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SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

FOR THE WEEK OF APR 06, 2020

Space tourism creeps closer to becoming a real thing for rich travelers by 2022

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Read another science or technology article and summarize what you learn.
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Look for news about students, educators or a company working on a futuristic project. What skills are needed?
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Pick news from far away (not space) and tell why you do or don’t want to go there.

The International Space Station is an orbiting science laboratory, not some kind of exotic hotel. Yet late next year or in early 2022, two private companies plan to send three tourists on a 10-day trip to the distant station. The mission is a partnership between SpaceX, a California aerospace business founded by Tesla carmaker Elon Musk, and a Houston newcomer named Axiom. "It's real, and it’s happening," says Michael Suffredini, the head of Axiom. Paying guests will ride in a Crew Dragon capsule, which SpaceX has been developing for NASA, thrust into orbit atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket that has worked well in past launches.

It'll be far from an ordinary vacation, obviously. For starters, it'll cost $10 million to $20 million. After training on Earth for 15 weeks, travelers will spend eight weightless days floating aboard the station after a day of flight to reach it. The trio will be accompanied by an Axiom "commander" to assist them and assure they don't interfere with the six crew members. One unidentified person is booked already, according to Axiom. Though seven tourists visited the ISS from 2001-09 aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, the Texas company calls this "the first-ever fully private" trip. It's led by a former NASA executive who managed the agency's space station program from 2005-15.

SpaceX developed the Crew Dragon capsule to fly U.S. astronauts to the space station, starting this spring. An in-flight escape system was tested successfully in January. NASA has paid Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency during the past decade to bring Americans there to conduct experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields. Next year's planned excursion for wealthy customers will signal "a new era of human exploration," says SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell. NASA last year said that it would open the ISS to "private astronaut missions of up to 30 days." The space agency gets $35,000 a night for each guestr to cover service a tourist needs on board.

Axiom leader says: "This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space." -- Michael Suffredini, chief executive

Different company says: "I'm hopeful it [space tourism] will be something cool and positive in the world." – Eric C. Anderson, chairman of Space Adventures in Virginia, which offers short-hop flights on its space plane

Other players: Virgin Galactic, a British company owned by Richard Branson, plans to offer a few minutes of weightlessness in its massive space plane for a few hundred thousand dollars. Blue Origin, a spaceflight company run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezo, is developing a similarly brief experience on its New Shepard rocket.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2020
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