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Cruising For A Space Flight

"The practical-minded Americans passed a special law two years ago allowing private initiatives to organize suborbital flights on non-governmental craft at their own risk and peril. The effort met with a good response. Today, Virgin Galactic, a company that does not even have its own craft in the design stage, has managed to sell 200 tickets to space, each priced at $200,000. It has cleared $40 million without taking any risks or holding any talks with partners."
by Andrei Kislyakov
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (UPI) Feb 02, 2007
The Russian-U.S. manned program, which just now pulled out of its critical nosedive with tremendous pain, and which is the only one in the world except for China's, badly needs experienced and practiced professionals rather than amateurs. Comparing the Russian and American spacecraft, veteran Russian cosmonaut Musa Manarov said: "Our system differs from theirs, but both have their pluses and minuses. In general, G-forces are high in both cases.

"Our descent is steeper but shorter, while a U.S. shuttle, although following a gentler slope, provides a longer experience of its 'pleasures.' One day I rode a shuttle centrifuge long enough to get sick. Our descent is also psychologically trying for those unfamiliar with it.

"You may remember Tito saying upon landing that he felt he had been to Paradise. I know for sure what kind of paradise he meant: he was glad to be alive. Our descent is very impressive: flames from the burning envelope, shots, jerks from opening parachutes, and tremendous shaking at the end. Sky divers will understand me: when you are landing you try to cushion the shock with your feet, but the impact is still felt. Here you are falling on your back. So the demands on, for example, the spine are very high."

In other words, "this is not a jaunt aboard an airliner with a stewardess and a glass of champagne" to the Canary Islands or the Caribbean.

But what about the $20 million sum Roskosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, gets for flying tourists to the ISS? This money comes in very handy in the modest Russian space budget, very handy indeed. But the end does not always justify the means, if only, in this instance, for the reasons mentioned by Manarov. Moreover, arithmetic suggests that four tourists over a span of six years, though a worthwhile addition, cannot be viewed as a sizeable contribution to the Russian space effort.

On the other hand, space tourism could become a good money earner in the future. These profitable flights would be shorter than those to the ISS, yet many times safer and cheaper. I am referring to suborbital tourist flights during which a module containing adrenaline-seekers flies in the lower boundaries of space for 5 to 7 minutes, and everyone is happy about experiencing weightlessness.

The practical-minded Americans passed a special law two years ago allowing private initiatives to organize suborbital flights on non-governmental craft at their own risk and peril. The effort met with a good response. Today, Virgin Galactic, a company that does not even have its own craft in the design stage, has managed to sell 200 tickets to space, each priced at $200,000. It has cleared $40 million without taking any risks or holding any talks with partners.

That's it. But already Russia's Myasishchev Experimental Engineering Plant has come up with detailed plans for an aerospace system, based on the M-55 high-altitude plane, that is meant for suborbital tourist flights. Moreover, the project is being sponsored by Roskosmos and so is part of the official space program. We therefore see that Russia needs only American wisdom to rid its space research program of deadwood, and spare space tourists from excessive G-loads.

(Andrei Kislyakov is a political commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)

Source: United Press International

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Personal Digital Assistants In Space
Washington DC (SPX) Jan 29, 2007
Can tiny and ubiquitous devices like Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) be of use for space applications? The answer is a definite yes. Recent tests have demonstrated current and future uses for PDAs on board the International Space Station. Up until late 2006, PDAs had been used on board the International Space Station (ISS) mainly as personal computing or entertainment platforms. In the near future, PDAs will start being used as integrated components of real applications.







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