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Volume 16 –December 17, 2009


Almost Ready!

It was only five years ago, when Burt Rutan's design of Spaceship One succeeded in winning the Ansari X PRIZE. Following their success, Virgin Groups and Scaled Composites founded the Spaceship Company for the purpose of building a fleet of commercial spaceships and launching aircraft.

Finally on Monday December 7, 2009, after 5 years of construction, and amid a music and laser show, Spaceship Two was unveiled to the media and crowd gathered for the occasion. This first commercial aircraft was christened VSS Enterprise by California and New Mexico governors, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bill Richardson.

As reported about 300 potential passengers have either purchased or put down deposits for their seat on the not-so-distant-future suborbital flights. The spacecraft is fitted with wide windows, and six seats for passengers and two for pilots. The planned 2 1/2 hour trip on this craft would include about 5 minutes of weightlessness and no doubt breathtaking view of the Earth.

In one year the craft is scheduled to be completed and the test flights to begin. Burt Rutan, a strong proponent of highest standard safety measures, plans  to make these spaceflights safer than government space program. The actual commercial flights are expected to start in 2011.

 For learning more about Spaceship Two and the effort to keep the fuel green please visit:



LHC and Misconceptions
Recently in its Space section, in an interesting piece, Discovery News has featured 5 popular misconception regarding LHC (Large Hadron Collider). One of these wide-spread misinformation might have its root in the novel (and subsequent movie) "Angels and Demons" by Dan Brown. The book's main intrigue arises from a plot to steal an antimatter bomb from CERN and blow up the Vatican.Two main mistakes are made here using antimatter both as an energy source and a weapon.

Another misconception frequently mentioned in media and emails is the matter of creating mini-black holes,  and how they could annihilate the planet regardless of their size. Another concern addressed in this article is strange matter or strangelets. "Strange matter is presumed to be 10 million times denser than lead and was birthed during the Big Bang from the hearts of dense stars", and that gives room to the fear of their inadvertent reproduction.

To find out about the other two misconceptions and if any of them merit any concern, please visit:

Solar Tsunami
Years ago, when solar physicists first witnessed a towering wave of hot plasma racing along the sun's surface, they doubted their senses. The scale of the occurrence was so staggering that it was suggested it might be a shadow, a trick of the eye, but not a real wave.

But now NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft are telling researchers that sometimes you really CAN believe your eyes. "Solar tsunamis are real."

In February 2009, when a sunspot unexpectedly erupted, the blast sent a billion-ton cloud of gas into space and sent a tsunami racing along the sun's surface. STEREO recorded the wave from two positions separated by 90 degree, giving researchers an unprecedented view of the event. It reared up about 100,000 km high, and raced outward at 250 km/s (560,000 mph) packing as much energy as 2400 megatons of TNT.

To see videos of the tsunami and learn more  about further confirmation of the tsunamis, and how the knowledge of their existence can be used please visit:

Butterflies in ISS
As stated in Newsletter #3, on November 14, 2009 a payload of spiders and butterflies launched on board of Endeavour to be placed in the International Space Station. The two educational experiments are being closely monitored by hundreds of K-12 students from Colorado's Front Range. Now videos of the butterfly experiments are available on youtube for  all those who are interested. To view them please visit:


The Birth of a Star

From the Ancient times and in many cultures around the globe, the start of the winter and the longest  night of the year have heralded the nearing of spring and the shortening of the night. Many celebrations, rituals and ceremonies were and still are glorified and observed at this time of the year.

Several have kept their direct relation to the cosmos and many have only kept symbols of their  heavenly origin. In observance of all the beautiful cultures and beliefs, we'd like to offer this picture of the birth of a star as our celestial gift to you. Peace and Joy!

To read about this birth and to see a larger and two-fold picture please visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/iotd.html    (image 33)
What If Competition!

The What If Competition 2009-2010 has officially started. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who register would compete by writing an essay about how to help the crew of Space Peace Mission 1 (SPM-1) who are stranded in space. Registration deadline for teams and individuals is February 5, 2010 and all entries are due by February 19, 2010.  To Learn more about the prizes, rules, and other details please visit: http://www.whatifprize.org/  .



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