Overheard on CNN.com: New shuttle needs space plane 'coolness'
Designed by UK-based engineers Reaction Engines Ltd, the Skylon project is a radical idea for future space travel.
June 8th, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: New shuttle needs space plane 'coolness'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

CNN commenters - clearly energized about the promise of a new, privately developed space shuttle - are buzzing about winged spacecraft versus capsule-based vehicles like Dragon, which SpaceX used for its historic visit to the space station last month.

A commenter called "gregory" points out the Skylon space plane project in the UK. The theory behind space planes is they would be able to take off from a runway, rocket into low orbit, and then fly to a landing on a runway.

Gregory suggests that space planes are preferable because their engines would be designed to "breathe air like a jet at lower speeds" and then "switch to rocket mode in the high atmosphere." CNN reported on Skylon last year and one insider estimated development cost to be around $10 billion. NASA's program to fund private spacecraft development offers only a fraction of that amount - less than $400 million awarded so far.

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Disco ball-inspired mirror gets rid of driver's blind spot
The new mirror uses a disco ball technique to show a much wider view compared with a standard side-view mirror.
June 8th, 2012
12:10 PM ET

Disco ball-inspired mirror gets rid of driver's blind spot

Ever had trouble checking behind you while driving? Now there's a newly patented side-view mirror that claims to eliminate that pesky blind spot.

The math professor who came up with the "wide angle substantially nondistorting mirror" says it works kind of like a mirrored disco ball - although it doesn't look anything like one.

"Imagine that the mirror's surface is made of many smaller mirrors turned to different angles, like a disco ball," said R. Andrew Hicks, a Drexel University math professor.

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Filed under: Math • On Earth
Pre-flight
June 8th, 2012
08:01 AM ET

Is Dream Chaser the new space shuttle?

Will we ever get a space plane? Read our responses to some of the comments this story received.

Have you been listening to all the kvetching and tooth-gnashing about America paying Russia $65-to-$70 million for each astronaut to ride to the space station?

You should hear what people at NASA and elsewhere in the U.S. aerospace industry are telling their friends:  They're embarrassed - even angry - that the guys who won the Cold War space race are no longer in the driver's seat.

Why, oh, why, they moan, did Washington end the shuttle program before building a replacement? How fast can the United States develop a new machine to deliver Americans into orbit so they can make scientific and technological breakthroughs?

How fast? Last month, less than a year after the final space shuttle mission, a SpaceX unmanned Dragon became the first private spacecraft to reach the orbiting space station.

But you probably knew that. Here's what you may have missed: A few days after SpaceX's triumph, a winged mini-space shuttle took to the air in its first flight test.

Wait. What? There's a new space shuttle in development?

Yep, it's called Dream Chaser. And it's made to fly on laughing gas.

But more on that in a second.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space • News

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