Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2004: A
Century of Flight
The Right Stuff, DVD [PG]
Aviator, DVD [PG]
Advanced General Aviation
Space, the new frontier!
On the 45th Anniversary of Star Trek... September 8, 2011
As early as 1961,
Gene Roddenberry, (born August 19, 1921,
in El Paso, Texas), drafted a proposal for the science fiction series that
would become Star Trek. Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in
outer space?a so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars" (like the popular
Western TV series)?he privately told friends that he was modeling it on
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two
levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale.
Star Trek stories usually depict the adventures of humans and aliens who
serve in Starfleet, the space borne humanitarian and peacekeeping armada
of the United Federation of Planets. The protagonists are essentially
altruists whose ideals are sometimes imperfectly applied to the dilemmas
presented in the series. The conflicts and political dimensions of Star
Trek sometimes represent allegories for contemporary cultural realities:
Star Trek: The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s, just as
later spin-offs have reflected issues of their respective decades. Issues
depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of
personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics,
racism, religion, human rights, sexism and feminism, and the role of
technology. Roddenberry stated: "[By creating] a new world with new rules,
I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and
intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were
sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."
Roddenberry intended the show to have a highly progressive political
agenda reflective of the emerging counter-culture of the youth movement,
though he was not fully forthcoming to the networks about this. He wanted
Star Trek to show humanity what it might develop into, if only it would
learn from the lessons of the past, most specifically by ending violence.
An extreme example is the Vulcans, who had a very violent past but learned
to control their emotions. Roddenberry also wanted to imply an anti-war
message and to depict the United Federation of Planets as an ideal,
optimistic version of the United Nations. His efforts were thwarted by the
network's concerns over marketability, e.g., they were opposed to
Roddenberry's insistence on a racially diverse crew of the Enterprise.
The opening line, "to boldly go where no man has gone before", was taken
almost verbatim from a US White House booklet on space produced after the
Sputnik flight in 1957. The central original trio of Kirk, Spock, and
McCoy was modeled on classical mythological storytelling.
Star Trek and its spin-offs have proven highly popular in syndication and
are currently shown on TV stations worldwide. The show?s cultural impact
goes far beyond its longevity and profitability. Star Trek conventions
have become popular among its fans, who call themselves "trekkies" or
"trekkers". An entire subculture has grown up around the show which was
documented in the film Trekkies. Star Trek was the highest-ranked cult
show by TV Guide.
The Star Trek franchise inspired many modern technologies, including the
tablet personal computer, the personal digital assistant, mobile phones,
and the MRI (similar to Dr. McCoy's diagnostic table). It has even cited
that part of the inspiration for the iPod was derived from an episode of
"The Next Generation", where in which Data utilizes his internal
processors to "shuffle" through music databases. It has also brought
teleportation to popular attention with its depiction of "matter-energy
transport." Phrases such as "Beam me up, Scotty" have entered the public
vernacular. In 1976, following a letter-writing campaign, NASA named its
prototype space shuttle Enterprise, after the fictional starship. Later,
the introductory sequence to Star Trek: Enterprise would include footage
of the shuttle, along with images of a naval vessel also called the
Enterprise, depicting the advancement of human transportation technology.
Beyond Star Trek's technological innovations, one of its greatest and most
significant contributions to TV history is its creation of a cast of
different races and cultures in the sets. This became common in television
shows in the 1980s such as L.A. Law but was controversial and daring in
the 1960s. On the bridge of the Enterprise were a Japanese helmsman, a
Russian navigator, a black female communications officer, and a
Vulcan-Earthling first officer - among other members. Also, controversial
at its time (in the episode Plato's Stepchildren), was Captain Kirk's kiss
with Lt. Uhura which became a defining moment in television history as it
was American TV's first scripted interracial kiss; there had already been
footage of 'real-life' interracial kisses, such as on news footage and in
The Aerospace Industry... there is more to it than
what you think.
Under international law, the nationality of the launch
operator and the location of the launch determines which country is
responsible for any damage that occurs. Due to this, the United States
requires that rocket manufacturers and launchers adhere to specific
regulations to indemnify and protect the safety of people and property that
may be affected by a flight. The Office of Commercial Space Transportation
was created by the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 to meet this need.
The office also regulates launch sites, publishes quarterly launch
forecasts, and holds annual conferences with the space launch industry. The
office is headed by the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space
Transportation (FAA/AST), who is currently Dr. George C. Nield. They are
located in Washington, DC, and ultimately operate under the Department of
The Office of Commercial Space Transportation (generally
referred to as FAA/AST or simply AST) is the branch of the United States
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that approves any commercial rocket
launch operations?that is, any launches that are not classified as model,
amateur, or "by and for the government."
is responsible for licensing private space vehicles and spaceports within
the US. This is in contrast with NASA which is a research and development
agency of the U.S. Federal Government, and as such neither operates nor
regulates the commercial space transportation industry. The regulatory
responsibility for the industry has been assigned to the Federal Aviation
Administration, which is a regulatory agency. NASA does, however, often use
launch satellites and spacecraft on vehicles developed by private companies.
According to its legal mandate (49 USC, Subtitle IX, Chapter 701, Commercial
Space Launch activities) AST has the responsibility to:
regulate the commercial space transportation industry, only
to the extent necessary to ensure compliance with international obligations
of the United States and to protect the public health and safety, safety of
property, and national security and foreign policy interest of the United
encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches by the private
recommend appropriate changes in Federal statutes, treaties, regulations,
policies, plans, and procedures; and facilitate the strengthening and
expansion of the United States space transportation infrastructure. 
America's path to outer space has always gone through Texas. Texas'
connection to the space program can be traced to the sprawling ranch in
Clear Lake that became the headquarters for what was first called the Manned
The complex was renamed the Johnson Space Center after Texas-born President
Lyndon B. Johnson died in 1973. Johnson was President J. F. Kennedy's point
man for the space program when the nation was set on the course to reach the
moon before the 1960s ended.
One of the currently active commercial spaceports in Texas is "Corn Ranch"
which is a spaceport in the West Texas town of Van Horn, where flight tests
of the New Shepard are carried out by Blue Origin on the 165,000-acre (670
km?) land parcel. The first flight test took place on November 13, 2006 with
the goal of providing commercial tourist flights.
The Blue Origin New Shepard reusable launch vehicle is a vertical-takeoff,
vertical-landing (VTVL), suborbital manned rocket that is being developed by
Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon.com founder and businessman Jeff
Bezos, as a commercial system for suborbital space tourism. The New Shepard
makes reference to the first United States astronaut in space, Alan Shepard.
Blue Origin Project Manager Rob Meyerson has said that he selected Texas as
the launch site particularly because of the state's historical connections
to the aerospace industry, although that industry is not located near the
planned launch site, and the vehicle will not be manufactured in Texas.
The New Shepard craft is planned to be a vertical take-off/vertical landing
(VTOL) system. The New Shepard will be controlled entirely by on-board
computers, without ground control. It will be powered by high test peroxide
(HTP) and RP-1 kerosene. 
On April 11, 2011, Texas lawmakers approved a bill that would limit the
liability that private space travel companies face to boosting Commercial
Space Travel. Under the legislation, people who sign up for rides on a
private space flight would assume the risk of death or injury by signing a
waiver. The companies would still be liable for gross negligence or damage
to non-participants, officials said.
Recently, the media has brought the exciting work of
privately owned space exploration companies to public attention. The $10
million Anasari X prize for space travel was awarded to the piloted
SpaceShipOne on October 4, 2004, alerting the public that the age of private
space exploration has arrived. The technology that created SpaceShipOne
promises to take everyday civilians (provided they have the necessary funds)
into space, offering an experience that was once only available to
astronauts. There is also demand in the private sector for more advanced
unmanned craft and for satellite development.
In response to Texas
legislation aimed at putting Texas at the forefront of private space
exploration, the Texas Governor's Office of Space and Aviation awarded
grants to three Texas counties to launch spaceport programs. At the Center
for Transportation Research (CTR), researcher Michael Bomba contracted with
the Governor's Office to administer these grants, providing oversight and
guidance to the selected counties.
Willacy, Brazoria, and Pecos
counties have begun work to attract companies and organizations to their
sites. Dr. Bomba's job is to advise the counties in the best use of their
funds to establish competitive sites and to attract private sector research
and exploration. To date, the three counties have made encouraging strides
toward the operation and development of fully functional, competitive
Of the three, Pecos County has
had the most success thus far. This site has hosted a number of suborbital
rocket launches and has many new launch events planned for 2005. Brazoria
County is not far behind.
Suborbital rockets and
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVS, can travel to the upper limits of the
atmosphere, between airplanes and satellites, and capture critical data that
can be reported back to technicians on the ground. Not only can these craft
reach altitudes up to 65,000 feet, they can hover there for some time,
collecting data. If used for military purposes, these craft would be too
high for enemies to intercept.
Some entrepreneurs have plans
that are loftier yet. Imagine a company that could develop reusable crafts
and rockets to travel beyond the atmosphere into space, performing such work
as launching satellites into orbit. The company that could achieve this
would find the work lucrative, as would the spaceport supporting such
activity. According to Dr. Bomba, this work can only be done by the private
sector. NASA and government programs in other countries, simply can not take
the risks, financial and human, that private companies are willing to take.
It is easy to see how being
one of the first states to support the development of spaceport programs
could bring significant technological and economic development, as well as
talented scientists and engineers, to rural regions of Texas. Dr. Bomba
believes that Texas should remain at the forefront of this technology for
the good of the science, as well as Texas. 
You probably think that all astronauts are basically the same
- as long as you go through all that training, you're good to go. Well, real
life astronauts are a little more specialized than the ones in the movies.
Future astronauts should be prepared to be in school for a long time cuz
you'll need to get a bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science,
physical science or math, and then get a graduate's degree. You also need to
be in excellent shape - to be accepted to astronaut training, you must pass
a tough physical exam, which includes swimming three lengths of an
Olympic-size swimming pool in a flight suit and sneakers!
The Commander: The Commander maneuvers the space shuttle, along with the
Pilot, and is responsible for the shuttle, crew, mission success and safety
of the flight. In order to become the Commander of a space mission, you must
have a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or
mathematics. You must also have previous flying experience (1,000 or more
hours on a jet aircraft) and pass a NASA Class I space physical.
The Pilot: The Pilot assists the Commander in controlling and operating the
vehicle on a space mission. A Pilot must have the same education and pass
all the same tests as the Commander, but isn't in charge of the mission
itself. A Pilot will also assist with any other duties that need to be
attended to during a mission, like the release and recovery of satellites or
other experiments. 
With the advent of private commercial space flight ventures
in the U.S., the FAA has been faced with the task of developing a
certification process for the pilots of commercial spacecraft. The
Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 established the FAA's Office of
Commercial Space Transportation and required companies to obtain a launch
license for vehicles, but at the time manned commercial flight - and the
licensing of crewmembers - was not considered. The Commercial Space Launch
Amendments Act has led to the issuance of draft guidelines by the FAA in
February 2005 for the administration of vehicle and crew certifications.
Currently, the FAA has not issued formal regulatory guidance for the
issuance of a Commercial Astronaut Certificate, but as an interim measure,
has established the practice of awarding "Commercial Astronaut Wings" to
commercial pilots who have demonstrated the requisite proficiency.