Fly to the Moon for $160 Million

Virgin Galactic too tame for you?

Hell, $20 million to go to the ISS too tame for you?

How about flying to the Moon in an old and unused Russian space station?

That's exactly what one super wealthy British entrepreneur is trying to sell, and he might just make it (the technology is in fact proven, it's only the price and the management which are the big challenges - and they will be big challenges). 

The final frontier in holiday destinations: British company prepares tourist trips to the moon (it's a 500,000-mile round-trip and will cost you £100million)

A British company is offering seats to adventurers willing to go the extra mile on a historic journey to the moon.
The first 500,000-mile round trip in a converted Soviet-era space station could take place as early as 2015.
Art Dula, founder and chief executive of Isle of Man-based Excalibur Almaz, told a space tourism meeting in London: 'We're ready to sell the tickets.'

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Ready for the moon: Jenn Sander, wearing a spacesuit once worn by US Astronaut Peggy Whitson, sits inside a re-entry capsule owned by Excalibur Almaz
Ready for the moon: Jenn Sander, wearing a spacesuit once worn by US Astronaut Peggy Whitson, sits inside a re-entry capsule owned by Excalibur Almaz
This is your suite, sir: Interior view of one of the capsules, designed to fly people to the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972
This is your suite, sir: Interior view of one of the capsules, designed to fly people to the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 in 1972
Only those with the 'right stuff' should apply: besides the necessary level of physical and mental fitness, that includes a likely fare of around £100million per person.

US space entrepreneur Mr Dula has acquired two Soviet 'Almaz' space stations, designed for orbital spying operations.
Thrusters attached to the stations will convert them to long-distance spaceships.

Four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles (RRVs), will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth.

All the space vehicles - the cost of which is confidential - are housed in hangers on the Isle of Man. One of the RRVs is currently being exhibited outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster, London.
One small step for man: Customers will first dock with one of the space stations orbiting Earth before being blasted into the Moon's orbit more than 238,000 miles away
One small step for man: Customers will first dock with one of the space stations orbiting Earth before being blasted into the Moon's orbit more than 238,000 miles away
New frontiers: Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft, is provided in the package by Excalibur Almaz
New frontiers: Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft, is provided in the package by Excalibur Almaz
If the bold plan succeeds, a private British space company will carry out the first manned moon mission since Apollo 17 in 1972.

The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in an RRV. Much of the actual flying will be computer-controlled and all necessary training, including the human skills needed to pilot the spacecraft, is provided in the package.

Speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, Mr Dula outlined his company's ambitious plan.
Marketing studies suggested, at a 'conservative estimate', that around 30 moon-mission seats could be taken up between 2015 and 2025: enough for one mission a year.

To the great beyond: The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in a shuttle like this
To the great beyond: The aim is for three people to fly to the moon, orbit the lunar surface and return safely to earth, parachuting to the ground in a shuttle like this
Shuttle bus: Four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles (RRVs), will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth
Shuttle bus: Four re-entry capsules, or re-usable return vehicles (RRVs), will ferry three people at a time to the orbiting space station and return them to earth
The RRVs can be used 15 times and each space station has a service life of 15 years.
Mr Dula stressed that the moon mission goes far beyond 'space tourism' of the kind offered by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic. The trip would be a 'private expedition' rather than a sightseeing tour.

'Excalibur Almaz is willing and able to send crewed missions deeper into space than would be possible aboard any other spacecraft in existence today,' said Mr Dula.

'Our fleet of space stations and re-entry capsules enables us to safely fly members of the public to moon orbit as early as 2015.

'There is not a single other vessel, owned by a government or the private sector, that is suitable for a manned flight to lunar orbit, utilising proven technologies.

'The EA fleet has previously flown to space several times and will undertake many more missions. It contains vessels of a design that has spent thousands of hours in space successfully. This is scientific fact, not fiction.'

A giant Russian Proton rocket, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will put the 30-tonne space station into orbit. One of the two Salyut-class space stations will be kept in reserve on the ground.

Smaller Soyuz FG launch vehicles will lift the shuttle capsules.

The station has 90 cubic metres of living space and provides a protected 'refuge' where crew members can shelter in the event of a solar radiation storm.

Although the programme involves US personnel and Soviet technology, Mr Dula sees it very much as a British enterprise.
He says he chose the Isle of Man not only to take advantage of its tax benefits but because it is a hub of space industry. Of the 54 international space satellite companies, 30 are based on the island.

'Let's talk about being a space-faring society like we were a sea-faring society. It's exactly in the same vein as the historic exploration that was done by Europe and the British Isles over the last several centuries that resulted in so much growth,' Mr Dula told the meeting.

He has even more far-reaching plans to develop an entire private space programme serving governments, companies and members of the public.

As well as expeditions to the moon, he envisages unmanned research missions, transportation of people and cargo, and chartered space exploration flights.

'We've already had billionaires who have said they will mine the asteroids,' he said. 'This is a paradigm shift ... whether we do it or somebody else does it, it's never going to go back to being national space programmes.'

Read more:

Last Chance to Buy a Saab: 900 (fittingly) are up for auction

Saab shipment

If you've been wanting to get your hands on one last new Saab but missed out on the great Saab sell-off when Saab Cars North America declared bankruptcy, well, your ship has now come in.

Actually, it came in last year – but hundreds of new Saabs got waylaid at ports in California and New Jersey because of the bankruptcy, according to Those cars are now slated for auction, some 900 of them, which will be available for dealers, exporters and rental car companies to bid on beginning next week. Eventually, 300 of these cars should make their way to Saab dealers, where they're expected to be sold off at 30- to 50-percent discounts. The other 600 will either be exported or used as rentals, according to the report, so "the price of Saabs will not be severely depressed."

Besides the new cars, some 67 company cars, including some interesting stuff like a 1960 Saab Quantum IV and a 1970 Sonnett III, will also be auctioned off, according to the report. Of the new cars, just over half are 9-5 models, some 400 are 9-3 sedans, another 60 are 9-3 wagons, and about a dozen are convertibles. According to the report, 28 are actually 9-4X crossovers, which is more than 10 percent of Saab's total 2011 sales for that model.

USA Today Oped: If ObamaCare survives, legal battle has just begun

On Jun 25, 2012 9:42 AM, "Healthy Competition" <> wrote:
Health policy news, commentary, and resources from a free-market perspective
Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
Healthy Competition
June 25, 2012

In an oped for USA Today Cato Institute director of health policy studies Michael F. Cannon discusses another potential challenge to ObamaCare.

If ObamaCare survives, legal battle has just begun

By Jonathan Adler, and Michael Cannon

Even if the Affordable Care Act survives its first Supreme Court test— a ruling is due as early as today — the lawsuits won't end. Citizens have already filed challenges to what critics call the law's "death panel" and its impact on privacy rights, religious liberty and physician-owned hospitals. Still another potential lawsuit poses as great a threat to the law as the case now before the high court.

Under the guise of implementing the law, the Internal Revenue Service has announced it will impose a tax of up to $3,000 per worker on employers whom Congress has not authorized a tax. To make things more interesting: If the IRS doesn't impose that unauthorized tax, the whole law could collapse. The Act's "employer mandate" taxes employers up to $3,000 per employee if they fail to offer required health benefits. But that tax kicks in only if their employees receive tax credits or subsidies to purchase a health plan through a state-run insurance "exchange."

This 2,000-page law is complex. But in one respect the statute is clear: Credits are available only in states that create an exchange themselves. The federal government might create exchanges in states that decline, but it cannot offer credits through its own exchanges. And where there can be no credits, there is nothing to trigger that $3,000 tax.

States are so reluctant to create exchanges that Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius estimates she might have to operate them for 15 to 30 states. Even if she manages that feat, the law will still collapse without the employer mandate and tax credits.

Unauthorized Tax

To prevent that from happening, on May 18 the IRS finalized a rule making credits available through federal exchanges, contrary to the express language of the statute.

Because those credits trigger penalties against employers, the IRS is literally taxing employers and spending billions without congressional authorization. Estimates by the Urban Institute indicate that had this rule been in effect in 2011, it would have cost at least $14.3 billion for HHS to run exchanges for 30 states. About 75% of that is new federal spending; the remainder is forgone tax revenue.

The IRS doesn't have a leg to stand on here. It has not cited any express statutory authority for its decision, because there is none. The language limiting tax credits to state-established exchanges is clear and consistent with the rest of the statute. The law's chief sponsor, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), is on record explaining creation of an exchange is among the conditions states must satisfy before credits become available. Indeed, all previous drafts of the law also withheld credits from states to push them to cooperate.

Employers can sue

Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has 60 days from the date of issue to block the rule. Reps. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and Phil Roe, R-Tenn., have introduced a resolution. It may receive a cold reception from President Obama, but "taxation without representation" is a difficult position to defend. If that approach fails, states that have refused to establish a health insurance exchange, and large employers the IRS will hit with this unauthorized tax, could challenge the rule in court.

The authors of the Affordable Care Act wrongly assumed states would be eager to implement it. If saving the law from that miscalculation requires letting the IRS tax Americans without authorization, then it is s not worth saving.

Jonathan Adler is a law professor and director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University. Michael Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute.

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Incredible Long Exposure Photos from Orbit

Well worth checking out

Incredible Long Exposure Photographs Shot from Orbit

Sent from Zite personalized magazine webOS app.
Available for free in the App Catalog

-- Sent from my HP TouchPad

GATTACA is Coming

Scientists Decipher Almost the Entire Genome of an Unborn Baby - Popular Science

Above is the story of how it is getting easier to get the genome of your child read early and easily.

This is an important and necessary step on the road to genetically managing and eventually manipulating reproduction.

The question of whether this is a good thing however is a little trickier.

Humanity could split in the relatively near future into two sub-populations: those who can afford genetic engineering or selection (as well as drugs which enhance brain function and medical care which will extend lives perhaps indefinitely) and those who can't. I think we are a long way from manipulating the genome to create something new, but we are very close to being able to select from what is already there.

Africa will surpass the US in smartphones

Escalade to live on...

GM’s Next Full-Size SUVs: Money Talks, So the Truck-Based Escalade Doesn’t Walk

Cadillac didn't want to build a new Escalade, but people just wanted to keep buying it...

The Inside Story of the Failure of Palm and the Pre

I love my Palm Pre.

Though I now have the latest and greatest Android phone etc etc, the Palm was the better attempt at making a truly usable and intuitive smartphone. 

Android is Linux: yeah, you can customize it, but it just kind of sucks to use. Palm came up with something really new and innovative with the Pre.

This is the inside story of how they did it, how close they came to falling apart even before the release, and why they so quickly faded into nothing after the Pre came to market (though in my opinion the single decision to go Sprint only is what doomed the company). 

The Golden Age of Books is Now... or the 90's

The interesting story here is not that the golden age of books has passed (it has - though the golden age of literature might still be going strong...) but that the "golden age" was in fact very, very short.

A Golden Age of Books? There Were Only 500 Real Bookstores in 1931

JUN 8 2012, 6:18 PM ET 17
And two-thirds of American counties had no bookstore at all.
Some Ivy League graduates feeling superior, 1939 (New York Public Library).
I'm reading a fascinating book called Two-Bit Culture: The Paperbacking of America, published in 1984 by the popular historian Kenneth C. Davis. I picked it up because many of the changes that social media and the Internet are supposed to have wrought on culture are ascribed to the rise of the paperback in this book.There's all this talk in the book about "the Paperback Revolution" that "enabled American writers to find American readers by the millions" among the "Paperback Generation." Mass-market paperbacks, we're told, "made an enormous contribution to our social, cultural, educational, and literary life."
I haven't gotten far enough along in the book to tell you how Davis argues the story, but early in the book, I was absolutely dumbfounded by his description of the publishing business in 1931. He draws on a "landmark survey of publishing practices" carried out by one Orin H. Cheney, a banker, as a service to the National Association of Book Publishers.
Among the normal complaints about book publishers selection processes, we find this staggering stat about the retail business of selling books (emphasis added).
"In the entire country, there were only some four thousand places where a book could be purchased, and most of these were gift shops and stationary stores that carried only a few popular novels," Davis writes. "In reality, there were but five hundred or so legitimate bookstoresthat warranted regular visits from publishers' salesmen (and in 1931 they were all men). Of these five hundred, most were refined, old-fashioned 'carriage trade' stores catering to an elite clientele in the nation's twelve largest cities."
Furthermore, two-thirds of American counties -- 66 percent! -- had exactly 0 bookstores. It was a relatively tiny business centered in the urban areas of the country. Did some great books come out back then? Of course! But they were aimed only at the tiny percentage of the country that was visible to publishers of the time: sophisticated urban elites. It wasn't that people couldn't read; by 1940, UNESCO estimated that 95 percent of adults in America were literate. No, it's just that the vast majority of adults were not considered to be part of the cultural enterprise of book publishing. People read stuff (the paper, the Bible, comic books), just not what the publishers were putting out.
It's my contention -- and I've made this point in other ways -- that when people look at the sprawling mess of Internet publishing and decide that the quality of writing has declined, they are comparing apples to oranges.
They're taking the most elite offerings that could be imagined, which were based on the tastes of the most educated people in 12 cities, and comparing them to the now-visible reading habits of everyone on the Internet. That's just not a good way to draw smart conclusions about the relationship between technology and culture. Perhaps "the Internet" has made writing worse, but you'd never prove it by comparing F. Scott Fitzgerald to Thought Catalog.

The Mars Reality Show

Want to watch contestants compete for a chance for a one-way ticket to the Red Planet?

That's the proposal of a new and well connected group looking to establish human settlement on Mars.

Of course, given the general level of human intelligence, team work, and leadership capability seen on reality TV shows, this plan is clearly fucked from the beginning.

The only terraforming this guy knows is for his hair

Still though, an interesting concept...

Mars One plans to establish human settlement on Mars in 2023

No return ticket
June 3, 2012
Mars colony in 2025 (credit: Mars One)
Help wanted: astronaut. Must be willing to relocate to Mars — permanently. Hire date: 2013. Benefits: make history, start new planetary civilization, star in reality TV show. Apply to: Mars One.  
Netherlands-based Mars One hopes to establish the first human settlement on Mars in 2023. It has created a technical plan for this ambitious mission that is “as simple as possible” and says it has identified potential suppliers, such as SpaceX, for every component of the mission.
Mars One plans to fund the mission by making it a reality TV show, in the “biggest media spectacle in history” with help from Mars One ambassador Paul Römer, co-creator of the globally successful Big Brother reality TV show (a group of people live together in a large house, isolated from the outside world). Everyone will get to watch the astronauts make their journey, and also choose which candidate gets to go (as in the Big Brother show).
Here’s the plan
2013: Crowdsourced selection of first four astronauts; a replica of the Mars settlement built in the desert to help the astronauts prepare and train, and to test the equipment — all carried on TV.
Simulated Mars base (credit: Mars One)
2014: Production of the first Mars communication satellite.
2016:  Supply mission launched for Mars — to land October 2016 with its cargo: 2500 kilograms of food.
Supply mission (credit: Mars One)
2018: Robotic exploration vehicle lands on Mars to pick best location for the settlement.
Mars One rover (credit: Mars One)
2021: . Two living units, two life support units, a second supplies unit and another rover create a habitable settlement.
Robots create Mars colony habitation (credit: Mars One)
2022: Liftoff on the future SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy.
2023: Landing on a lander built by SpaceX, likely a special variant of the Dragon capsule.
2025: Second group of four astronauts lands.
“Mars One is an extraordinarily daring initiative by people with vision and imagination,” says Mars One Ambassador and physics Nobel prize winner Gerard ‘t Hooft. “This project seems to me to be the only way to fulfill dreams of mankind’s expansion into space.”
Mars One founder is entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, co-founder of Ampyx Power, a technology start-up company that is developing the PowerPlane, a device that can extract energy from the wind more economically than wind turbines.

The Great Browser Wars Infographic

monetate browser wars infographic 520x2627 Mobile Safari is the fastest growing browser, and other stats from the Great Browser Wars

Israel Deploys Nukes on German Submarines

German has decided to sell Israel some diesel electric subs which can be fitted with nukes.. but don't believe what the news reports are telling you.

The Dolphin class submarines are built for Israel in a shipyard in Kiel (March 2012 photo).

But first, a little backstory on one of my favorite machines...

The cool thing about diesel electrics is that they are great at fighting in the littoral zone (the continental shelf more or less, as well as some of the shallow seas, gulfs, and straights).

They are so badass that an entire NATO invasion exercise had to be re-run because the "defense" had a little Dutch submarine which kept blowing up the aircraft carrier. NATO's solution? Run the exercise without the submarine. The US was so intrigued they borrowed the sub for two years.

If you want to read more about theses amazing machines, I got a great post for ya: (it's funny, I promise)

But back to the point of this post: Israel has "nuclear missile submarines." If you read some main stream media article on this, you probably would come away thinking that Israel has a new class of Ohio or Typhoon running around with it's huge ICBMs pointed at the sky. Which is really, really far from the truth.

The submarines which Germany sold Israel (with a "we're still sorry" 1/3rd off discount) are based off the very very good Type 209 class, which Germany has exported for years. Not quite as good as the new Type 214 with its very cool hydrogen fuel cells, but as far as I understand it the Dolphin is sort of a 209+, with a lot of the modern enhancements of the 214. But one thing should stand out looking at the picture above: this is not a big submarine.

In fact, it only weighs about 1,600tons, which is more or less identical to the German Type XXI Elektroboote from WWII (the grandfather of all modern diesel-electric submarines). It can't carry nuclear missiles in the traditional sense. Heck, it would probably have a hard time carrying an extra ham sandwich. These things are not made for long deployments of sitting under the ice cap waiting for the launch orders to come or Denzel Washington to take over the boat: these are coastal defense boats.

What they have is something the US was the first to develop but now a number of other nations (Israel in this case) have also figured out: they can launch cruise missiles from their torpedo tubes.

The next step in the chain is that those cruise missiles can be fitted with tactical nuclear weapons.

This is not nuclear deterrence in the Russian/Biblical/OMFG sense we are used to from the Cold War. This is nuclear deterrence in the sense of "if we go to war and I lose, I am going to blow up your biggest city, jackass."

It's an interesting development, but in reality no different than those missiles being put on planes (which they already could have been) in a tactical sense.

Syrian Massacre of Women, Children, US Does Nothing

I am disgusted with the United States right now. The Obama administration could not have come at a worse time. Not only will he manage to fuck our economy for at least the next decade, he is also failing to support pro-Democratic uprisings across the Middle East.

Right now, women and children are being massacred in Syria. They have been in open civil war for over a year and all that the Obama has offered them in support is a bunch of left over "hope and change" stickers which somehow missed being put on the back of Priuses.

I don't know what we are waiting for. The rebels to lose? Over 1,000 women and children to be killed in the same place at the same time? I really don't know what it would take to get Obama to actually do something other than protect is own political ass, but in my opinion - those deaths could have easily been prevented by something as basic as air support and munitions, without even putting American lives at risk.

Fucking pathetic.

Why the UAW is Useless: Hyundai gets 20,000 applicants for 877 jobs

I really don't like the UAW. I actually hate them.

Yes, it's a strong word. Yes, it's accurate. Yes, if I ever run for office, someone will dig this up. Screw you future reporter.

Here is the short scoop - Hyundai was opening a new plant in Georgia. They had 877 jobs available. They received 20,000 job applications.

Yes - that is a) not a good sign for the economy b) shows the UAW is completely full of crap and c) shows that Obama (who should be given the UAW lifetime achievement award for what he did to the debt-holders of old GM) is still a complete asshole.

But of course, the "private sector is just fine" - the man is an idiot.

The Organ Donor Enhancement Act

My new theory of everything, what I am calling valuation theory, basically states that people have a hard time putting accurate values on a lot of the decisions they make. This does not make them irrational actors: instead it means they are acting rationally, but with bad numbers.

For example, people have a very hard time coming up with a accurate valuation of something very bad but not very likely... for instance.. dying in a motorcycle accident.

This is why people don't always wear helmets.

The second question is whether they should wear helmets. And I would say no. Perhaps it's a cynical view, but the good they are doing donating organs (basically, because they are generally healthy and dying by hitting their heads but keeping their bodies intact, non-helmet wearing bike riders make great organ donors) coupled with the fact that not wearing a helmet doesn't really put anyone else at greater risk makes me believe they should be allowed to do what they want.

They are just idiots if they do so (go Darwin go).

Posted Jun 8th 2012 11:01AM

The more states allow people to ride motorcycles without helmets, the more people die, according to a study discussed in today.

The report, released by, outlines how for the past 30 years, states have begun to loosen helmet restrictions on bikers and deaths have climbed, even as automotive deaths have dropped to historic lows. In 1972, 47 states required riders to wear helmets. In 2012, only 19 states have laws requiring every rider don protective headgear.

Meanwhile, deaths on motorcycles has more than doubled from 1997 to 2010, from 2,116 to 4,502, according to NHTSA.

"We call it the organ donor enhancement act," a doctor told "We've always had a shortage of donors but expect to see the numbers go way up. "