Airless mail » America’s free market delivered another commercial first last week, as SpaceX became the only private company to haul cargo into space. The Dragon capsule carried 1,000 pounds of provisions and assorted other stuff to the International Space Station and was grabbed by a 58-foot robotic arm maneuvered by U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit. SpaceX is the brain child of billionaire Elon Musk, owner of PayPal. "Looks like we’ve got us a dragon by the tail," Pettit announced from 250 miles up to applause at NASA Mission Control in Houston and SpaceX’s control center in Hawthorne, Calif., which worked together on the project. Musk plans to broaden the SpaceX mission to include ferrying astronauts into orbit. Now that’s job creation that’s out of this world.
Power up » The Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center has hosted power players in the past, but now Salt Lake County’s downtown conference center is able to produce significant power of its own. Three acres of solar panels on the building’s roof are ready for use and are expected to provide up to 20 percent of the Salt Palace’s annual power needs. Covering 600,000 square feet, Utah’s largest solar rooftop installation can generate 1.65 megawatts of electricity. That is significant, especially in Utah, where dirty coal-fired power plants still provide the vast majority of electrical power. But such renewable energy projects must be, and in many other states are, the future of power production in order to curtail the carbon emissions that are changing the climate of the planet.
Three-time finalist » Anthony Cheng knows where it’s at. The eighth-grader at Midvale Middle School placed fifth this week — again — in the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. The 13-year-old has represented Utah in excellent fashion for three years in the competition, finishing sixth in 2010 and fifth last year. The staggeringly difficult questions — such as where in Africa is a favorite watering hole of the southern ground hornbill (that’s a bird) — would undoubtedly leave the brightest adults scratching their heads. But Cheng bested 49 of the 54 contestants, all champions from the 50 states, District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It will be tough to fill Cheng’s shoes, but this year must be his last, as the competition is limited to fourth- through eighth-graders. We wish him luck, wherever in the world he goes.
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