March 1, 2013

Space X rocket Falcon 9 preparing for launch in Florida.     Photo: thebadastronomer/Flickr

SpaceX Launch Runs Into Difficulty

Thrusters fail to kick in

Elon Musk's private spaceflight company SpaceX launched its resupply vessel, Dragon, into orbit this morning, but while the launch went off without a hitch, three of the four sets of thrusters failed to kick in nine minutes into the flight. This is the first time a SpaceX rocket has encountered major issues. Two previous launches had no problems reaching the space station.

SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for unmanned commercial shipments to the space station and is planning a manned flight in 2015. The SpaceX commercial arrangment is part of NASA's long-term hopes to focus more on deep-space missions.

The rocket is scheduled to make berth at the space station on Saturday, where it will spend three weeks before parachuting into the Pacific Ocean carrying used supplies and research data.

Via NPR

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    Photo: Courtesy of The Catalyst

FAA Investigating Harlem Shake Video

After team filmed on flight

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether a Frontier Airlines crew violated safety rules last month when they allowed the Colorado College frisbee team to film a version of the viral "Harlem Shake" video during a flight. The video, shot by the university's ultimate frisbee team during a flight from Colorado Springs to San Diego, shows passengers dancing in the aisle while the hit song by electronic musician Baauer plays.

While the FAA is concerned about what stage the flight was in when the video was recorded—the agency wants to make sure that the fasten seatbelt sign was off—a former investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board says that he doesn't see anything wrong with the video. "As long as the seatbelt sign wasn't on they are free to move around," Al Yurman told Colorado College's Catalyst newspaper.

Sophmore Matt Zelin said that team asked the flight crew for permission before filming. "I don't see any reason why this should cause any trouble. We asked the staff and they said it was safe."

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

California Great Whites Now Protected

Suffering from depleted numbers

Starting March 1, great white sharks will be protected under the California Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to hunt, pursue, or kill the majestic fish anywhere off the California coast. Environmental groups began petitioning for the sharks’ status at the beginning of February, claiming their diminished numbers merited protection. Estimates place their Northwest Pacific population around 340.

Commercial fishing of the ocean’s most magnificent predator has been banned off the California coast for 20 years, but exceptions still exist for research purposes. Under the new protections, researchers will have to obtain new permits from the Fish and Wildlife Department to study the perfectly constructed killing machines.

Fish and Wildlife will conduct a status review of the silvery sea gods in 2014 to determine whether the entire species should be labeled as endangered.

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    Photo: Cedartones/Flickr

Utah Brothers Face Fraud Charges After Failed Ski Resort

Members-only resort failed to materialize

A pair of brothers in Utah have been arraigned on charges relating to their failed attempt to raise money to turn a Southern Utah ski area into an exclusive resort. Earlier this week, the brothers, Marc and Stephen Jenson, pleaded not guilty to both money laundering and fraud charges stemming for their “plan” to transform the Mount Holly ski area, which had been closed for eight years, into the gated Mount Holly Club.

The Jensons have been accused of shuttling the investor funds they raised for the resort between various accounts, but they maintain they were trying to build a legitimate business, which only failed when a big investor dropped out. 

At one point, the Jensons were promoting a $3.5 billion development plan with a Jack Nicklaus-commissioned golf course, on a scale dwarfing the total property value of rural Beaver County by seven times. To join the club, buyers would have had to pay a one-time $250,000 fee and dues of $10,000 a year plus millions of dollars for a mountain home.

Marc is currently being held at a Beaver County jail for failing to pay $4 million from a different fraud, and his lawyer withdrew from the case, claiming that he wasn’t getting paid.

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