted in the past by terrorists, the bulletin said.

It specifically mentioned the Oct. 1995 derailment of an Amtrak train in Hyder, Ariz. In that incident, one person was killed and 78 were injured when parts of the track were sabotaged. The FBI located a derail 50 miles from Hyder…(read more)

ABC News

h/t Jim Geraghty via Twitter


SEPTA Says Commuter Train Hit By Projectile Just Before Amtrak Train Derailed

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A Philadelphia commuter train was hit by a projectile about 20 minutes before an Amtrak train derailed a few miles up the track.

A spokeswoman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority says there’s no indication that the incident is related to the derailment.

SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams says they don’t know what the projectile was. It broke the engineer’s window around 9:25 p.m. Tuesday near SEPTA’s North Philadelphia station….(read more)

CBS Philly


[VIDEO] This Boeing 777 Made of Manila Folders Is Almost as Detailed as the Real Thing

[see all six photos here]

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Popular Mechanics


[VIDEO] B-Roll of the SpaceShipTwo Crash Scene in Mojave, California

SpaceShipTwo crash investigation may take up to a year

(CNN) — The surviving co-pilot in the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo disaster is “alert” and speaking, the company that partnered with Virgin on the test flight program said Sunday.

“Because it was a test flight, it was heavily documented…we may have lots of evidence that will help us with the investigative process, and we appreciate that.”

— National Transportation Safety Board acting Chairman Christopher Hart

But while Peter Siebold appears to be recovering after the accident, not much is known about what caused the spacecraft’s apparent in-flight breakup. At least not yet.

A team of 13 to 15 investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will be on site in the Mojave Desert for about a week. But analyzing the data from the test aircraft will take much longer.

All told, it may be 12 months before the investigation is complete, the agency’s acting Chairman Christopher Hart said Saturday night. 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 »


(UPDATED) BREAKING: Sick Passenger Removed from United Flight by Medical Personnel in Hazmat Suits

New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport

DEVELOPING: Medical personnel in hazmat suits at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport removed a sick passenger Saturday from a United Airlines flight that arrived from Brussels, Belgium…

FoxNews

UPDATE: Robert Wilde has this:

On Saturday at Newark Airport, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials rushed to meet with a United Airlines flight from Brussels and removed a passenger, believed to be from Liberia, suspected of having Ebola. 

The CDC crew responded to flight 998 in full hazmat gear and took the man and his daughter to University Hospital in Newark for further evaluation. According to a senior federal official, the passenger was manifesting “flu-like symptoms.” The passenger was reportedly vomiting in the plane but did not exhibit other Ebola-like symptoms.

“He’s now being treated with protocols as if he has it, but no clear indication at this point that he does,” the official said. 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 »


Seattle Looks At Helipad Rules After Deadly Crash

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The news helicopter had just stopped at a helipad to refuel on its way to another assignment when it crashed and burst into flames yards from the Space Needle in the heart of Seattle, killing the two men on board and seriously injuring a third man who was on fire when he escaped from his car.

It may be months before federal investigators know what caused the chopper to plummet at a busy intersection, setting three vehicles ablaze and spewing burning fuel down the street during the Tuesday morning commute.

“It was just a fireball. The whole thing burst into flames. I saw people running from their cars.”

The KOMO-TV flight was one of many helicopter flights that take off and land in Seattle’s downtown. Mayor Ed Murray said officials would review rules for helicopter pads in the city to determine if any changes need to be made.

Read the rest of this entry »


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 »