Team of ex-NASA engineers to offer moon travel

Would-be space travellers that have the interest, the enthusiasm and the money, will be able to visit the moon if plans that are being formulated by a group of former NASA engineers come to fruition.

The former engineers, who between them have experience of space travel and past NASA visits to the moon, have formed The Golden Spike Company. Now they are planning to offer the opportunity to normal people who have the large sums of money to pay for their dreams. The company is promoting itself as the first private venture to plan routine exploration expeditions to the lunar surface. Former NASA science chief, Alan Stern, and Gerry Griffin, a former Apollo flight director and former director of the NASA Johnson Space Centre, have conceived the idea.

If their plans are implemented, pleasure trips to the moon could become a reality by the end of this decade. The only aspect that could deter space tourists is the high cost involved, because the estimated cost for a two-person lunar surface mission starts at $1.4bn.

Sceptics might draw some comfort from what Gerry Griffin has to say about the idea. Griffin, who also served as deputy director of the Kennedy Space Centre, said that technical know-how to explore space has grown over the years. In fact technology has become so ubiquitous that many private-sector start-ups are exploring the possibility of sending tourists to the moon. He added, ‘We’re in the midst of a historic era in commercial space flight.’

The company said that it was planning to use existing rockets and employ emerging commercial-crew technology to keep costs relatively affordable.

The company’s board of directors includes a broad range of individuals, including a ‘Star Trek’ set designer.

First Group Acquires Extension to Scot Rail Franchise

First Group, a Scotland based transport company, has been awarded an extension to operate the franchise for Scot Rail until 2015.

The earlier franchise is due to expire on November 9, 2014, and the Scottish government has now granted an extension until March 31, 2015.

The company has been operating Scot Rail since October 2004, and has reported that around 81 million passengers travel on the network every year.

The company chief executive officer, Tim O’Toole, said, ‘We are delighted that the Scottish Government has announced that the ScotRail franchise will continue until March 2015. Everyone at ScotRail has worked tirelessly to deliver excellent service and improvements for customers.

This is an exciting time for the railway in Scotland with new trains, stations and routes introduced since the start of the franchise. Our increasing number of passengers will see additional benefits up to and beyond Scotland’s important year of 2014.

Passenger numbers have reached historic highs with more than 81m people choosing to travel with ScotRail during 2011/12, representing an increase of 30 percent since the start of the franchise in 2004. We have also delivered significant improvements in punctuality and reliability which now stands at 92.3 percent compared to 83 percent when we took over the franchise.’

Scot Rail has launched its new schedule, effective from December 9, 2012, which will include more Sunday trains between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayr; faster trains on routes connecting Ayrshire and Inverclyde; a new Sunday service between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh through Shotts; more weekdays stops at Portlethen, Laurencekirk, Broughty Ferry and Invergowrie; new early-morning weekday service from Motherwell to Edinburgh, and a late evening return on the same route; and a new weekday service between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh.

easyjet to Expand Services from Belfast to Birmingham

easyJet, the UK based airline, is increasing its flights between Belfast International Airport and Birmingham, in keeping with an increase in demand.

The airline is offering a second Sunday flight from Belfast to Birmingham, which will be added to the airline schedule from March 31, 2013. The airfares for the new flights are currently on sale at, with prices commencing from £22.99 one way.

The service to Birmingham from Belfast was only launched from October 28, 2012, and around 14,000 passengers have flown on the route since then.

Ali Gayward, the airline head for Northern Ireland, said, ‘We only launched our Birmingham route in October and due to an overwhelming demand for affordable fares, we are delighted to announce the doubling of our Sunday flights. This additional frequency will see an increase from 12 to 13 flights per week.

Our aim has always been to make travel easy and affordable and we’re delighted to be able to show further commitment to Northern Ireland by responding to demand and adding the extra service.

Sunday is a strong travelling day for both business commuters and people on weekend breaks, therefore doubling our Sunday offering will give our passengers further choice in flight times at affordable prices.

Earlier this month easyJet introduced allocated seating on all Belfast flights from 27 November. This, along with our Flexi fares reinforces easyJet’s position as Belfast’s leading airline for business passengers.’

The airline had earlier announced its allocated seating initiative on all flights from November 27, 2012, and the service will be available on all new and expanded routes.

The allocated seating includes a priority boarding system against a payment of a minimum of £3 per person. Passengers that purchase Speedy Boarding will be the first to board the airplane, followed by passengers requiring special assistance and families. All other passengers will only board the aircraft after these groups have embarked.

Flybe Announces Automatic Check-In For Passengers

Flybe, a UK-based airline company, is the first UK carrier to offer an automatic check-in option to its passengers.

The facility is available for passengers booking online, and they will receive an electronic boarding pass through their smart phone or e-mail, between 36 and 15 hours preceding their flight’s departure.

This means that passengers can be confident in the knowledge that at the point of booking their flight, they have already arranged to be checked in automatically, and are on their way.

The full facility is currently being launched at nine airports in the UK; Belfast, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Jersey, London Gatwick, Manchester and Southampton, while another 17 airports will be offering automated e-mail check-in only, for travel from December 11, 2012.

Simon Lilley, the airline’s director of marketing, said, ‘This is the next step in our commitment to ‘Make flying better’, and we are delighted to have become the first airline in the UK to offer this slick time-saving benefit for our passengers.

When you book your flight on our website and choose the automatic check-in option we automatically check you in and send your electronic boarding pass to you 36 -15 hours prior to departure – we do it all for you. Plus for those that choose the SMS option, all they will simply need to show is their phone to pass through security and board the plane.

We are confident many of our passengers will take advantage of this innovative new product and enjoy it as yet another positive step Flybe has taken towards ‘Making flying better’ for our passengers at all stages of their journey with us.’

How to avoid credit card fraud when travelling

If you’re planning a winter holiday, you might decide to apply for a credit card online before going away. While it’s sure to come in useful, you must keep your new bit of plastic safe as you don’t want to become a victim of fraudulent activity. Here are some of the scams to be aware of, as well as ways to protect your bank balance abroad.

Card not present fraud

Whether you’re popping to Spain for some much-needed sunshine or are going further afield, it’s important to be aware of card not present fraud. With this type of crime, fraudsters can access your credit card details from old receipts and use them to make purchases online or over phone. As long as the retailer does not need to physically see your card to authorise the transaction, thieves can leave a large dent in your bank balance, so don’t leave any personal information lying around.

What’s more, while most banking groups will monitor your account 24-hours a day and contact you if they notice anything suspicious, you can always give them a call if you spot anything unusual. Acting quickly could stop the criminals from stealing more of your money and might make them easier to trace.

Cash machine fraud/burglary

According to The UK Cards Association, total fraud losses on UK cards totalled £185.0 million between January and June 2012, with many people having their credit cards stolen at cash machines. While you shouldn’t be afraid of taking money out of the wall, you should always report anything that you think is unusual and keep your banking details to yourself. As some machines can also be planted with devices that can skim you card details for fraudulent purposes, avoid ATMs that look like they have been tampered with. You can often check the photo or diagram on the front of the cash dispenser to see if it appears as it should.

Counterfeit fraud

While you can apply for low interest rate credit cards quickly over the internet, some fraudsters like to make their own. This is known as counterfeit fraud and involves copying the details of one card and placing them onto another via the magnetic strip. This is usually done using a special device, so don’t let your credit card out of your site at any time. If you want to buy something in a shop or pay a bill in a restaurant, ask a member of staff to bring the Chip and PIN reader to you, so they don’t have time to make a new version.

Credit cards can make life easier for any jet setter, just make sure you look after them with care.