Start Planning A Trip To Space: World’s First Commercial Spaceport Opens Today

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Spaceport AmericaIf things go as Richard Branson hopes, today will go down as one of the most important days in human history. This afternoon in New Mexico Branson and the state’s governor Susana Martinez opened Spaceport America. This is the first of Virgin Galactic’s planned spaceports from which they’ll launch actual, commercial flights which will take passenger’s outside Earth’s atmosphere.

As reported by Virgin, flying overhead during the dedication ceremony were two of their craft, WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. The first, WhiteKnightTwo will be used to prepare passengers for the rigors of space travel using atmosphere aerobatics. It also functions as sort of a mothership for their spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo. SpaceShipTwo is the actual vehicle meant to take people in to space.


Sci-Fi in Real Life: Solar Sails Being Developed By NASA

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Bajoran LightshipNASA may have put an end to the shuttle program, but they continue to pursue cutting edge technology.  The same people who took us to the moon and made memory foam a reality are now attempting to perfect and implement solar sails that could be used as an alternative energy source for deep space travel.  Solar sails function much like regular sails on boats except that, instead of harnessing the power of wind, they harness sunlight.  As Ray Sanders over at Universe Today explains it, photons from the sun are gathered by the sail and stored until there is enough power to provide thrust to a small spacecraft.

NASA has been experimenting with solar sail technology for a little while now.  NanoSail-D, for example, has been slowly descending from the upper atmosphere via a solar sail and transmitting back data for months.  The latest announced demonstration, however, would involve a solar sail 7 times larger than any flown in space to date.  It will also test attitude control and execute a navigation sequence at mission-capable level, bringing us one step closer to implementation of the technology in actual space flight.

Successful solar sail technology would be a great boon to space travel.  It would allow spacecraft to travel great distances on less fuel, potentially lowering the cost of missions if the sails are reliable and affordable enough.  NASA says solar sails could be employed in a number of other areas, as well.  Small solar sail thrusts could remove orbital debris and solar sails integrated into satellites could allow them to de-orbit at the end of their missions.  Solar sails could also provide enough low thrust to stabilize space stations situated in otherwise unstable locations.


Sci-Fi In Real Life: Droid Astronaut Robonaut 2 Awake And Tweeting Aboard ISS

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This is the age we live in. We’ve successfully put a cybernetic droid in space to help with missions at the ISS and possibly go on space walks, and the first thing we do is give him a Twitter account. Yesterday, after waiting since February to be powered up, Robonaut 2 has booted and aptly tweeted, “Those electrons feel GOOD! One small step for man, one giant leap for tinman kind.” At least he’s got a sense of humor, or rather the engineers tweeting for him do.

The bot, also referred to as R2 for not only its name but also it’s blatantly obvious nerd cred implications, won’t be fully juiced until next week on September 1st when the ISS crew will start the robot moving it’s appendages and working with the rest of the team. According to Space.com, vigorous tests are being run to ensure that R2 is safe to operate and will remain stable during tasks.


Star Trek Playing On The International Space Station!

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trekThis is a really cool story. It seems the astronauts up on the International Space Station got a special showing of the new Star Trek movie. NASA has long had a fun flirtation with Star Trek. The first ever space shuttle was named Enterprise, and the cast of the show was in attendance during it’s launch. So it’s no surprise they’d embrace this one. Here’s what NASA had to say, from Sci Fi Cool:

“I remember watching the original Star Trek series and, like many of my NASA co-workers, was inspired by the idea of people from all nations coming together to explore space,” Barratt said in a statement provided by Paramount. “Star Trek blended adventure, discovery, intelligence and story telling that assumes a positive future for humanity. The International Space Station is a real step in that direction, with many nations sharing in an adventure the world can be proud of.”


Starship Troopers 3 Release Date

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starship troopers 2Sony has announced the arrival date for their Direct to DVD Starship Troopers sequel. Expect Starship Troopers 3: Marauder on store shelves July 29th. That’ll put it up against another major science fiction release: Stargate Continuum.

For this second DTV sequel Casper Van Dien returns as Johnny Rico. The plot, presumably, revolves around futuristic soldiers fighting alien bugs. I wonder if it bothers them to be called bugs?

What Starship Troopers really needs though isn’t Casper Van Dien. They need to invest in bringing back Neil Patrick Harris. If NPH can make Harold & Kumar good, just imagine what he could do returning to the world of Starship Troopers. What would NPH do? Make anything he’s in awesome. Also he’d kill bugs with his crazy mind bullets.


Battlestar Galactica Spin-off Happening!

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The Sci Fi channel loves you. This coming season may be the fourth, and final season of Battlestar Galactica, but Sci Fi channel won’t be leaving BSG fans stranded. They’ve officially greenlit production on a 2-hour pilot for a prequel to the current BSG series. Current BSG executive producers Ron Moore and David Eick will be in charge.

Here’s the official word, straight from their press release:

“Set 50 years before Battlestar Galactica, Caprica follows two rival families – the Greystones and the Adamas – as they grow, compete, and thrive in the vibrant world of the 12 Colonies. Enmeshed in the burgeoning technology of artificial intelligence and robotics that will eventually lead to the creation of the Cylons, the two houses go toe-totoe. Caprica will deliver all of the passion, intrigue, political backbiting, family conflict and hardcore action that always leaves Galactica fans begging for more.”

“I’m thrilled with the chance to expand on the Galactica world and get deeper into the origins of the story we’ve been telling,” said Moore. “It’s also great to have a chance at doing a completely different kind of science fiction series, one that’s even more character-oriented and doesn’t rely on pyrotechnics to carry the story.”

“While Caprica will have its own personality, it will carry on Battlestar’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of the genre, and we’re thrilled that SCI FI has seen fit to giving us another opportunity to tell character-driven stories in challenging ways,” added Eick.