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The high stakes of Branson and Bezos’ race to space

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When Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson take flight aboard the rockets their companies built, the hopes and dreams of a burgeoning industry will be flying with them as well.

Why it matters: Accidents or errors on these high-profile flights from Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin could derail their plans — and possibly affect others’ plans — for commercial space tourism and travel.


Driving the news: Last week, Virgin Galactic announced that it would push to fly Branson and others on a fully crewed test flight on July 11, just ahead of Blue Origin’s first flight with Bezos, scheduled for July 20.

  • There has been a low hum of animosity brewing between the two companies in public since it was revealed Bezos might fly before Branson.
  • That rivalry spilled over last week after the Branson announcement, with Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith saying the two companies aren’t after the same prize in these first flights.
  • “We wish him a great and safe flight, but they’re not flying above the Karman line and it’s a very different experience,” Smith said of Branson and Virgin Galactic in a statement via the New York Times. (The Karman line is the unofficial altitude at which space begins, about 62 miles up.)

The big picture: Launching and building satellites is a big moneymaker in the space industry, but suborbital space tourism is seen as a means of getting more people interested in the space industry in the long term.

  • In theory, these flights should be more affordable and available to a large group of people who will only need to train for a day or two before going to the edge of space.
  • If something were to go wrong with one of these high-profile, early flights, it could threaten the companies’ business plans going forward and cast doubt on whether suborbital space tourism could serve as a boon for the rest of the industry.

Flashback: An accident during a Virgin Galactic test flight in 2014 left one pilot dead.

  • After the crash, Branson considered stopping development of the company’s space plane altogether.

Yes, but: The company did continue on, and public support for it has been steady.

  • It’s possible an accident from either of the companies wouldn’t hurt public opinion of the endeavor as a whole.
  • Depending on why an accident occurred, “I don’t think you would see a mass exodus of Virgin Galactic reservation holders or a noticeable drop in interest in flying on Blue Origin,” space historian Robert Pearlman said.

What to watch: A major failure or problem could also put pressure on Congress to start pushing for more regulation of private human spaceflight, which some argue could stifle the space travel industry just as it is beginning.

  • At the moment, the FAA is not allowed to regulate the safety of “spaceflight participants” — Bezos, Branson or anyone else who would fly on one of these vehicles — until at least 2023.
  • Instead, the crews today fly under a regime known as “informed consent” where they must agree to and be told of the risks before launch.
  • That moratorium on regulation was put in place in order to allow the industry to launch before restrictions were placed on it.

Source: https://www.axios.com/branson-bezos-space-race-stakes-8261d5aa-a206-4fbe-9d89-84c72caf5f14.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Miriam Kramer

The 7 Weirdest Things About Venus, Hell Planet

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It’s been nearly 30 years since a NASA spacecraft went to Venus, a yellowish planet 67 million miles from the Sun and 141 million miles from us. Venus is often thought of as a sibling planet to Earth, both being rocky worlds close enough to the Sun to bask in its heat. And yet, at some point in their histories, the…

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Source: https://gizmodo.com/the-7-weirdest-things-about-venus-hell-planet-1847169040
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Isaac Schultz

Over 500 fast radio bursts captured by the CHIME telescope in its first 12 months

It’s challenging to capture a fast radio burst or FRB. To capture an FRB, a radio telescope has to be pointed in just the right direction. FRBs are bright flashes of light that register in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum and only exist for a few milliseconds before they vanish without a trace. Scientists have spotted FRBs in … Continue reading

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/over-500-fast-radio-bursts-captured-by-the-chime-telescope-in-its-first-12-months-10677146/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Shane McGlaun

China is about to attempt a highly ambitious landing on Mars

Photo taken on Dec. 4, 2020, shows the model of China's first Mars probe Tianwen-1 lander and Zhurong rover at the Zhejiang International Intelligent Transportation Industry Expo 2020.

Enlarge / Photo taken on Dec. 4, 2020, shows the model of China’s first Mars probe Tianwen-1 lander and Zhurong rover at the Zhejiang International Intelligent Transportation Industry Expo 2020. (credit: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

As early as Friday evening in the United States, China will attempt to set its Tianwen-1 lander down on the surface of Mars. After weeks of speculation, the China National Space Administration confirmed that the country will seek to land the mission, including its “Zhurong” rover, sometime between 23:00 UTC on Friday, May 14 and May 19.

Named after an ancient fire god in Chinese mythology, the Zhurong rover has a mass of about 240 kg. This means the Chinese rover is comparable in size to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that NASA landed on Mars in January 2004.

There is a lot of intrigue surrounding the high-risk mission. Before this mission, China had never sent a spacecraft to Mars. In this single spacecraft, the country packed both an orbiter and a modest-sized lander with a rover. Moreover, no country other than the United States has successfully soft-landed a spacecraft on Mars or deployed a rover. Other countries have tried and failed multiple times.

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/05/china-is-about-to-attempt-a-highly-ambitious-landing-on-mars/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Berger

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