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You’re Going To Hear Phantom Of The Opera Belted Out From Space Before Long

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space_adventuresBy now you’ve all probably heard that both Boeing and SpaceX received bids from NASA to continue developing its manned shuttle, the CST-100. Reports indicate that Boeing received a higher bid, though largely because their craft is more expensive than SpaceX’s Dragon. This means that at some point in the hopefully not so distant future NASA can stop buying American astronauts seats on Russian soyuz capsules for more than $70 million a pop. While a seat on the new space taxis will cost a bit more than a ride to the airport, they’ll be cheaper than that, and the money won’t be going to the folks who want to divest from the ISS. Part of Boeing’s 5-year, $4.2 billion contract (SpaceX’s is $2.6 billion) will enable the ferrying not only astronauts, but also giving rides to space tourists who are clients of Space Adventures.

Turns out, Space Adventures has been around for over 15 years and offers a range of space experiences. The company has sent 7 tourists into space so far, starting with Dennis Tito, who, back in 2001, was the first private citizen to explore space. Guy Laiberte, CEO of Cirque du Soleil and the first private Canadian citizen in space, is another. I haven’t heard of any of the other clients (Lance Bass trained, but didn’t actually go) before, but Sarah Brightman will change all that.

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The UK Will Have Its Own Spaceport By 2018

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UK spaceportBeing a relatively small island isn’t going to stop the UK from building its own spaceport, especially now that space tourism is poised to rake in loads of dough from customers who want a brief foray into the cosmos. Of course, satellites and rockets can be launched from a spaceport too.

It does seem that the ability to launch vehicles and people into space comes with some bragging rights, just as a country’s inability to launch its own astronauts can carry a bit of shame. The European Space Agency (ESA) generally launches satellites and supplies from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana (being near the equator allows for some extra launch velocity), so while it would be possible to use the UK spaceport for those missions, it’s likely that the ESA will continue primarily using the Guiana port, leaving the UK port free for tourism.

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Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two Makes Third (And Highest) Test Flight

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Virgin GalacticThe Virgin Galactic doubters are eating their words after their soon-to-be low-Earth orbit spaceship made its third successful test flight on Friday. Each test flight has reached higher altitudes, with Friday’s flight making it 71,000 feet above the Mojave Desert.

Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two airplane carried the six-passenger spaceship between its hulls to just over 45,000 feet and then released it, leaving the spaceship to use its impressive rocket motor to keep on soaring. The rocket burn lasted 20 seconds, achieving Mach 1.4. That part of the flight lasted 10 minutes, and the two pilots had landed the plane safely in the desert within an hour. Chief pilot David Mackay said that the craft “flew brilliantly.” Virgin Galactic happily tweeted the news, along with some pretty awesome photos.

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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Provides A Helluva View From Its Latest Rocket-Powered Test Flight

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It seems like we’ve been talking about “space tourism” for ages now. One of the oldest players in the game is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic…but they still haven’t taken up any of their long list of paying customers, which includes Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, and Brad Pitt. They’re anticipating being able to begin commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo sometime in 2014. I’m guessing few of us reading these words have the disposable cash to book a flight — $250,000 for a ticket — so the above video, taken during one of SpaceShipTwo’s test flights, will either make you marvel at human ingenuity and the beauty of our homeworld…or just really jealous.

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Russian Company Designing A Space Plane For Tourists

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Russia was the first country to “officially” get into the space tourism business, and has given quite a few billionaires their dream vacation aboard the International Space Station. While they have supposedly made a pretty penny for their efforts, at $20-$30 million a pop, it’s a little hard to attract a steady stream of clients. Seeing the success of Virgin Galactic in getting seats filled, one Russian company has decided to emulate them by building a new space plane that will launch at high altitude from another jet. If that sounds suspicious to you, it may be because this is the very same company that ripped off the space shuttle.

The NPO Molniya Design Bureau was created in ’70s to build the Soviet Union’s extremely familiar-looking space shuttle, Buran. It has long been suspected, but never confirmed, that the Buran was a product of Cold War espionage. While the Buran only ever had one flight to space in 1988 before the program was cancelled, it did make history as the first and only space-plane-type craft to make a completely autonomous flight, orbit, and landing until the U.S. Air Force’s X-37b made its maiden voyage in 2010. Since then Molniya has mostly worked on guided weapons and had a short stint working on the secret Spiral space plane program before it was cancelled (which was, in itself, suspiciously similar to the work the U.S. was doing on the X-20 Dyna-Soar lifting body design; it seems originality just isn’t a hallmark of these guys’ work).

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Singer Sarah Brightman May Be Russia’s Next Space Tourist

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Way back in 2001, Russia found out the best way to irritate management at NASA was to sell seats aboard their Soyuz spacecraft and let tourists float around on the International Space Station. Since that time, only seven space tourists have gotten the chance to see what the interior of a $100 billion dollar space station smells like. That number may now get a bump to eight with the help of British soprano and actress Sarah Brightman.

Today Reuters reported that an unnamed source inside the Russian space industry has said that Brightman will be the next tourist to make the journey to the ISS, sometime during 2015. This will make the 52-year-old star of The Phantom of the Opera and…ugh…Repo the Genetic Opera the first space tourist to make the trip since 2009. This won’t be Brightman’s first brush with the space tourism industry, as she partnered with Virgin Galactic to start the Brightman STEM scholarship program. The program will help women in the U.S. pursue their education in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) throughout a four-year college term. I guess this means she decided she wouldn’t be satisfied with the short little suborbital hop that Virgin Galactic could provide.