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Dragon, PayPal And Scotty's Ashes: Falcon 9 Fun Facts

Private company Space X successfully launched its unmanned Falcon 9 rocket into space early Tuesday morning from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, U.S.A. Though not quite Apollo 11, it is space flight history. Here's what you should know.

1. SpaceX is the first private company to successfully launch a vessel to the International Space Station (ISS). Only governments had previously been able to achieve such a feat, but the White House welcomed Falcon 9's launch as an opportunity for government-run NASA. John P. Holdren, Assistant to President Barack Obama for Science and Technology said in a statement that "This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA's resources to do what NASA does best -- tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit." NASA hopes the private sector will be able to provide trips to the ISS for American astronauts, who have to hop on board Russian vessels ever since NASA recently retired the last two shuttles.

2. This wasn't the first attempt to launch a private vessel into space. SpaceX had already successfully launched and retrived a spacecraft in orbit in December 2010. Falcon 9's take-off was delayed three times since February, and had to be cancelled at the last minute last Saturday because of a faulty engine valve. The video below shows today's launch.

3. SpaceX was created by the co-founder of PayPal. Elon Musk is a South African-born 40-year-old multi-millionaire who co-founded PayPal in 2000 and founded SpaceX in 2002. His entrepreneurship focuses on new technologies, and Musk is also the co-founder of Tesla Motors, an electric car company. Musk celebrated the Falcon 9 launch on Twitter.

4. Falcon 9 is unmaned and carries a capsule called Dragon. Dragon contains 1,000 pounds of provisions for the ISS and was released into orbit nine minutes into the rocket's flight. The capsule is expected to dock with the ISS on Thursday.

5. Falcon 9 contains the ashes of 306 deceased people. Space services company Celestis sends ashes of deceased family members into orbit, for a fee. The ashes of "Star Trek" actor James Doohan, aka "Scotty," astronaut Gordon Cooper and skydiver Brady Watson Kane were among the celebrity remains launched this morning. Celestis had already collaborated with SpaceX for a first unsuccessful launch in 2008 - but the company holds back a portion of the ashes in case something goes wrong. Prices run from $1000 (suborbital flight) to $13,000 (deep space).

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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