The following video released by Virgin Galactic on March 27 shows a test flight of WhiteKnightTwo at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The plane is about 70% complete, and the test flight phase is expected to last 18-24 months.

I've included an excerpt from the press release below. Check out the Virgin Galactic website for photos and other videos.

Discovery astronauts captured this stunning high definition video of the International Space Station with its full complement of solar panels installed. Now it finally looks like the drawings and models we've been seeing for the past couple of decades.

I've been in my hometown enjoying some quality time with family and friends over the past week. One evening, my dad and grandmother showed me some old aviation photos taken by my great-grandfather when he was a mechanic in the Army Air Corps during the 1920s and 1930s. Several of the pictures featured Charles Lindbergh when he came through Little Rock in 1927.

My grandmother's family moved all over the country when she was a girl and eventually ended up in Louisiana and later Arkansas. Her dad was named Fred McGinnis, and as a Staff Sergeant in the 154th Observation Squadron of the Arkansas Air National Guard, he served a Crew Chief on many types of aircraft (mostly open cockpit biplanes) during the aviation's barnstorming days. Below is a picture of him (front center) with his squadron in 1932.

Yesterday, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced the the top 16 astronaut finalists from the pool of 5351 applicants in its 2008/9 astronaut selection campaign. After further interviews and medical testing, CSA will select the final two astronaut candidates in May 2009. More information is available in the CSA press release.

Congratulations to the final 16 and best of luck on making it into the one of the top two slots.

The Department of Space Studies in the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at the University of North Dakota will be offering its second annual intensive summer course on Human Space Systems.

The purpose of the course is to introduce the space professional to concepts and knowledge about human spaceflight systems, including government projects (NASA Constellation, Air Force, etc.), private systems (Virgin Galactic, SpaceX's Dragon, etc.) and international programs such as Soyuz and Shenzou. Participants will become familiar with past, current, and future human spaceflight systems. Historical background, theoretical bases, space physiology, government projects, commercial concerns, legal issues and future trends of human spaceflight will be discussed.

Blog reader Ben tipped me off to a really interesting movie called Moon. It stars Sam Rockwell as an astronaut spending a three year solo mission on the Moon mining Helium-3, which could be an important source of fuel for clean nuclear fusion. His only companion at the lonely outpost is his robot, voiced by Kevin Spacey. The suspense heats up in this scifi thriller as, just before he's set to go home, Rockwell realizes he's not alone. You can watch a clip below. There are more clips and images here and here.

If Rockwell's performance in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is any indication, this should be a real treat.
NASA is in the process of interviewing the 40 finalists for this year's astronaut selection. The following description of the interview week comes courtesy of one of the finalists interviewed in group 3 during the last week of February. It gives us a glimpse into the finalist interview experience.
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