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Virgin Galactic Teases Their Timeline For Sending Tourists to Space

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Virgin Galactic has big plans for the future - but how soon will their goal of commercial space tourism be realized? (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic has big plans for the future – but how soon will their goal of commercial space tourism be realized? (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

Last week, Virgin Galactic made history when they launched their SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicle to space (by one definition) and back with two test pilots on board. This was the first vehicle to launch humans to space from U.S. soil since NASA’s Shuttle program ended in 2011. This was also the first time a commercial craft built to carry paying passengers reached space.

But what’s next for the spaceflight company? Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson says he plans to be the first passenger aboard the space plane, with space tourists to follow soon after.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides is also optimistic about the company’s future as a leader in commercial spaceflight. “Next year is gonna be a huge year for human spaceflight,” Whitesides said in an interview Monday, adding that Virgin Galactic and other companies all have much to work toward.

After last week’s flight, all of that data from the flight will be reviewed. Next, Branson expects that the craft will undergo three more test flights, which the company hopes will begin launching early in the new year. After these flights, the company will move its operations to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

After the move, Branson aims to launch as SpaceShipTwo’s first passenger by the middle of next year with tourists to follow soon after. “In the not too distant future, we’ll have three spaceships operating from New Mexico taking people up,” Branson said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” TV program.

Future of Space Tourism

Still, Whitesides couldn’t say for sure exactly when people will be able to punch their tickets for a ride to the edge of space. He is hopeful that it will be “soon” after flight tests are successfully completed and both Branson and Virgin Galactic employees travel in the vehicle on multiple flights. But, he could not give a concrete date.

Additionally, while Whitesides is optimistic that Branson will be able to achieve his goal and become SpaceShipTwo’s first passenger in mid-2019, this timeline is not certain either. The company, as Whitesides emphasized, is most focused on safety. “I think that there’s going to be risk involved in any space vehicle system,” Whitesides said, so these efforts are critical.

In 2014, Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

The company says its goal is to keep to taking small steps forward to ensure the safety of the test pilots and future passengers. “We can sort of bite off incremental chunks of newness,” Whitesides said about the company’s progress so far and continued testing.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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