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House GOP may seek short-term debt limit extension

January 17, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – This Nov. 28, 2012 file photo shows House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. walking on Capitol Hill in Washington. House Republicans say they may seek a short-term extension of the government’s debt limit in the next few weeks, a move that would avoid an immediate default by the Treasury. Ryan provided [&hellip...

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US commandos boost numbers to train Mexican forces

January 17, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – This Feb. 7, 2012 file photo shows Navy Adm. Bill McRaven, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command speaking in Washington. U.S. officials say the Pentagon is stepping up aid for Mexico’s bloody drug war with a new U.S.-based...

Subway ‘crisis’: Is footlong sub really 11 inches?

January 17, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – This Aug. 11, 2009, file photo, shows a chicken breast sandwich and water from subway on a kitchen counter in New York. Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, is facing criticism after an Australian man posted a picture on the...

Armstrong to AP: ‘People can decide’ the truth

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

This Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 photo provided by Harpo Studios Inc., shows talk-show host Oprah Winfrey interviewing cyclist Lance Armstrong during taping for the show “Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive” in Austin, Texas. The two-part...

LAS VEGAS (AP) — NASA is partnering with a commercial space company in a bid to swap out the cumbersome “metal cans” that now serve as astronauts’ homes in space for inflatable bounce-house-like habitats that can be deployed on the cheap. A $17.8 million test project will send an inflatable room that can be compressed for delivery into a 7-foot tube to the International Space Station, officials said Wednesday during a news conference at North Las Vegas-based Bigelow Aerospace. If the module proves durable during two years at the space station, it could open the door to habitats on the moon and missions to Mars, NASA engineer Glen Miller said. The agency chose Bigelow for the contract because it was the only company working on the inflatable technology, said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. Founder and president Robert Bigelow, who made his fortune in the hotel industry before getting into the space business in 1999, framed the gambit as an out-of-this-world real estate venture. He hopes to sell his spare tire habitats to scientific companies and wealthy adventurers looking for space hotels. NASA is expected to install the 13-foot, blimp-like module in a space station port by 2015. Bigelow plans to begin selling stand-alone space homes the next year. The new technology provides three times as much room as the existing aluminum models, and is also easier and cheaper to build, Miller said. Artist renderings of the module resemble a tinfoil clown nose grafted onto the main station. It is hardly big enough to be called a room. Miller described it as a large closet with padded white walls and gear and gizmos strung from two central beams. Garver said on Wednesday that sending a small inflatable tube into space will be dramatically cheaper than launching a full-sized module. “Let’s face it; the most expensive aspect of taking things in space is the launch,” she said. “So the magnitude of important of this for NASA really can’t be overstated.” The partnership is another step toward outsourcing for NASA, which no longer enjoys the budget and public profile of its heyday. The agency has handed off rocket-building to private companies, retired it space shuttles in 2011 and now relies on Russian spaceships to transport American astronauts to and from the space station. Astronauts will test the ability of the bladder, known as the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, to withstand heat, radiation, debris and other assaults. Some adventurous scientists might also try sleeping in the spare room, which is the first piece of private real estate to be blasted into space, Garver said. Bigelow said the NASA brand will enable him to begin selling Kevlar habitats several times the size of the test module. “This year is probably going to be our kickoff year for talking to customers,” he said. “We have to show that we can execute what we’re talking about.” Bigelow, who launched a small prototype of the module in 2006 after licensing the patent from NASA, will rely on Boeing and Southern California rocket developer Space Exploration Technologies to provide transportation. A 60-day stay will cost $25 million, slightly less than a roundtrip ticket into low-earth orbit. He predicted that the primary customers will be upwardly mobile countries including Brazil, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates that “have a difficult time getting their astronauts into orbit” and could use a private space station to barter and build up prestige. The biggest technological challenge will be transporting the collapsed module through the sub-zero temperatures of space without tearing or cracking any part of it, Miller said. When it arrives at the space station in 2015, scientists will blow it up and let it sit for a few days to test for leaks. If it does not hold as promised, NASA will take back a portion of the already bargain basement price it paid Bigelow. Standing beside scale models of inflatable colonies on Mars and the moon, Miller said the project will encourage commercial ventures to follow the path NASA blazes into space. He added that it could also help achieve the holy grail of space exploration: missions that send astronauts out of orbit for more than a year. “The only way to do that is to expand it out and voila you have living space for three people to go to Mars,” he said. “You can get three times the volume of a metallic can, and you can go up in the same ferry.”

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

Bigelow Aerospace president Robert Bigelow, left, and NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver answer questions for the media during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. NASA has awarded a contact to Bigelow Aerospace to provide NASA with a...

AP-GfK poll: Rage over Conn. tragedy tops 9/11

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – In a Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013 file photo, gun owners discuss a potential sale of an AR-15, during the 2013 Rocky Mountain Gun Show at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy, Utah. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of...

EPA changed course after gas company protested

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

This Dec. 6, 2012 aerial photo shows a natural gas well, top, in rural Parker County near Granbury, Texas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had evidence the gas company’s drilling operation contaminated nearby drinking water with explosive...

Pregnant Kim Kardashian wants to be more private

January 16, 2013 • Entertainment, National NewsComments (0)

FILE – This Nov. 8, 2012 file photo shows Kim Kardashian at the Kardashian Kollection UK Launch at Acqua Club in central London. As the tabloids speculated over whether or not Jessica Simpson was expecting her second baby and the media zeroed in on Kate...

US auto industry exuberant heading into 2013

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, file photo, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is revealed at media previews for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Maybe it was the brand new, bright red Chevrolet Corvette gleaming in one...

Boeing leads Dow lower; other indexes mixed

January 16, 2013 • National NewsComments (0)

FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, file photo Trader Jonathan Corpina, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, after the World Bank said that ongoing budget fights...