This weekend we take a closer look at the planned Russian space hotel and their new shuttle that will replace the one we are abandoning, a proposal for a new DHS citizen database and Newark Airport delays.

Russians announce new commercial space ventures

The Russian space agency, now that the U.S. has stopped production of its space shuttle, is looking at building a space shuttle as its new entry into space travel. They are also planning an orbiting space hotel.

A hotel in orbit, lunar sightseeing flights and luxury journeys into the cosmos — all are part of Russia’s vision to ensure it is not left behind in the growing space tourism industry.

Russian firms unveiled their plans at the country’s premiere air show this week at Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, saying the race was on to build a new craft to take people into space following the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle in April.

A decade after it flew the first US millionaire to space in 2001, Energia plans a six-person shuttle which it said would offer a softer landing for the super-rich than its 40-year-old Soyuz craft. It said it hoped it would be operating by 2015.

“People paying for the most expensive ticket in the world must be comfortable, not scared,” said Vladimir Pirozhkov, who designed the model of the shuttle on show this week.

“This is just a glance at the future, but it is the ultimate transportation dream. It should be desirable.”

According to a news report in the Christian Science Monitor:

A five-day vacation package will cost under $1 million, including up to three months of specialized training, return flight aboard a Russian Soyuz or one of the commercial space planes that will soon be operational, three nights in one of the hotel’s zero-gravity cabins, and a sightseeing flight around the moon.

DHS proposed giant secret citizen database

The Department of Homeland Security is floating the idea of creating a gigantic database of American citizens that would be exempt from the requirements of the Privacy Act. That’s the scary part, not being able to know if you are on the list and not being able to get yourself off.

Homeland Security has a plan to expand its Watchlist Service by duplicating the FBI’s existing system of watchlist records and then feed that info into a massive database in which more government people would have immediate access. According to the FBI, the consolidated Terrorist Watchlist is “one of the most effective counterterrorism tools for the U.S. government.” But according to the ACLU, FBI spying on free speech is nearly at Cold War levels and that the FBI lied to the Justice Department about continuing improper surveillance of peace groups. So it’s not some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s a fact that innocent people end up on terrorist watchlists.

So now Homeland Security has proposed to exempt portions of its Use of the Terrorist Screening Database System of Records “from Privacy Act provisions because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.”

Newark — the most delayed airport in America

Forty percent of top 100 U.S. airline delays come from Newark. The problem is a combination of overscheduling, crowded airspace and air traffic bottlenecks on departing routes because of other airports’ high air traffic

Flight delays are piling up at this often-maligned New Jersey city. Of the 100 most-delayed flights over the past year, 40 come and go from Newark, a key gateway to New York City, according to data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Newark has been the worst of the worst. In 2008, the FAA imposed restrictions on airline scheduling at Newark, similar to limits placed on New York’s other two major airports, Kennedy and La Guardia. At Newark, airlines can’t schedule more than 81 “operations”—takeoffs and landings combined—per hour. But because airlines schedule to the maximum limit, any delay during the day pushes the next hour over its capacity limit, then the next and the next. There’s little ability for the airport to catch up unless airlines cancel flights, which they have been doing more often, sacrificing regional airlines and their small-jet flights for takeoff and landing slots for larger jets with more passengers.