Will Space Tourism Spew Too Much Soot Into the Stratosphere?

The days of blasting off into the temporary weightlessness of suborbital space are fast approaching—for people with the right stuff in their bank accounts, anyway. Some scientists fear, though, that once the space tourism business becomes established, a steady train of people hurtling into euphoria at the borderline of space could have climactic consequences down here on the surface.

They're talking about soot. Soot or black carbon, which comes from fuel that does not burn completely, ought to

NASA's last flight of Discovery

[UPDATE: Launch has been delayed for a day and is now set for Tuesday, Nov.2 at 16:17 Eastern time.]

If you have always wanted to watch a launch of the Shuttle that lofted Hubble into orbit, then you get one final chance: the last scheduled flight of Discovery is now set for November 1.

STS-133, as that flight is designated, will thunder into space at 16:40 Eastern time (20:40 UT) from Kennedy Space Center. The six crew members will install a new module on the International Space Station, as w

Spaceport America Dedicates Its Runway; Flights *Could* Begin in 2011

Just two weeks after the first solo flight of Virgin Galactic's space tourist ship, the company's bigwigs gathered again to celebrate the completion of the two-mile, 200-foot wide runway of the world's first commercial spaceport.
Spaceport America is the world's first facility designed specifically to launch commercial spacecraft. The celebration of its nearly-two-mile-long runway comes less than two weeks after another major step for Virgin Galactic: the first solo glide flight of its space

Second Look at NASA's Moon Bombing Reveals Even More Water

Remember one year ago, when NASA's LCROSS mission (Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite) blasted the moon to kick up a plume of debris? The satellite's first look at that plume saw that, yes, there was water ice there, much to DISCOVER's delight. One year later, scientists have published an in-depth analysis of the LCROSS plume and found that there might be even more water than they first thought: In certain places, the moon could be twice as wet as the Sahara Desert.

In a series of a

The golden age (is ending)

As has been oft remarked on this blog, we are in a golden age of astrophysics and cosmology. The data is pouring down from the heavens, in large part from 14 state-of-the-art NASA space telescopes. However, this cornucopia of astronomy is about to come to a crashing stop. We are at the high-water mark, and the next few years are going to see a rapid decline in the number of observatories in space. In five years most, if not all, of these telescopes will be defunct (WMAP is already in the graveya


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