ALFLEX Flights Completed: Japan has completed a series of test flights of ALFLEX, a scale model of its proposed HOPE spaceplane. A series of thirteen drop tests were conducted at Woomera in south Australia between early July and mid August. In all the tests the vehicle "performed exactly as planned," according to an Australian press release. Japanese officials plan to return early next year to discuss the results of the experiments to the Australian public.
Buran, The Ride: For only $35, you can hitch a ride in Buran, the Russian space program's space shuttle. The hitch? You'll be stuck at an amusement park in Moscow. The Washington Post reported that one of the Buran orbiters built solely for ground testing has found a new life as a flight simulator. Patrons get a 40-minute ride for their money, which includes special chairs designed to simulate weightlessness, "space food", and simulations of emergencies. The ride is run by Space-Earth, a Russian company headed by former cosmonaut German Titov.
Mars Has No Electoral Votes: One would expect that the announcement of evidence of life that once existed on Mars to be, at the very least, the week's top news story. However, the three major American newsweeklies -- Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Reports -- relegated the story to the back pages, devoting their cover stories to American Presidential candidate Bob Dole and his selection of Jack Kemp as his vice-presidential nominee. Two of the newsweeklies, Time and U.S. News, made mention of the discovery in smaller print on the cover, and Time even showed a picture of an alternative cover which emphasized Mars instead of Dole. Even the international newsweekly The Economist devoted its cover story to American politics.
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