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2009 was an unusually good year for things being sent up to the edge of space. The past months have seen:

So, if there are in fact alien powers watching humanity closely as it progesses toward joining the interstellar community, we should have them good and confused by now.

Interorbital Systems is now taking reservations for its first satellite launch, sometime next year. $8000 (plus $660 tax for California residents) buys you launch space plus a kit for the satellite body. Further details at

On the manned front, a recent formed company by the name of Excalibur Almaz has purchased some Russian military-surplus reusable capsules (once part of a program called Almaz) which it plans to modernize a bit and start flying in 2013. Projected fares are US$35 million for a week in orbit.

Further out, the Planetary Society is having a new solar sail constructed (the first one having been destroyed in a failed launch in 2005), which it plans to have in space to test by the end of 2010.

NASA, on the other hand, is running a bit short on ideas and so is holding a contest for ideas for future space-tech-related contests. More at

It may be a bit late, anyway. As Picofarad goes to press, the Large Hadron Collider is fully operational once again, and is expected to be up to full throttle sometime in the next few days.

And back in the fantasy world, Michael Jackson's death and Yves St. Laurent's estate sale have pushed J. R. R. Tolkien down to #5 on the list of top-earning dead celebrities for this year. Theodore Geisel is still hanging in there at #8.

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