The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) announced last week the selection of one new cosmonaut and up to five new cosmonaut candidates, with the potential for choosing more candidates in a future open contest. The Roscosmos press release provides more details below:

The Number of Cosmonaut Candidates will Increase

On Oct. 12, Interagency Board chaired by Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov qualified Oleg Artemiev as test cosmonaut of RSC-Energia.

The Board also recommended to appoint Alexey Khomenchuk (GCTC), Denis Matveev (GCTC), Sergey Prokopiev (Aviation Corps) as cosmonaut candidates, and ordered GCTC to arrange their spaceflight training as test cosmonauts. RSC-Energia’s Sviatoslav Morozov and Ivan Vagner are also planned to go through the training as cosmonaut candidates.

GCTC Chief Sergey Krikalev offered to have an open contest to select new cosmonauts. He stated that not only GCTC and Energia shall provide their cosmonaut candidates, but also other companies of the industry, as well as science cities.

Roscosmos Head Anatoly Perminov reminded about the history, when the first cosmonauts had been selected from thousands of candidates from all Russia. “There are many worthy candidates in our country, but there are given no chance to become cosmonauts”, Roscosmos Head stated.

The Board decided to set up a sequence in the responsible authorities which is to take into account the remarks by Roscosmos Head, including development of the unified Cosmonaut Corps under GCTC.

With Russia's announcement, the new total for government space agency astronauts chosen in 2009-2010 has climbed to 32:
  • 9 for NASA (out of 3535 applicants)
  • 7 for China (out of 45 applicants)
  • 6 for Europe (out of 8413 applicants)
  • 2 for Canada (out of 5352 applicants)
  • 2 for Japan (out of 963 applicants)
  • up to 6 for Russia (so far)
Plus, India may announce its own astronaut selections by 2012, although they won't fly on the Soyuz.  With NASA's imminent retiring of the Shuttle, the Russian Soyuz will be the only taxi to space until private companies develop a reliable solution to provide access to low earth orbit.
10-10-10 was a historic day for commercial human spaceflight. The VSS Enterprise (aka: "SpaceShipTwo") completed its first piloted free flight from its WhiteKnightTwo mothership ("Eve") over the Mojave Desert.  Here is an excerpt from the Virgin Galactic press release:


VSS Enterprise achieves manned free flight from over 45,000 ft (13,700 metres) and successfully glides to land at Mojave Air and Spaceport.

During its first flight the spaceship was piloted by Pete Siebold, assisted by Mike Alsbury as co-pilot. The two main goals of the flight were to carry out a clean release of the spaceship from its mothership and for the pilots to free fly and glide back and land at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

If you like the photo of the VSS Enterprise shown here, you can view more images and video of the flight on Virgin Galactic's website. Cosmic Log, Wired, Popular Mechanics, and had great write-ups about the flight too. The spacecraft's lead designer Burt Rutan (whom I met in 2004), issued a statement praising the flight:

I offer my congratulations to all those on our commercial manned sub-orbital spaceship program for yesterday’s milestone first flight of SpaceShipTwo.   --Burt Rutan

According to Aviation Week, "the flight marks the start of the third phase in a seven-phase test program that is expected to culminate with the start of space tourism and science flights in 2012."

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about exciting my son about aviation. Well, a father-son duo from New York has taken that lesson to the extreme by sending an iPhone to space on a homemade balloon. Seven year old Max Geissbuhler and his dad Luke spent 8 months building the balloon and special housing for the camera and then sent their mini spacecraft aloft for a 70-minute-long flight that reached 30 kilometers (100,000 feet) into the stratosphere. Along the way, it captured amazing video footage. In their own words:

In August 2010, we set out to send a camera to space.

The mission was to attach a HD video camera to a weather balloon and send it up into the upper stratosphere to film the blackness beyond our earth. Eventually, the balloon will grow from lack of atmospheric pressure, burst, and begin to fall.

It would have to survive 100 mph winds, temperatures of 60 degrees below zero, speeds of over 150 mph, and the high risk of a water landing. To retrieve the craft, it would need to deploy a parachute, descend through the clouds and transmit a GPS coordinate to a cell phone tower. Then we have to find it.

Needless to say, there were a lot of variables to overcome.

And without further ado, here is the video:

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

All I can say is Wow!

Photos from the flight are available from the Geissbuhler's Brooklyn Space Program website.

[source: Treehugger]

We're all faced with difficult decisions in our lives.  Sometimes the 'right' choice may not be the best one and vice versa.   I was at such a crossroads yesterday when I had to decline paying $5000 out of pocket to go on a ZERO-G flight (I tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a lower price.).  In doing so, I let an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream slip through my fingers.

I had the honor of being invited to attend the pre-flight activities for ZERO-G's first ever flight in Honolulu.  Watching the pre-flight safety video, listening to the pre-flight briefings, observing the FAA at work, and talking with ZERO-G coaches, I learned a great deal about the process of going on a flight aboard the G-FORCE-ONE 727 aircraft.  The day was also valuable for me because it was an opportunity to speak in person with company representatives about future relations between ZERO-G and Astronauts4Hire.  The attention to detail in ZERO-G's operation really impressed me; they know what they're doing and really do provide a quality experience to their customers.  Despite the cosmic forces bringing ZERO-G right to my doorstep and my invitation to be there in the mix of the action, it just wasn't in the cards for me to fly yesterday.

This is as close as I got to a ZERO-G flight yesterday.
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