With all of the nail biting intrigue leading up to Wednesday night's Congressional approval of the NASA authorization bill, we don't want to overlook some other interesting and significant recent space news events:
_ China launched its second lunar probe, Chang'e 2, on Friday. The Moon remains a prime object of interest among Earth's spacefaring nations, including the United States.
- A "potentially habitable" planet has been discovered around a nearby red dwarf star, Gliese 581, 20 light-years away. (That's right in the neighborhood by galactic standards.) It's been almost 15 years since the first confirmation of planets around other stars was announced, and these discoveries are only going to get more interesting over time.
- Sir Richard Branson says his company Virgin Galactic will start offering suborbital tourist flights in eighteen months. Meeting that schedule will require an aggressive program of test flights between now and then, but these passenger flights will surely raise a new level of excitement about this emerging industry.