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Boeing Wins Manned Spacecraft Bid—We Think

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Boeing-capsule-CST-100When President Obama announced the end of the Constellation program, many people worried about the U.S. not having a method of transport for its own astronauts. Since then, American astronauts have been buying rides to the ISS on Russian Soyuz capsules. Given that Russia will soon be bowing out of the ISS, it’s now particularly important that NASA figures out another way to transport its astronauts. Hence the Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s way of soliciting transportation services from private companies. The three contenders were SpaceX’s Dragon, Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser, and Boeing’s CST-100. This morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that NASA “is poised” to award the $3 billion to Boeing.

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Meet Dream Chaser, America’s Next Space Shuttle

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Dream ChaserAs you probably know, President Obama announced his decision to end NASA’s space shuttle program Constellation back in 2010. Since then, the US has been paying to transport astronauts to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA designed the four-person Space Launch System, a heavy launch vehicle, to replace the retired shuttles. So I’ve just been waiting patiently for that to come to fruition, somehow unaware of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a commercial spaceflight transport system that will be able to take a crew of seven astronauts to the ISS, despite being about 1/3rd the size of a conventional shuttle.

The Dream Chaser will ride aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, which will propel the craft into low Earth orbit, potentially ferrying astronauts to the ISS. Service—or some kind of crewed mission—is expected to begin in 2017, with the first orbital crewless flight in late 2016. Dream Chaser’s first unmanned flight occurred in 2013, when it flew successfully but crashed due to a malfunction in its landing gear. Actually, the vehicle flipped over at the very end, coming to rest in an upright position, after which the malfunctioning left landing gear deployed. I like a spacecraft with a sense of humor. Despite the rocky ending, the flight was regarded as an overall success.

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TV Review: The Challenger Disaster Is A Surprisingly Compelling And Profound Docudrama

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I remember January 28, 1986. I was seven years old. I, like so many other excited students, gathered in the cafeteria of my school just before lunch to watch the Challenger take off. I didn’t know a whole lot about space back then, except that it was far away, huge, and mysterious, and that those qualities also made it pretty cool. I had absorbed by then, though, that going into space was Important. It was one of those adventures that has and hopefully will continue to define humankind. I also knew that on board that ship was a teacher who also happened to be a woman. This brought the mission much closer to home for me, as it did for so many people. I remember watching the liftoff and clapping along with everyone else, even the folks in NASA’s control room.

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One Of Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Last Journeys, Viewed From An Escorting F-18

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Last month many space enthusiasts were brought together to big farewell as the space shuttle Endeavor was transitioned into a much-earned retirement. Folks across the U.S. tipped their eyes skyward as the Endeavor flew over Texas westward, on its way to Edwards Air Force Base in California, and eventually to its new home at the California Science Center. While many of us got to experience the sight of Endeavor passing overhead, piggbacked atop a modified Boeing 747, I’m betting none of us had a view quite as impressive as this one.

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Stunning Retro Drawings Of The Space Shuttles

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The Space Shuttle Endeavour completed its final journey last week, one that didn’t include breaking the bonds of Earth’s gravity and soaring through outer space. Not even a little. Piggybacking on a jumbo jet, the vessel landed in Los Angeles, where it will find a new home at the California Science Center. Many view this as a closing chapter in the saga of NASA’s shuttle program.

Where once shuttle launches were big events—my elementary school paused class so the entire student body could gather together to watch the Challenger launch in 1986)—recent years have seem them barely register as newsworthy events. That wasn’t always the case. Just the idea of space travel used to inspire wonder and awe in the general populace, and capture the attention of the nation. All you need to do to remember this is take a look at this collection of concept art from earlier days of space exploration.

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Photos Of Three Space Shuttle Cockpits Prove Sci-Fi Gets It Right

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If you’re like me, you often watch movies or shows that prominently feature large technological set pieces, and think to yourself, “I’m sure that’s pumped up to make it look good on screen.” You know, like they added a few extra switches, a screen or two, or some superfluous blinking lights, just to make sure that you know that this thing is a high tech device. After looking at these photos of three space shuttle cockpits, I’ve come to the conclusion that this train of thought was completely and utterly wrong.