December 7, 2012
NASA rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, January 11, 2012

NASA rocket launch from Wallops Island, Virginia, January 11, 2012     Photo: NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr

Company to Send Space Tourists to the Moon

Pair of seats to cost $1.4 billion

On Thursday, former NASA executives stepped forward to announce the formation of a private company that plans to take space tourists to the moon by 2020—at a price. “Two seats, 750 each,” former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said on Thursday. “The trick is 40 years old. We know how to do this.” Stern said the company, Golden Spike, was already in talks with one potential moon tourist. The announcement of the private venture came a day after the release of the National Research Council's extremely critical review of NASA's long-term strategy for human spaceflight.

Via Washington Post

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    Photo: Sigismund von Dobschutz/Flickr

China to Flatten 700 Mountains for Desert City

Opposition points to lack of water

In what's being called the largest "mountain-moving project" in the history of China, a construction company will flatten 700 mountains near Lanzhou to build a new city. The Lanzhou New Area will cover some 500 square miles in northwest China and has already attracted over $11.2 billion in new investments. But the project has also drawn criticism on environmental grounds; Lanzhou, a city of 3.6 million people, is located in the water-scarce desert of Gansu province, and has some of the worst air pollution in China. "The most important thing is to gather people in places where there is water," Liu Fuyuan, a former official at China's National Development and Reform Commission, told China Economic Weekly.

Via The Guardian

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    Photo: saeru/Flickr

Turtle Doves, Partridges Face Extinction

So long 'Twelve Days of Christmas'

Scientists in the U.K. are warning that both the partridge and the turtle dove face imminent extinction if immediate action isn’t taken. The latest wild bird statistics, released Thursday, show that the turtle dove population in Britain dropped by 60 percent between 2005 and 2010, while the partridge saw a 30-percent population decrease over the same period.

“These two icons of Christmas are telling us that wildlife is in crisis,” said Mark Eaton, a scientist with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “We are urging the government to take urgent action to save these species from becoming just memories within 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' festive classic.”

As for the rest: gold finches/gold rings—depends on your interpretation—are flourishing, colly birds, French hens, and swans are doing well enough, geese are still laying, milking maids have been replaced by machines, ladies continue to dance, pipers’ pipes and drummers’ drums are seldom used anymore, and lords still do leap because we’re talking about politics here and politics will never die.

Via The Guardian

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