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The last century’s space race was a competition between the world’s great powers and a test of their ideologies. It would prove to be a synecdoche of the entire Cold War between the capitalist United States and the socialist Soviet Union.

The starting pistol in the race to the future was fired in 1961 when President John F Kennedy committed to “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth” and it ended with a US victory on 24 July 1969 when the crew of the Apollo 11 mission splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

There are no such stakes in today’s race. The values of the future aren’t in question, merely the egos of three billionaires. One of these men is launching his private spacecraft off the planet on Sunday. Another follows suit soon after.

So here’s how they compare and what you need to know:

Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX have all designed their own spacecraft
Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX have all designed their own spacecraft
How far can the billionaires' rockets go?
How far can the billionaires’ rockets go?

Sir Richard Branson

  • Age: 70
  • Estimated Net Worth: $5.8bn (£4.2bn)
  • Company: Virgin Galactic
  • Launch date: 11 July

“My mum taught me to never give up and to reach for the stars,” said Sir Richard Branson announcing that he was going to be among the first people his spaceflight company launches on a mission.

Unfortunately, not only will Virgin Galactic’s mission fall short of the stars, the two-and-a-half hour mission will also fall short of space, at least according to the internationally agreed definition.

 Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson is the billionaire owner of Virgin Galactic

VSS Unity is a spaceplane (perhaps just a plane?) that launches in mid-air from the belly of a carrier aircraft at an altitude of about 15km, and then flies up to an altitude of about 80km, allowing the passengers to feel nearly weightless for approximately six minutes and glimpse the curvature of the Earth.

The problem for Sir Richard is that the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) defines the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space as 100km above Earth’s mean sea level, the so-called Karman Line, 20km higher than he is going to travel.

VSS Unity starts its engines after release from its mothership,
VSS Unity technically will not actually enter space

The definition of the edge of space is a bit of a challenge. Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t suddenly end but becomes progressively thinner at greater altitudes. In very simple terms, physicist Theodore von Karman’s solution was to define the edge of space as the highest point at which an aircraft could fly without reaching orbital velocity.

While Karman himself and the FAI regards this altitude as 100km, Sir Richard has the US Air Force and NASA on his side. They both place the boundary of space at 80km above mean sea level, partially because putting it at 100km would complicate issues regarding surveillance aircraft and reconnaissance satellites for the US – although the Department of Defence subscribes to the FAI definition.

It’s not clear whether this definition is covered by the small print of Virgin Galactic’s customer tickets, but ultimately the company aims to be operating multiple space tourism flights a year, and already has more than 600 customers for the $250,000 (£189,000) seats – including Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Jeff Bezos. Pic: AP
Jeff Bezos is the billionaire owner of Blue Origin. Pic: AP

Jeffrey Bezos

  • Age: 67
  • Estimated Net Worth: $198bn (£144bn)
  • Company: Blue Origin
  • Launch date: 20 July

“Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of traveling to space. On 20 July, I will take that journey with my brother,” said Jeff Bezos, announcing his seat on a journey to the edge of space.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket is capable of actually making it there, with a maximum achieved altitude of above 100km, but how high it will bring its four passengers hasn’t yet been confirmed.

These passengers will be Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, a mystery customer who paid $28m (£20m) for the seat in an auction, and 82-year-old Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk, a woman who had astronaut training in the 1960s but was denied the chance to go into space because of her gender.

While the mission will be scooped to launch by Virgin Galactic, by inviting Wally Funk it has managed to scoop Branson on getting a famous victim of gender injustice into space – she had previously put money down to fly with Virgin Galactic.

Jeff Bezos and Wally Funk. Pic: Blue Origin/AP
Jeff Bezos invited Wally Funk to join his spaceflight. Pic: Blue Origin/AP

It will take three minutes to take the passengers up to the required altitude, at which point they will have three minutes more in which to enjoy their sudden near-weightlessness. They’ll be allowed to unbuckle their seatbelts and float around, as well as examine the curvature of the Earth through one of the capsule’s windows. Just over 10 minutes after launch, the spacecraft will land back on Earth.

The 20 July flight will fittingly occur on the anniversary of the moon landings in 1969, but unlike the Apollo missions there will be no human piloting the modules. Instead, Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft is completely autonomous and will follow a programmed mission timeline before parachuting back to Earth.

The company has said that it expects to sell seats for more tourism flights in the future, but it isn’t clear how this will happen and the tickets for New Shepard are yet to go on general sale.

Elon Musk smiles as the audience laugh at his jokes as he hosts Saturday Night Live. Pic:NBC/YouTube
Elon Musk is the billionaire owner of SpaceX. Pic:NBC/YouTube

Elon Musk

  • Age: 50
  • Estimated Net Worth: $167bn (£121bn)
  • Company: SpaceX
  • Launch date: Unknown

“I want to die on Mars – just not on impact,” Elon Musk once quipped, although he hasn’t announced his immediate intention to travel into space at all.

Unlike both Bezos and Branson, Musk’s private spaceflight company, SpaceX, has a long and successful history of launching payloads way beyond the 100km mark.

SpaceX has announced it will be launching an all-civilian mission into orbit by the end of the year, with the passengers actually orbiting around the planet for up to four days before returning to Earth.

All four crew seats on the mission have been paid for by Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments, who has declined to reveal the costs.

Isaacman is donating two of the seats to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, with one being given to a staff member there, and another intended to be raffled off to a member of the public. He hopes to raise $200m (£145m) for the hospital, alongside a $100m (£72m) donation of his own.

Elon Musk hasn’t mentioned flying on this mission himself, although he has long articulated a plan to travel to Mars, plans that have been described as a dangerous delusion by Britain’s chief astrophysicist Lord Martin Rees.

SpaceX's images of the terraforming of Mars. Pic: SpaceX
SpaceX’s images of the terraforming of Mars. Pic: SpaceX

Back in 2016, Musk outlined his vision of building a colony on Mars “in our lifetimes” – with the first rocket propelling humans to the Red Planet by 2025.

For many years the company used an image of the Martian surface being terraformed (turned Earth-like) in its promotional material. However, a NASA-sponsored study published in 2018 dismissed these plans as impossible with today’s technology.

Recently Musk has tweeted he believed it was “possible to make a self-sustaining city on Mars by 2050, if we start in five years” but as of yet, SpaceX has not planned any missions to the planet.

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Tetiana’s raw and devastating story of loss reveals the pain behind Ukraine’s war statistics




Tetiana's raw and devastating story of loss reveals the pain behind Ukraine's war statistics

In a country like Ukraine, where entire cities are being bludgeoned to the ground, the human ramifications are so vast that they often overwhelm the ability of journalists to describe them. 

Instead, we rely on numbers – numbers, for example, from the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine which reports that 10,582 civilians have been killed since Russia launched its full-scale attack.

We quote statistics from the Office of the President of Ukraine, which says 529 children have died as a result of the fighting since February 2022.

It was in the city of Kharkiv, however, that I was confronted by the consequences of this conflict in a way that was so raw and devastating that the meaning buried within these numbers was painfully revealed.

On 10 February, the Russians targeted a large fuel depot in the city, using three of their Iran-made Shahed drones.

Firefighters work at the site of a Russian drone strike in Kharkiv on 10 February. Pic: Reuters
A fire erupted after the drone strike on 10 February. Pic: Reuters

Their assault was successful – spectacularly so, with smoke and flames from the ruptured tanks billowing miles above the city. A million gallons of diesel and petrol poured into the surrounding streets, flowing like lava into a nearby residential neighbourhood.

The heat was so intense that firefighters struggled to approach the blaze. Some 4,000 square metres were incinerated, along with 15 homes in the city’s Nemyshlyansky district.

More on Kharkiv

When we first saw Tetiana Putiatina, she was standing outside the charred remains of 32 Kotelnia Street. She used to live here with her only son Hryhory and his family of five.

Tetiana Putiatina lost her son, daughter in law and three grand children in a Russian attack on Kharkiv.
Tetiana Putiatina lost her son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren when a Russian drone strike hit Kharkiv last month

When I approached, I could tell that the 61-year-old had been crying.

“The children were asleep, there were three of them – seven years old, four years old and 10 months old. They just didn’t have time to get out, to gather the children,” she whispered.

Tetiana was visiting a relative on the night of the attack, leaving the rest of the family at home.

“By nine in the morning, I’d already returned, when they were recovering the bodies. They didn’t show them to me. They were so badly burned.”

Her son Hryhory was a builder and his wife Olna worked at the local prosecutor’s office. She told me the pair had spent much of the past two years trying to keep their three boys safe.

Tetiana Putiatina lost her son, daughter in law and their three children in a Russian attack on Kharkiv.

Their oldest child was Oleksii with Mykhaylo in the middle. Pavlo – or Pasha, as they called him – was the baby.

Their parents had taken them to western Ukraine at the beginning of the war when the Russian troops tried to break into Kharkiv but they had returned to the city after several months.

Tetiana said the family would rush to their underground shelter in the garden when the sound of the bombing got close.

On the night of 10 February, however, they had no time to escape, no chance to avoid a river of fire that was racing their way.

Hryhory was a builder and his wife Olna worked at the local prosecutor's office. They were killed along with their three children in Kharkiv in a Russian attack.
Hryhory, Olna and their three children died in the drone assault

“They found my son here, this is where he lay,” said Tetiana, pointing to a spot on the floor in what remains of the corridor.

“It looks like he was looking for a way out. Here in the bathroom, that’s where Olna was, holding two of the children close to her chest. The middle boy (Mykhaylo) ran out to the kitchen. Probably, he was trying to reach his dad.”

Their funeral was held three days later and in a recording of the event, we see surviving family members trying to grapple with the catastrophe. The baby, Pasha, was buried with his mother and we see Tetiana wrapping her arms around their coffin as she sobs.

When these images were posted online, Tetiana was mocked by some who accused her of pretending to be upset. They were Russians seeking to deepen her wounds, she said.

Three children - (in order of age) Oleksii with Mykhaylo and Pavlo killed in attack on Kharkiv
All three children were killed in the attack

“When we were mourning at the cemetery, I held the coffin. There were comments, like, ‘what an actress’ and ‘she plays her role well’.”

She began to cry. “They say they are liberating us. Who are they liberating?

“I was born in the Belgorod region (of Russia) myself. Do they liberate me?

“And my in-laws, my parents-in-law, were all from Russia. We were all Russian-speaking.”

The fuel depot was still smoking when we visited the site and the roads surrounding it were thick with a black sticky residue. We saw workers trying to patch up the heating and water pipes – but there are things in Kharkiv that will never be repaired.

A security guard who works next to what is left of the fuel depot told us it was like looking at a picture of hell.

“You know, the stench will linger for years – that smell is going to stay and it has affected the atmosphere here because there were huge clouds of smoke. It was terrible.”

Tetiana Putiatina's son, daughter in law and three grand children were killed in a Russian attack on Kharkiv.
Tetiana was visiting a relative when the attack happened

Read more:
A day of mourning – and rage – on Ukraine war anniversary
Baltic states on NATO’s frontline with Russia tell allies to ‘wake up’
The surgeon smuggled into Mariupol

The consequences of this attack will strike many as a depressing feature of Ukraine’s daily existence, another number in an endlessly rising statistical column. But there is nothing normal about this for Tetiana Putiatina.

The destruction of her house and the death of her loved ones have left her with nothing to live for.

“Of course, it’s hard. I come here every day, sometimes multiple times a day.

“I’ll come here, walk around the house, where they found their bodies.

“I’ll shout, I’ll cry, and then I’ll leave.”

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State of emergency in Haiti as gang leader seeks to oust prime minister and prisoners escape




State of emergency in Haiti as gang leader seeks to oust prime minister and prisoners escape

A state of emergency has been declared in Haiti after violence in the capital led to two prison breaks as a major gang leader tries to oust the prime minister.

The government decree follows a dramatic escalation in clashes over the weekend, which paralysed parts of Port-au-Prince and temporarily downed communications.

Heavy gunfire has caused panic in recent days after calls by gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer, for criminal groups to unite and overthrow Ariel Henry.

In a bid to restore order, a curfew will apply from 6pm to 5am each day until Wednesday, which may be extended for another 72 hours.

Armed groups attacked the country’s largest prison on Saturday night, defying police forces who had called for help.

On Sunday, there was no sign of police officers at the National Penitentiary and the main prison doors remained open.

“I’m the only one left in my cell,” one unidentified inmate told Reuters news agency. “We were asleep when we heard the sound of bullets. The cell barriers are broken.”

The National Penitentiary following violent clashes on Sunday. Pic: Reuters
The National Penitentiary following violent clashes on Sunday. Pic: Reuters

A man calls for protesters to stop on Friday. Pic: Reuters
A man calls for protesters to stop on Friday. Pic: Reuters

It is unclear how many inmates are on the run, but sources close to the institution say it is likely to be an “overwhelming” majority.

The prison was built to keep 700 prisoners, but held 3,687 as of February last year, according to rights group RNDDH.

One voluntary prison worker on Sunday said 99 prisoners had chosen to stay in their cells for fear of being killed in the crossfire.

The bodies of three inmates who had tried to flee lay dead in the prison courtyard on Sunday, while two bodies with their hands tied behind the backs lay face down in another neighbourhood.

Among those still in the prison are 18 former Colombian soldiers who were jailed for their alleged involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moise, Mr Henry’s predecessor.

Colombian inmates open a gate inside the prison. Pic: AP
Colombian inmates open a gate inside the prison. Pic: AP

A police officer takes aim amid clashes. Pic: AP
A police officer takes aim amid clashes. Pic: AP

“Please, please help us,” one of the men, Francisco Uribe, said in the message widely shared on social media. “They are massacring people indiscriminately inside the cells.”

On Sunday, Mr Uribe told journalists who walked into the normally highly guarded facility: “I didn’t flee because I’m innocent.”

Mr Cherizier had warned locals earlier this week to keep children from going to school to “avoid collateral damages” as violence surged while the prime minister sought support abroad.

Read more:
Women and children rescued after gang surrounds Haiti hospital
Haitian president’s assassination: Businessman gets life in prison

Nearly 15,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in recent days, according to the UN International Organisation for Migration.

Prime Minister Henry, who came to power in 2021 after Mr Moise’s assassination, had previously pledged to step down by early February.

He later said security must first be re-established in order to ensure free and fair elections.

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Ferrari stolen from Formula One driver Gerhard Berger in 1995 recovered by police nearly three decades later




Ferrari stolen from Formula One driver Gerhard Berger in 1995 recovered by police nearly three decades later

A Ferrari stolen from former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger nearly three decades ago has been recovered by police.

Berger was racing in the 1995 San Marino Grand Prix held at Imola in Italy when his Ferrari F512M was stolen alongside another sports car.

Police believe the car – a revamped version of Ferrari’s iconic Testarossa – was shipped to Japan soon after it was stolen.

However, the sports car, painted in the classic Ferrari red and said to be worth around £350,000, was brought to the UK in late 2023.

Gerhard Berger's  Ferrari was stolen 28 years ago.
Pic: PA
Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari was stolen 28 years ago.
Pic: Met Police

Gerhard Berger's Ferrari was stolen 28 years ago. 
Pic: PA
Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari was stolen 28 years ago.
Pic: Met Police

It came to the attention of the Metropolitan Police in January this year, when officers received a report from the Italian car marker.

Ferrari had carried out checks on a car being bought by a US buyer via a UK broker in 2023, which revealed it was a stolen vehicle.

Gerhard Berger, Ferrari Brazilian Grand Prix 26.3.95 Please Credit: John Marsh / Action Images F1, via Reuters
Gerhard Berger, pictured in 1995. Pic: John Marsh / Action Images F1, via Reuters

PC Mike Pilbeam, who led the investigation, said: “The stolen Ferrari was missing for more than 28 years before we managed to track it down in just four days.

“Our enquiries were painstaking and included contacting authorities from around the world.

“We worked quickly with partners including the National Crime Agency, as well as Ferrari and international car dealerships, and this collaboration was instrumental in understanding the vehicle’s background and stopping it from leaving the country.”

Read more from Sky News:
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The second car remains missing.

No arrests have yet been made, but enquiries are ongoing, the force added.

Former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger attends an event to celebrate 90 years of Italian premium sports car maker Ferrari racing team at Milan's Duomo square, in Milan, Italy September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Flavio lo Scalzo
Former Formula One driver Gerhard Berger, pictured in 2019. Pic: Reuters

The Ferrari F512M was the last version of the Italian car maker’s iconic Testarossa. Around 500 were produced between 1994 and 1996.

The Testarossa itself was Ferrari’s flagship model throughout much of the 1980s, becoming synonymous with yuppies, and famously featuring in the hit crime drama, Miami Vice.

Berger, who raced for Scuderia Ferrari for much of his Formula One career, was among the famous faces who owned a Testarossa, along with the likes of Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and Elton John.

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