Teenagers saved from drowning by space hopper

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Two teenage girls were saved from drowning by a space hopper toy after being swept out to sea in Devon. A neighbour who heard the commotion then came out with the space hopper and threw it into the sea Photo: ALAMY

The large rubber inflatable with handles was thrown to the pair after they were dragged too far out to reach a life buoy.

The girls – aged 15 and 16 – used the space hopper as a float as they swam towards the buoy before being rescued by lifeboat crews.

Coastguards, police and the ambulance service were also involved in the rescue on Saturday evening.

The teenagers, who have not been named, were swept off a sea wall in Dawlish, east Devon, and dragged about 59ft (18m) out to sea at about 6.30pm.

A group of young men heard their screams and raced along the wall to throw them a life buoy, but were unable to reach them.

A neighbour who heard the commotion then came out with the space hopper and threw it into the sea.

Leigh Jarratt, one of the rescuers, said: “We were just trying to scream to them to swim to the life buoy.

“To be honest the only thing that saved them was one of my other neighbours, Shane, he brought out a space hopper.

“Matt, with a brilliant throw, managed to get it right next to the girls and they managed to get hold of the space hopper for a long enough time to be able to get hold of the life buoy. The space hopper saved the day.”

The girls were taken to the Royal Devon & Exeter hospital, where the 15-year-old was treated for secondary drowning – a condition in which water has entered the lungs and can cause the patient to drown several hours after being rescued. She was kept in overnight and her current condition is not known.

Skylon: commercial space ‘aircraft’ available in Britain ‘within 10 years’

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Skylon is an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space: Skylon: commerical space 'aircraft' available in Britain 'within 10 years' Skylon is an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane intended to provide inexpensive and reliable access to space Photo: REACTION ENGINES

Engineers have developed the new £700 million “Skylon spaceplane”, which can travel at more than five times the speed of sound.

Costing about £6.3 million per flight the 270 foot-long craft can carry up to 24 passengers into space. It could be available for commercial use within a decade.

The unpiloted craft, which can take off from an airport runway, has no external rockets and two engines use hydrogen and oxygen to propel it more than 18 miles into space.

Officials from the UK Space Agency believe it can revolutionise space travel and significantly cut its cost by taking advantage of newly developed technology.

They say it could one day replace Nasa’s Space Shuttle to transport up to 12 tonnes of cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

Reports have suggested that developing the craft will eventually cost about £7.5 billion, the same amount it costs to develop an Airbus jet.

The craft has been developed by the Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines with support from the new space agency.

Richard Varvill, technical director and one of the founders of Reaction Engines, believes his company’s craft will revolutionise space travel.

“Access to space is extraordinarily expensive, yet there’s no law of physics that says it has to be that way,” he told The Engineer magazine.

“We just need to prove it’s viable. The simple truth is that the Earth is part of a much bigger system.

“We’re talking a bit of science fiction now, but in theory there’s nothing that stops you going out (into space).”

He added: “You can imagine a situation when some of our industrially important but polluting processes are done in space and the finished products are brought back down to Earth.”

Officials will meet next week at a special two-day workshop next week, which will investigate how it can be developed commercially.

Reaction Engines said it will take 10 years to develop, leaving Britain to become the first country in the world to launch a spaceplane in orbit.

A commercial spaceplane has remained a near near-impossible dream to some of the best engineers in the world.

The European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA) and Nasa have each poured billions of pounds into such a craft without success.

Boeing plans to send passengers into space (Reuters)

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ATLANTA (Reuters) – Boeing Co plans to offer passengers the chance to fly into space on a craft it is developing for travel in low-Earth orbit, the aerospace company said on Wednesday.

Boeing said it reached an agreement with Virginia-based Space Adventures to market passenger seats on commercial flights aboard Boeing’s CST-100 space vehicle being developed for NASA.

The spacecraft could carry seven people and fly in low-Earth orbit as soon as 2015, Boeing said. The company added that potential customers could include private individuals, companies, nongovernmental organizations and U.S. federal agencies.

Space Adventures said it had arranged for seven spaceflight participants to fly on eight missions to the International Space Station being built in space by the United States and Russia.

The companies said during a conference call that pricing for the planned space flights had not been set but were expected to be competitive.

Guy Laliberte, founder of Canada’s Cirque du Soleil, paid more than $35 million (£22.4 million) to travel into space last year on a Russian spaceship from Kazakhstan.

The U.S. space shuttle program, which carries astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, is being shut down next year. President Barack Obama’s administration has launched an initiative to replace NASA-owned and operated launch services with commercial space taxis.

Until a replacement vehicle is ready, the United States will be solely dependent on Russia to fly crews to the International Space Station, a $100 billion project involving 16 nations, which has been under construction 220 miles (352 km) above Earth since 1998.

Russia currently charges NASA about $51 million per seat for a ride on its Soyuz spacecraft. The price goes up to $56 million in 2013.

(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

Perseid meteor shower 2010: Nasa says stargazers to enjoy dazzling space show

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They say it is called the Perseids because they appear to stream in from the direction of the constellation of Perseus but in fact can appear in any part of the sky.

Nasa experts say the shower, which could a meteor every minute at its peak, is one of the most reliable for astronomers to view.

But this year will be even more spectacular because a new Moon this week means there will be no overpowering moonlight to spoil the show.

This also means star watchers with clear skies can look forward to viewing many of the bright meteor streaks as they burn up in the upper atmosphere after hitting earth at more than 140,000mph.

Scientists say the meteor shower will peak between Wednesday and Saturday with amateur astronomers being able to see up to 100 meteors an hour alone on Thursday night.

The highest rates are likely to be seen in the early hours of Friday morning.

The Earth has already entered the outer regions of the stream of meteoroids, left by a comet called Swift-Tuttle with some observers already reporting sightings.

The radiant, from which the meteors appear to stream, is low in the sky when darkness falls but climbs steadily through the night.

“It promises to be one of the best displays of the year,” a Nasa spokesman said.

“If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a peak display of at least 80 meteors per hour.

“A waxing crescent moon will set before the shower becomes active, setting a perfect stage for meteor watching.”

Robin Scagell, vice-president of the UK’s Society for Popular Astronomy, said that near perfect viewing conditions will create a spectacular show.

“Warm summer nights make the Perseids great fun to watch out for,” he said.

“Make yourself comfortable in a deckchair under a clear sky, away from the street lights, and you should soon see a few streaking across the sky.”

Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer at the California-based SETI Institute, told NBC News: “The whole shower, we think, is about 160,000 years old.

“The bulk of the shower you see is 5,000 years old.”

People will not be subjected to any harm because the meteors are only the size of grains of sand and are completely vaporised, scientists say.

Nasa’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers ‘superheated planet with comet tail’

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An artist’s impression of the gas giant planet, named HD 209458b. It is orbiting so close to its star that its heated atmosphere is escaping into space.Photo: NASA

The planet, nicknamed Osiris, is 153 light-years from Earth and is only slightly smaller than Jupiter, our solar system’s biggest planet.

It was first detected in 1999 when scientists noticed a minute reduction in the brightness of its star, caused by the planet passing in front of it.

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But astronomers at the space agency have only just found that powerful stellar winds are sweeping the “superheated” planet’s atmosphere out behind it.

Experts say this has led to the tail-like effect being captured by the Hubble. The “tail” theory had been hinted at previously but not confirmed until now.

In 2003 astronomers used the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, a Hubble instrument, to investigate the planet and its atmosphere but could not prove their theory.

The planet, officially called HD 209458b, orbits around the star once every three and a half days, travelling so close to the star that its surface becomes scorched.

Some of this scorched material is released as gas into the atmosphere, and swept by powerful stellar winds into a tail similar to that of a comet.

The innermost planet in our Solar System is Mercury, which takes 88 days to orbit the Sun once, 25 times longer than Osiris takes to orbit its star.

Scientists from the University of Colorado used the space agency’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, another instrument on the Hubble, which determines the nature of gases by examining how light from stars passes through them.

They found heavy elements such as silicon and carbon in the planet’s atmosphere, which suggested that the planet was being heated to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit (2000° C).

The researchers also found that gas was travelling behind the planet at different velocities and in different directions, rather than in a conventional atmosphere, leading them to believe that this material was akin to the planet’s “tail”.

Dr Jeffrey Linsky, who led the study, said it was the first time that astronomers had been able to measure the gas coming off the planet at specific speeds.

“Since 2003 scientists have theorised the lost mass is being pushed back into a tail, and they have even calculated what it looks like,” he said.

“We think we have the best observational evidence to support that theory. We have measured gas coming off the planet at specific speeds, some coming toward Earth.

“The most likely interpretation is that we have measured the velocity of material in a tail.”

The loss of material caused by the extreme heat and speed of the planet is only very slight, meaning it will take “about a trillion years for the planet to evaporate,” Dr Linksy added.

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