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Uncommonly Sensible

Keeping the "anal" in analytical... (While trying to remain civilized)

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Location: United States

Monday, September 17, 2007

Far out...

... and I mean really far.

I was reading in the latest issue of Popular Science about EADS Astrium, a company that's planning to build a spaceplane which is slated to begin passenger service in 2012...at approximately $275K per seat.

With only 4 seats, that's 1.1 million per flight, but with an estimated 1.3 billion in startup costs it'll take awhile just to break even...especially when taking operating expenses into account, however much those may be.

Anyway, according to Wikipedia, "In June 2007, EADS Astrium announced it would be entering the space tourism sector. On June 20th the company unveiled a model of the space rocket, a one-stage hybrid craft, utilising both jet and rocket engines. Carrying four passengers, the space jet would take off from regular airports using conventional jet engines. Once flying to the needed altitude the rockets would then be fired. When reaching its final altitude of 37 miles, passengers would experience weightlessness for three minutes."

Sounds pretty expensive for what you get.

Here's a picture:

It's loosely based on the Rocketplane:

Rocketplane, Inc. is "a commercial space transportation company focused on providing safe, reliable and low-cost access to space. With a diverse family of fully-reusable space vehicles and the ability to serve multiple space markets, the company is poised to redefine space transportation."

Armadillo Aerospace is "a small research and development team working on computer-controlled LOX/ethanol rocket vehicles, with an eye towards manned suborbital vehicle development in the coming years."

Their prototype is called the "Pixel":

Bigelow Aerospace, on the other hand, is "the leading private company for space habitat destinations. Featured in articles in Popular Science, Wired, The Economist, Reader's Digest, the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, The Los Angeles Times and more, Bigelow Aerospace is the only private company with habitable spacecraft currently in orbit, the Genesis I and Genesis II."

Genesis I:

"Launched on July 12, 2006, from the ISC Kosmotras Space and Missile Complex in the Orenburg region of Russia, Genesis I ushered in a new era of private space vehicles. The spacecraft was designed to enter space and expand to increase its volume. A one-third scale model of the eventual modules, Genesis I contained various items, photos, and a NASA experiment. Shortly after launch, Genesis I expanded successfully and sent back extensive data and images to the North Las Vegas, Nevada, Mission Control Center."

"Las Vegas, NV 06/28/07 – Bigelow Aerospace has established contact with its second pathfinder spacecraft, Genesis II. Launched from Yasny, Russia, Mission Control in North Las Vegas, Nev., made first contact at 2:20 p.m. PDT."

Hello from Genesis II:

(A Fish-Eye View Of Earth)

And last, but not least is Virgin Galactic, which is the most recognized of the bunch.

From their site, "Virgin Galactic is the world's first spaceline. Giving you the groundbreaking opportunity to become one of the first ever non-professional astronauts. Virgin Galactic will own and operate its privately built spaceships, modelled on the remarkable, history-making SpaceShipOne":

"The press conference unveiling the design for Spaceport America, the New Mexico facility from which Virgin Galactic intends to launch paying customers on suborbital spaceflights, was originally going to be held on July 27. The day before, however, a tragic explosion killed three engineers at a test facility in California operated by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, the company building Virgin's spacecraft."

It's a dangerous business, but I'd sure like to try it out anyway...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dwelling on the past...

...is generally discouraged, because the things "dwelt" upon are typically negative ones.

It's not the same as fond memories or reminiscing.

But sometimes, there is value in dwelling on the past; sometimes, there are lessons to be learned.

I read an excellent article about it a few days ago:

"Sept. 11 should not be remembered for maudlin, ghoulish and certainly not for nostalgic reasons. Unlike those other mostly forgotten or no longer observed dates, this one is key to defending ourselves from a future attack and further disasters. Not to remember Sept. 11 is to forget what brought it about. That can lead to a lowering of our guard and a false sense of security, the conditions that existed immediately prior to that awful day six years ago."

I recommend reading it all:

Forget 9/11 at our peril By Cal Thomas

Here, at "La Casa de Camo", it shall not be forgotten...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Are you ready for Freddy?

There's something new...in the Presidential race, and on my sidebar.

Fred Thompson has finally, after much "grassroots" support, thrown his proverbial hat into the ring.

I've read a few of his editorials, and seen a few of his promotional videos, not to mention some of his (other!) acting performances; thus far, I have liked what he's had to say.

For those who don't know, he hasn't just played a politician on television, he's been one on the Federal level as one of the Senators for Tennessee. He stepped down voluntarily a few years ago, which indicates (to me, at least) that he isn't the typical politician.

So unless he has some unforeseen "skeletons in the closet", I'm hoping he gets the Republican Party's nomination.

I haven't been too terribly impressed by the rest of the choices so far...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If Man was meant to fly...

...he'd have rotors!!!

I did get extensive helicopter flying lessons (all "off the books") when I was in the military, at which time I was a crewchief on a UH-1, popularly known as a "Huey":

For a long time (decades!) I have wanted a helicopter of my very own.

There've been a couple of problems with that:

1. Finances.
2. A place to keep it.

The first problem has mostly been because I've spent large portions of my "disposable" income on motorcycle and boat stuff; a used, flying "kit" helicopter can be had relatively inexpensively.

The second problem is due to the fact that I'd want to keep it at my home, and although I do have enough room to land one at "La Casa de Camo" (my rambling estate) if I cleared out some trees, I'm fairly certain that my local "powers that be" would not approve of the idea. Once I retire, it might be a different story, and I'm hoping that it is. So far as I know, there's nothing in the covenants and restrictions (for the subdivision where my retirement acreage is) that says I can't.

The one that I was most interested in, for the longest time, is the Rotorway Exec:

The brand new kit was about $70K, and I'd have to build it myself. The building part shouldn't prove to be too difficult, since I build aircraft for a living. But since it's possible to buy one for much less that's already built, with relatively few hours on the airframe, that would seem to be the logical approach.

Anyway, a used Exec is all you can get now, since RotorWay’s got a new helicopter which debuted in July at AirVenture 2007.

It's called the A600 Talon:

Another nifty li'l "chopper" is the Mosquito Ultralight Helicopter, and since it's an ultralight, you don't even need a license to fly one:

Of course, it's only a one-seater, and I want to be able to carry a passenger.

Last (but not least) is the AirScooter, which is also a one-seater:

However, soon they'll be coming out with a version that can carry two people.

You ride it like a motorcycle...

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