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Airline delays flight, changes route to catch solar eclipse

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A very excited passenger on an Alaska Airlines flight captured video of a solar eclipse.

From 36,000 feet in the sky, the astronomer convinced the airline to delay and adjust one of its flights so passengers could see it.

One of the passengers also brought specially filtered sunglasses for everyone on board.

According to NASA the eclipse produced a 90-mile-wide total solar eclipse Tuesday night over portions of the Pacific Ocean.

Alaska Airlines says passengers were able to view the event for just under two minutes before emerging from the shadow.

Mars One's mission looks a lot like reality TV

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It plays more like a movie trailer than anything else: This is how Mars One announced the 100 finalists for its 2024 mission to Mars.

Of these 100 people, as many as 40 will ultimately be selected for the privately funded mission, and their bios on the website read something like those of participants in a reality TV show.

There's a reason for that. Mars One wants to make the entire process of the mission, from selecting its astronauts to landing on the red planet, an "on-going global media event" in order to draw in funds for the project.

And the cast of characters it's selected for the final 100 is very, very broad: The group includes representatives from 36 different countries, with ages spanning from 19 to 60 and occupations ranging from stand-up comedy to astrophysics.

A quick look at the final 100 reveals the U.S. provided the most candidates with 33, followed by Australia, with seven; South Africa, with six; and the United Kingdom and Russia tied with five each. 

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The diversity is partly down to the fact Mars One issued an open invitation to anyone in the world who met its base criteria, including this man from Poland, who says he is a Martian. (Video via YouTube / Mikolaj Zielinski)

Of all 100, only four have ever worked with a space program, and all four of those have worked with NASA in some capacity. (Video via RTEManifest Motion PicturesNASAYouTube / oskirrii)

On top of that, seven members of Mars One's 24-member advisory board have worked with NASA in the past.

But NASA as a whole hasn't really gotten involved directly in Mars One's mission, and it seems the agency thinks the project is, at the very least, harmless.

NASA officials said last year that although the agency doesn't really have any regulatory power, it would speak out if it saw a company doing something it saw as risky. (Video via The Royal Institution)

Still, a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate students put out a paper last October saying the project wasn't only risky, but with current technologies, it would also be deadly. 

The paper found without supplementary oxygen, astronauts would suffocate just 68 days into the mission, but Mars One's plan to counterbalance that using crops to provide both food and oxygen for the colony would create unsafe levels of oxygen within the colony. (Video via Mars One)

Despite this, Mars One's timeline currently has the project beating NASA to Mars by at least 10 years, although that's subject to change. (Video via NASA)

The project originally aimed to reach Mars by 2023, instead of 2024, and not only planned to select its 40 final astronauts by 2013 but also planned to have them in training by 2014.

Photos: NASA launches Orion spacecraft

Orion spacecraft successfully launches from Cape Canaveral

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NASA's new Orion spacecraft is on its way to orbit. The unmanned orbital test flight began Friday with a sunrise liftoff witnessed by thousands of NASA guests gathered at Cape Canaveral for the second morning in a row. The crowd size and excitement were reminiscent of the shuttle-flying days. This high-stakes mission is meant to usher in a new era of human exploration leading ultimately to Mars.

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Orion's debut will be brief -- just 4 1/2 hours from launch to splashdown, with two orbits of Earth. But for the first time in 42 years, NASA is sending a spacecraft built for humans farther than a couple hundred miles from Earth. The previous time was the Apollo 17 moon shot. It's NASA's first new spaceship since the shuttle. Thursday's launch attempt was foiled by wind and balky valves.

Chinese probe returns after disastrous week for space travel

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It has been a pretty rough week for U.S. space travel. 

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo broke apart during a test flight leading to the death of one pilot and serious injuries for another. The cause of that crash is still being investigated.

And just days before, the Antares resupply rocket was intentionally exploded seconds after takeoff after a critical problem was discovered.

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But there's been at least one success story in space to emerge this week, and it comes from China.

An unmanned Chinese probe returned safely to Earth Saturday night after an eight-day flight. The mission was designed to test out technology for use in a future project aiming to collect lunar samples and bring them to Earth.

The probe did a flyby of the moon, snapping some pretty cool photos in the process, and then returned home. This marked the first time in nearly forty years that a spacecraft returned to earth after traveling around the moon. 

An engineer for the mission told China's state-run news agency Xinhua that the most challenging aspect of the mission was slowing the craft during re-entry. 

The probe was designed to essentially "bounce" off Earth's atmosphere — much like a rock skips on water — to reduce its speed. Hitting the atmosphere at the wrong angle would have resulted in mission failure. 

This is part of a larger push into space exploration that China started in 2007. The Telegraph writes, "Saturday’s landing is the latest advance for a space program that China’s leaders see as an important way of commanding international respect."

China hopes to complete a mission that would bring lunar rocks and dirt to Earth by 2017 and hopes to put people on the moon sometime in the 2020s.

What the Virgin Galactic crash means for space tourism

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Space travel can be risky; that's a given. Just getting up out of the Earth's gravitational pull requires massive amounts of energy. 

But the explosion of Orbital Science's Antares rocket on Tuesday and Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crash on Friday has made that all the more real for space industry watchers.

Two spaceship accidents in one week, one resulting in the death of one pilot and serious injury to the other, has prompted the question: What does this mean for space tourism?

Virgin Galactic had hoped to give anyone willing to shell out $250,000 the ability to travel to space by next October. The waiting list of space tourists included names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher.

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An aerospace and defense industry senior analyst tells The New York Times that while Virgin Galactic was one of the leading companies in commercial space flight, Friday's accident has pushed it back considerably. 

A science editor at BBC had a similar view, calling Friday's accident a "massive setback" for Virgin Galactic partly due to its effect on how people perceive the safety of space tourism.

But some, including those who already have purchased tickets to fly on a Virgin Galactic flight, say this is far from the end of space tourism. 

PETER DIAMANDIS VIA AL JAZEERA: "I really think anybody saying that we should stop and think about this is naive in saying that, you know, if that had happened with the first automotive or airplane accident then we would still be on horses." 

A former astronaut told USA Today that while he thinks the crash will certainly affect peoples' impressions of commercial space flight in the short run, the long-term impact will be minimal. 

Then again, Chris Taylor at Mashable says we shouldn't even be calling what Virgin Galactic is doing "space tourism" in the first place. 

"Everyone who boards a Virgin Galactic flight, whenever such a thing happens, will be a space pioneer — and they'll assume all the risks that all pioneers in previous centuries did. ... This is exploration, not a safari. Nobody's a tourist yet."

But a writer at Wired disagrees, saying Virgin Galactic isn't empowering a new wave of pioneers at all but instead "building the world's most expensive roller coaster, the aerospace version of Beluga caviar. It's a thing for rich people to do."

This is the second accident involving Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo but the first to occur midflight. While there's no word on whether anyone with a $250,000 ticket has asked for a refund yet, the company does offer them. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.

Latest social media reports on the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crash

—The Associated Press contributed

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A Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket exploded after taking off on a test flight in Southern California's Mojave Desert, a witness said Friday.

At least one was dead and another was injured, California Highway Patrol said. The SpaceShipTwo rocket is typically flown by a crew of two pilots and has been under development at Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

>>Photos: Crash of SpaceShipTwo

Below are the latest updates on the crash from social media. Check back frequently for updates.

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WATCH: Vacationers record Antares rocket explosion in Virginia

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Centerville, Ohio, residents Samantha and Sharon Morrissey didn’t expect to see a rocket explode when they lined up to watch the launch Tuesday night.

According to the Dayton Daily News, the mother and daughter are vacationing on Chincoteague, Virginia, an island adjacent to Wallops Island, where NASA launched the Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft.

Samantha, 26, said they gathered with dozens of others to watch the launch. She said they were “stunned” and “shocked” when the glowing projectile exploded in flames.

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“It got up in the air for about 6 seconds, and it came right back down,” Samantha Morrissey said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

The unmanned rocket’s mission: to take supplies up to support the International Space Station.

“It was a disappointment to see it blow up. We were expecting to see it go straight to the space station,” Samantha said.

NASA officials are assessing the damages but are reporting no injuries or casualties.

Samantha said they were on vacation for her mother Sharon, who participated in the Marine Corp. Marathon in Washington, D.C.

She said they’ll be heading back to their Centerville home on Wednesday.

Antares supply rocket explodes on liftoff

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The NASA launch of Orbital Sciences’ unmanned Antares spacecraft suffered a catastrophe Tuesday, exploding only six seconds after liftoff.

The rocket was launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia around 6:22 p.m. local time. No injuries were reported, although NASA officials say there was significant property and vehicle damage. (Video via CNN)

And according to videos posted online, witnesses experienced the blast and the resulting shockwave. (Video via YouTube / Matthew Travis)

The explosion destroyed at least $200 million of equipment — not including supplies. Officials still don't know what caused the rocket to fail, but the explosion itself was most likely part of NASA protocol.

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The agency said the range safety officer, the person in charge of protecting the public should a vehicle veer out of control, might have activated a self-destruct signal to “cripple” the rocket before it could hit the launchpad.

The rocket was carrying a Cygnus cargo ship with 5,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station, including science experiments from U.S. and Canadian schools and satellites from Planetary Resources.

But with tons of material lost, NASA officials assured reporters Tuesday night that none of the lost equipment was essential for crew aboard the ISS. (Video via NASA)

Orbital Sciences, the company that built the rocket, released a statement, saying: “It is far too early to know the details of what happened. … We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident.”

Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to make eight delivery trips to the ISS. This trip would have been the third.

The initial rocket launch was delayed Monday when a sailboat entered and slowly passed through the so-called hazard launch during the scheduled time of liftoff. 

Orbital Sciences will lead the investigation, and the Federal Aviation Administration will join in. NASA officials noted that other companies — such as SpaceX — will be launching rockets to the ISS within the coming weeks, and some of the lost supplies could be added to their cargo.

This video includes an image from Getty Images.

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