September 27th, 2004

UK’s Branson to Launch Space Tourism in 2007 Reuters

Richard Branson, Britain’s best-known entrepreneur and part-time daredevil, plans to launch the world’s first passenger service to space in 2007, offering zero-gravity flights for $198,600.
Branson, whose Virgin empire stretches from planes and trains to vodka, music and personal finance, is teaming up with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to build five, fish-shaped capsules for the two-to-three hour flights.
Virgin Galactic will be the latest offshoot of Branson’s business empire, which started in mail-order recorded music in the 1970s. It will invest $100 million in ground infrastructure and spacecraft capable of carrying five passengers.

September 15th, 2004

People on Mars Possible in 20 to 30 Years Reuters

People could land on Mars in the next 20 to 30 years provided scientists can find water on the red planet, the head of NASA’s surface exploration mission said on Wednesday. Two partially solar-powered “robot geologists” — Mars Exploration Rovers, or MERs — have been trundling across 3 miles of the planet and into craters since January, beaming back data about the makeup of what scientists believe is Earth’s sister planet. Asked how long it could be before astronauts land on Mars, Arthur Thompson, mission manager for MER surface operations, told Reuters in an interview in Lima, “My best guess is 20 to 30 years, if that becomes our primary priority.”

August 8th, 2004

U.S. Hotel Tycoon Reaches for the Stars Reuters

Budget Suites of America owner Robert Bigelow made his fortune by offering weary business travelers a fully furnished home away from home, complete with on-site laundry. He now wants to bring the same feeling of comfort and convenience to a new frontier in leisure: outer space. Through his latest business venture, Bigelow Aerospace, the hotel mogul, who caught the space bug as a boy in the 1950s, has been quietly building the world’s first commercial space station.

July 26th, 2004

Gene Variants May Make Women See Red, and Burgundy Reuters

A new gene study may help explain why she sees crimson, vermilion and tomato, but it’s all just red to him. In an analysis of the DNA of 236 men from around the globe, researchers found that the gene that allows people to see the color red comes in an unusually high number of variations. That’s because the gene, known as OPN1LW, sits on the X sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, one from each parent, while men have one X and one Y chromosome. Because women have two different copies of the “red” gene, the fact that the gene can have so many variations means it may especially aid women’s perception of the red-orange spectrum.

May 19th, 2004

Plants Altered to Produce Fish Oils Reuters

As if vegetables weren’t already healthy enough, UK scientists have found a way to add heart-healthy fatty acids to plants. A team led by Dr. Baoxiu Qi at the University of Bath, UK, genetically altered a cress plant to produce both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease.

May 18th, 2004

China Cancels Moon Plans to Focus on Space Station Reuters

China plans to build its own manned space station by around 2020 but has shelved plans to put a man on the moon for financial reasons, state media quoted the chief designer of the nation’s space program as saying. Wang Yongzhi, godfather of the mission that completed its first manned flight successfully last year, said the permanent station would take about 15 years to complete, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a Beijing newspaper.

April 27th, 2004

China ‘Shocked’ at U.S. Cold Shoulder in Space Reuters

The Chinese, who launched their first astronaut into space last year, are “shocked” the United States has not welcomed them into the tight-knit community of space-faring nations, a leading U.S. expert said on Tuesday. Joan Johnson-Freese, who chairs the National Security Decision Making Department at the U.S. Naval War College, said one space official she met on a recent trip to China was in tears as he pleaded for U.S. recognition and cooperation.

March 30th, 2004

Space station technique expands use of ultrasound Reuters

Hockey players on a road trip, soldiers at the battlefront and rural trauma patients could all benefit from a NASA ultrasound technique developed for astronauts on the International Space Station, doctors said on Tuesday. The technique involves portable ultrasound machines, which are becoming increasingly common diagnostic tools, and a NASA training regimen that teaches medical novices the basics of an operation in a matter of hours or even minutes.

March 24th, 2004

Life on Mars Could Have Come from Earth Reuters

An American scientist believes that if life is finally proved to exist on Mars, its origins may be more mundane and closer to home than we think. “I believe there is life on Mars, and it’s unequivocally there, because we sent it,” said Andrew Schuerger in the New Scientist Magazine Wednesday.

March 12th, 2004

Russia Replaces Space Agency Chief Reuters

Russia replaced without explanation its long-serving space agency chief on Friday and appointed a top general to replace him, Russian media reported.
For the past 12 years Yuri Koptev has overseen Russia’s space program — the sole launcher of missions to the International Space Station since the United States grounded its shuttles in February 2003 after the Columbia disaster.
The agency’s new chief will be Colonel-General Perminov, 58, previously commander of the army’s space division.