(NPR.org) As NASA somberly marks the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger accident, the agency is looking ahead to the retirement of its aging space shuttle fleet later this year. The next astronauts to travel to space may go instead by private spacecraft designed and owned by commercial companies such as Virgin Galactic.
But a deadly accident like Challenger could have serious ramifications for the fledgling commercial space industry as it tries to take over the job of ferrying astronauts up to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.
Any accident would probably result in a long investigation and spaceflights being grounded — after Challenger and Columbia, it was years before the shuttles flew again. What would that do to a private company?
"A lot depends on how the private company reacts, and a lot of it depends on the root cause of the failure," says Ken Bowersox, a former NASA astronaut who now works on safety issues for SpaceX, one of the private companies vying to someday take NASA astronauts and other paying customers to orbit.
(CBS) This Edison guy - it turns out that he knew a few things. As if we needed any proof, the Wizard of Menlo Park had a keen insight into how technology would go on to shape our lives. In an interview with the Miami Metropolis in 1911, Thomas Alva Edison sketched out a future in which:
Tianjin Eco City is a fascinating, 30 square kilometer development designed to showcase the hottest new green technologies and to serve as a model for future developing Chinese cities. Designed by Surbana Urban Planning Group, the city is being built just 10 minutes away from the business parks at the Tianjin Economic-Development Area, making for a commute that should be a breeze with the development's advanced light rail transit system. Even cooler, the community's expected 350,000 residents will be able to choose different landscapes ranging from a sun-powered solarscape to a greenery-clad earthscape to enjoy.
(USA Today) Discovery is due to launch Feb. 24 and go to the space station with a load of supplies and a storage cubicle. Endeavour is to launch April 19 and also go to the space station. It will carry more supplies and a multimillion-dollar physics experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
NASA has a final flight set for June 28. Shuttle Atlantis will take supplies to the space station and return a faulty pump. But NASA does not have funding yet for the few hundred million dollars to pay for the mission.
The mission scheduled for April was to be commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly. But Kelly's wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was critically wounded in a shooting this month, and it's not clear whether Kelly will fly his mission with her in rehabilitation.
Interim Health Director Dr. Neal Palafox Resigns Amid Unconfirmed Reports of Probe into Billing Fraud
(AP) HONOLULU - Interim Hawaii Health Director Dr. Neal Palafox abruptly quit Wednesday, the first of new Gov. Neil Abercrombie's Cabinet appointees to leave.
The reason for Palafox's resignation was a mystery, and he wouldn't say whether he was asked to resign.
Abercrombie's office said Palafox asked the Democratic governor to withdraw his nomination.
"Gov. Abercrombie accepted Dr. Palafox's request and will make a new appointment for the Health Director as soon as possible," spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said in a statement.
The Attorney General's office wouldn't comment on whether it's investigating Palafox, said Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the attorney general.
Palafox, 58, said he was surprised when he heard TV news reports citing anonymous sources claiming he was under investigation for medical billing fraud.
"I get handed these e-mails about investigations and so forth, but I have no clue. I'm lost," Palafox said.
(ABC) A surfer who nearly drowned after being pummeled and washed through rocks by a big wave in Northern California is expected to recover, hospital officials said Tuesday.
A Stanford Hospital spokesman said 30-year-old Jacob Trette was in fair condition three days after he nearly drowned while attempting to surf Mavericks, a famous break about 20 miles south of San Francisco that has claimed a number of lives over the years.
Trette was rescued on Saturday by an Australian firefighter, Russell Ord, who was on a personal watercraft taking photographs of the surfers when a large "freak set" caught a pack of them too close to shore.
Saturday featured average-sized waves by Mavericks standards, maybe 15-to-18 foot surf, Ord said. The waves can get 30-foot or higher at certain times of year.
All of a sudden a rogue set of waves that Ord estimated at about 25 feet high appeared on the horizon.
"You could see that first wave coming, all of the surfers started paddling toward it," Ord told The Associated Press.
A group of about five surfers did not make it over the encroaching wave before it broke.
"I saw all the broken boards and people waving for help," he said.
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