Sunday, July 11, 2021

"You're Only Supposed To Blow The Bloody Doors Off!"

Sunday saw the final of the socher-ball Euro 2020(ish) competition played at yer actual Wembley Stadium. If you missed it, we lost. Next ...
During the 1980s, in the middle of an Ashes series in which the Australian team were doing especially badly for once, the popular Australian comedian and actor Paul Hogan was appearing on a British chat show. He noted, with some amusement that the English press (particularly the tabloid end) seemed to actually enjoy English sporting defeat far more than English sporting victory, noting that if England were winning at football, cricket or rugby 'there'll be two pages of coverage, if they're losing, there'll be eight pages!' He contrasted this with the ways of the Australian popular press whom, he noted, seemed to have a much more positive spin on things. 'They basically ignore it,' he noted. 'So, they'll say, "in the test match, Australia lost. Meanwhile, in the tennis ..."' Therefore, moving swiftly on from Sunday's bitter penalty-related disappointment (how hard can it be to score from twelve yards?!), England's cricket team pulled off another impressive victory over Pakistan by fifty two runs in the second one-day international at Lord's on Saturday to clinch the three-match series with a game to spare. 
     After rain reduced the contest to forty seven overs per side, England recovered from one hundred and sixty for seven to two hundred and forty seven all out in just over forty five overs. The hosts were unchanged from an eleven that included five debutants in the first ODI two days previously after a Covid-19 outbreak had forced the quarantine of England's entire first-choice white ball squad. England then grabbed the initiative of an entertaining game by reducing Pakistan to eighty six for five with a fine new-ball spell. Fast bowler Saqib Mahmood stood out again, dismissing captain Babar Azam LBW for nineteen and Mohammad Rizwan caught behind for five, while Lewis Gregory removed opener Imam-ul-Haq with his first ball - the seventh delivery of the innings. Saud Shakeel kept the tourists in the game with fifty six from seventy seven balls, while Hassan Ali took twenty two runs from one Matt Parkinson over - including three massive sixes - to energise the vocal Pakistan supporters. But Shakeel holed out to deep square-leg off Parkinson and Gregory claimed the final wicket in the following over, Pakistan dismissed for one hundred and ninety five with thirty six balls remaining and there wasn't quite so much noise or chest beating from the green and whites. Indeed, the crowd went home. All-rounder Gregory, who took three for forty four, earlier scored forty in a crucial eighth-wicket stand of sixty nine with Brydon Carse. England had lost five wickets for forty two runs, seamer Hassan ripping through the middle order en route to figures of five for fifty one, after opener Phil Salt hit an aggressive sixty from fifty four balls and James Vince scored fifty six from fifty two. It resulted in another impressive win for this inexperienced England side, who lead the series two-nil going into the final match in Edgbaston on Tuesday. Forced to play the series without Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood et al due to a covid outbreak amongst the squad following the recent series against Sri Lanka, it will have done England much good to realise their impressive strength-in-depth in the shorter formats of the game. This was also the first cricket match in England to be allowed a capacity crowd since the start of the pandemic, althseries without ough the attendance was twenty two thousand seven hundred and four - around three-quarters full. This England success was almost as impressive as the nine-wicket win in Cardiff, given it was a more all-round performance and at times they were put under significant pressure. Asked to bat in damp conditions, Dawid Malan nicked to slip and Zak Crawley was brilliantly bowled by a Shaheen Afridi yorker, both for ducks, but Salt and Vince counter-attacked with a stand of ninety seven from eighty balls. Salt and Vince were bowled by the spin of Shakeel and Shadab Khan respectively and when captain Ben Stokes had his off stump removed by Hassan for twenty two, before John Simpson and Craig Overton quickly followed, England appeared to be in serious trouble. But they responded well. Carse and Gregory had relatively quiet debuts in Cardiff but the pair showed maturity in rotating the strike while still scoring at a decent rate and punishing any bad balls. Without their stand - the highest for the eighth wicket in an ODI at Lord's - England would likely have been well short of a winnable total. Their influence continued in the second innings when Gregory took the first wicket - Imam caught by wicketkeeper Simpson - and the last - Haris Rauf taken down the leg side. Carse ended Hassan's onslaught of thirty one from seventeen balls by having him caught at fine leg for his first international wicket and Simpson, another in his second ODI, caught the eye with a brilliant take off Parkinson. He anticipated a sweep from Faheem Ashraf and caught the left-hander off the face of the bat down the leg side. The fact the result was not completely certain even with Pakistan nine men down showed England's total was not insurmountable. Instead the loss of early wickets cost Pakistan again, as it did in Cardiff. Babar, the number one ranked ODI batter in the world, showed a flash of his brilliance in hitting three boundaries in one over including a perfect on-drive, but he was removed by a good ball from Mahmood, which nipped in and would have hit the top of middle. In contrast, opener Fakhar Zaman made a tortured ten from forty five balls before being bowled by Overton to the relief of pretty much everyone. Pakistan's bowling was improved, with Hassan the standout performer, though Rauf and Ashraf allowed Salt and Vince too many loose balls. Ben Stokes noted after the game: 'The really pleasing thing about that is the inexperienced players coming in and still continuing that mindset that we've produced over the last four or five years. The performance was fantastic.'
Mark Cavendish made history in the Tour De France as he equalled Belgian great Eddy Merckx's record of thirty four stage wins on Friday. The Deceuninck-Quick Step rider won the sprint into Carcassonne by a few inches ahead of team-mate Michael Morkov. 'It's what I dreamed of as a kid. I've worked so hard for it,' said Cavendish. Tadej Pogacar of UAE-Team Emirates remains in the leader's yellow jersey on a day that will be remembered for Cavendish's exploits, thirteen years on from his first win at the Tour. An emotional and physically drained Cavendish embraced each of his team-mates at the finish and cried out 'we've made history' as he hugged Davide Ballerini. Cavendish added: 'I'm so dead - two hundred and twenty kilometres in that heat, in that wind. I went so deep there - the boys were incredible. I can't believe it. For a lot of the day it didn't feel like it was going to happen. I was so on the limit. You saw that at the end [which was] slightly uphill. It is just like my first [win on the Tour]. It was what I dreamed of as a kid and it is what I dream of now. I have worked so hard for it.' If Cavendish can survive the mountain stages in the Pyrenees to come, he could yet eclipse the mark that Merckx, a five-time overall winner of the Tour, set in 1975. The Manx rider should have two more opportunities to take the record outright, first on stage nineteen into Libourne and then on the final day of the race on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where he has previously won a record four times. The two hunred and nineteen kilometre stage from Nimes was tagged as a day for a breakaway but Deceuninck-Quick-Step largely maintained control of the peloton with Ballerini and Morkov, arguably the world's best lead-out rider, coming to the fore late on. '[Cavendish] knew I was picking the right moment,' said Danish rider Morkov. 'He had a beautiful victory. It is only the second race I have done with him. The experience he has is extraordinary. We went into this Tour thinking, "if we could bring him to one stage victory it would be more than amazing'. Now he has taken four. He told me a couple of years ago that he needed just one Tour De France to tie to the record. Maybe he will beat it.' Simon Yates of Team Bike Exchange was forced to abandon the race following a crash in which several riders fell down a ravine.
Almost twenty four viewers watched England's historic Euro 2020(ish) victory against Denmark on Wednesday on ITV. According to overnight figures, the semi-final at Wembley brought an average audience of 23.86 million. The last five minutes of the match drew a peak audience of 25.71 million - almost five million more than the peak audience recorded during the previous Saturday's match against Ukraine. The game was the most watched non-news event since Croatia knocked England out of the 2018 World Cup at the semi-final stage. That match was watched by 24.3 million in July 2018. England's four-nil win over Ukraine attracted a peak TV audience of 20.9 million, making it the most-watched live TV event of the year up to that point. The most watched event of recent years remains the Prime Minister's May 2020 coronavirus announcement, which was seen by 27.49 million viewers across six different channels.
Meanwhile, a TV audience of a fraction under thirty one million punters watched the tense closing minutes of the Euro 2020(ish) final, overnight figures show. Ratings peaked during Sunday's calamitou penalty shootout between England and Italy at Wembley, which was broadcast on both the BBC and ITV. An average of 29.85 million watched the whole match live. Te combined figure makes it the highest TV audience since the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Whilst England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford saved two of the Azzurri's spot kicks in what was, very much, a game of two halves, Marcus Rashford hit the post with his spot-kick before Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka had theirs saved to hand Italy a, in the end, well deserved victory. 'You can cut ratings in so many different ways and audience measurement has changed over the years, but safe to say this: it is among the biggest audiences in UK broadcasting history,' said Deadline's international editor Jake Kanter. In footballing terms, the highest ratings before Sunday's figures were released came from the West Germany versus England semi-final at the World Cup in 1990, watched by twenty five million viewers across both of the main hannels. That also featured a painful penalty shootout exit for England. The official audience for Sunday's match may rise still further when those who saw it via catch-up services are taken into account. The overwhelming majority of people watched the coverage on BBC as compared to ITV - by a factor of more than four to one.

Historical discoveries could be at risk if government does not put archaeology at the heart of its new planning reforms, experts have warned. Archaeologists, academics and professional bodies have launched a campaign to ensure their work with developers remains a legal requirement. It has the backing of TV academics From The North favourite Professor Alice Roberts and Dan Snow, along with a number of MPs and peers. The government said it was 'determined to protect archaeological treasures.' One or two people even believed them. Boris Johnson first announced his proposals for reform of the planning system in England last year, with the aim of stopping local opponents blocking development in designated 'growth' zones. The Planning Bill was then confirmed in the Queen's Speech in May - with the promise of a vote in Parliament in the coming year. But there has already been disquiet on the Conservative benches over concerns it could side-line locals and lead to a 'free-for-all' for development. Archaeologists are concerned that the current rigorous assessments required by developers - laid out in law in 1990 by the then-Conservative government - are missing and they want guarantees the bill will include them, else heritage in the country could be lost. Doctor Chloe Duckworth, who presents The Great British Dig on More4, co-founded the campaign and told the BBC that without specific mention of archaeology in the Planning Bill, 'we could see some of the less conscientious developers trying to save time by avoiding this route - and that could see an absolute destruction and loss of archaeological heritage.' She added: 'If we don't have those protections in place then we actually don't know what we are going to lose. And, that is the key point really. Until you excavate and survey and look at an area in that level of detail, we can't say what archaeology might be there.' Her campaign has the backing of academic Professor Roberts, who presents the BBC's Digging For Britain. 'I have just written a book about some important burials throughout Britain and actually quite a lot of the examples are things you just wouldn't have known about, had it not been for archaeologists involved in planning developments. One recent one was the discovery of the amazing Pocklington chariot burial - an Iron Age burial in Yorkshire - that was on the site of a housing development, an amazing discovery. What having archaeology built into planning means is heritage is treated in a very careful way that we recover as much as we can before any development happens.' Historian and TV presenter Dan Snow has also joined the appeal to the government to make sure archaeological work is secured in the planning reforms. 'Planning is always going to be a compromise between the demands of the economy, homeowners, industry, towns expanding and those of us who wish to preserve the past,' he said. 'If we wipe out things of extraordinary value in order to create what we think in the short term will be more valuable, it almost certainly won't be.' He added: 'If you look at the destruction of medieval sites in the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, it would now bring in billions of pounds of tourism for example. It is a terrible mistake to destroy and disrespect your archaeology and your heritage.' The Conservative MP - and former archaeology student - Tim Loughton already has concerns about his government's planning reforms, but says he has raised this particular campaign with ministers. 'Archaeology is really important in so many aspects of our lives, it is not just slightly strange middle aged men like me wandering around with a trowel in muddy pits,' he said. 'Archaeology is all about showing people their cultural background, it is about education of our children and where they came from. It is a big employer that contributes several billion pounds to the UK economy and it is also a major contributor to cultural tourism as well.' He said the new legislation 'needs to take much greater regard to the cultural and heritage importance of some of those areas which are now vulnerable to development.' Loughton added: 'I shall be at the forefront of the queue to make sure there are amendments that improve the legislation to take account of our culture and heritage assets before they get concreted over.' Rob Lennox of the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists works with the government on legislation and supports the campaign. He said there are 'good noises' coming from Whitehall about the inclusion of archaeology, but the industry has just not had any guarantees. 'The danger is, as we get close to needing to produce a bill and have the wider discussions around the broad shape of the reforms, that archaeology gets lost between the cracks,' he said. 'We just need the message to get across to the highest levels of government that archaeology isn't just a tack onto this system, it isn't something that slows the system down.' Lennox added: 'This is fundamentally about preserving our heritage and making sure the planning system doesn't inadvertently destroy that as it tries to create the housing and infrastructure that we need.' A spokesman from the Department of Communities, Housing and Local Government - which leads of the planning reforms, said: 'We know that our archaeological treasures are irreplaceable and we are determined to protect them. Our planning reforms will build on the strong protections already in place - we will continue to work with key archaeological bodies as we develop detailed proposals for the Planning Bill.'
The United Kingdom's longest ancient monument has been damaged by 'centuries of gradual benign neglect,' says an association fighting to preserve it. A fund has started to help preserve the Eighth Century Offa's Dyke earthwork. Offa's Dyke has 'a lot of catching up to do' compared with other monuments of historic importance like Hadrian's Wall and Stonehenge, according to its association chairman. Dave McGlade said the one hundred and seventy seven mile monument on the Wales-England border is a 'sensitive archaeological landscape. It is also a scheduled monument, protected by statute law and deserves to be treated with the utmost respect,' added the Offa's Dyke Association chairman. The association has said because the scheduled monument exists largely within private land, it has fallen to landowners and local communities to keep it maintained. It said in consultation with Welsh historic environment body Cadw, the National Trail unit and Historic England, the Offa's Dyke Rescue Fund would seek to purchase parts of the monument considered to be under threat. A 2017 survey showed just 8.7 per cent of Offa's Dyke was in a 'favourable condition' and artist Dan Llewelyn Hall has been commissioned for an exhibition celebrating fifty years of the Offa's Dyke Path. He said while it is a 'modest little bump in the landscape,' it is 'hugely important to our identity of Wales,' such as in preserving the language and culture. 'It embodies a border culture between England and Wales and goes beyond that but it encases communities across the border that want to preserve it,' said Hall, from Llanfyllin in Powys. 'For a lot of people the path can seem irrelevant or inconvenient to maintain as it runs through a lot of private land and farm yard but once you lose that significance you never retrieve it.' Offa's Dyke is named after Offa - the king of the Mercians, a warrior tribe from central England, from AD 747 to 796. He ordered it to be constructed in the Eighth Century, probably to divide his kingdom from rival kingdoms in what is now Wales, according to National Trails. The work required thousands of men shovelling mud from one place to another. Which must've been quite a sight. The earth bank in places still stands to a height of twelve feet and sixty feet wide. The one hundred and seventy seven-mile National Trail opened in the summer of 1971 and links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow with the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea. According to Visit Wales, fell-runners take an average of five days to complete it while hikers take twelve days. It passes through eight different counties and crosses the border between England and Wales more than twenty times. It links three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty - the Wye Valley, the Shropshire Hills and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley. The exhibition Walking With Offa will bring together art, poems and music celebrating fifty years of the path and will run through from Saturday until October, at Offa's Dyke Association and Centre in Knighton. Hall said it was a way to persevere and shed light on the 'monument of fragile existence that hasn't really been explored or given so much limelight,' with the fund emerging after he and the association 'realised it needed attention. We are hoping we can press upon people the importance of the monument and hope people will engage with it and absorb the sites and love it,' he said. The Offa's Dyke Path's national trail officer Rob Dingle said the monument is important for the local economy as it attracts walkers from all over the world. 'They call it the breathtaking borderlands,' he said. 'The trail itself brings walkers from all around the world to enjoy our landscapes and when they are here they are staying in Airbnb's, drinking in our pubs and spending in our shops so that money coming into the rural economy is huge.' He said because of the Covid pandemic, getting people to walk the trail and enjoy the area was 'hugely important.'
Media regulator Ofcom - a politically-appointed quango, elected by no one - received a huge number in complaints over the last year, the highest since it started in 2002. The UK broadcasting watchdog received one hundred and forty two thousand six hundred and sixty whinges between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, a four hundred and ten per cent rise in whinges on the previous twelve months' total. Odious oily and hateful twat Piers Morgan's comments on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's Oprah Winfrey TV interview on Good Morning Britain in March drew a record fifty four thousand plus complaints. And, very satisfyingly, the old tin-tack for Odious oily twat Morgan his very self. So, you know, out of all this did, at least, come some good. Morgan accounts for three more of the ten most-complained about TV broadcasts. The other instances relate to two Good Morning Britain interviews with social care minister Helen Whately and a third with Home Office minister Victoria Atkin. Morgan chose to leave Good Morning Britain in March rather than retract his criticisms of the Duchess of Sussex and get his arse kicked into the gutter along with all the other turds by ITV. Diversity's Black Lives Matter-inspired dance routine on Britain's Got Toilets in September prompted just over twenty five thousand complaints. From racist scumbags. Ofcom did not launch a formal investigation into the routine, which went on to win the Must-See Moment award at this year's TV BAFTAs. Much, one imagines, to the chagrin of racist scumbags everywhere. So, again, some good comes from the existence of Ofcom. Another two thousand five hundred and sixty five whinges were received after Alesha Dixon wore a BLM necklace while judging the ITV talent show. Again, from racist scumbags. The use of live animals during trials on I'm A Z-List Former Celebrity Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Possible (I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want) prompted eleven thousand five hundred and sixteen whinges to the media regulator. From people who haven't got anything more important or worthwhile to do with their time, seemingly. All ten of the most complained about TV broadcasts originated on ITV, though only three of them generated more than three thousand complaints. Good Morning Britain accounts for half of the ten, with Britain's Got Toilets accounting for four. Ofcom said: 'In many of the cases above, we did not find the issues warranted an investigation.' So, in other words, the whinging whinges whinged over nowt worth whinging about, essentially. Sounds about right. Ofcom added that on 'some occasions,' where they did decide a programme 'did not raise substantive issues under the code but there was significant public attention,' they published the reasons behind their decision not to investigate. According to Ofcom, the vast majority of the whinges it received during 2020-21 were about 'content that audiences found offensive.' It said there was an 'increase in the number of complaints specifically about potentially racially offensive broadcast content.' Previous research by Ofcom found 'societal norms have shifted in recent years and discriminatory behaviours and language are now more commonly perceived as unacceptable than was previously the case. We're a nation of TV lovers and it's kept us entertained and informed like never before during lockdown,' its spokesperson said. 'From time-to-time viewers see things that trouble them and that's where we come in.' Ofcom said it was 'unusual' to receive such a large volume of complaints about individual broadcasts. Albeit, this is odious oily (and, now unemployed) twat Morgan we're talking about here so, frankly, nothing should be all that surprising. The regulator said it had also received a high number of whinges relating to 'content about the pandemic.' Which proves that what this blogger has always suspected is, indeed, true; that some people will whinge about any old shit given the opportunity to do so. Almost half of the broadcasts Ofcom formally investigated - forty eight per cent - were found to be in breach of its broadcasting code.
Edinburgh-based rocket company Skyrora is issuing a challenge to find a way to retrieve the Prospero satellite. The object was the first and only UK spacecraft to be launched on a British rocket, from Australia in 1971. It is defunct now, obviously, but is still circling the globe on an elliptical orbit some one thousand kilometres up. Skyrora, who will soon start sending up rockets from Scotland, regards the satellite as an important piece of UK space heritage. The company has already recovered part of the Black Arrow vehicle which placed Prospero in orbit. That fell back to Australia in the course of the mission where it languished for decades in the Outback until the firm had it shipped home and put on display. Now, Skyrora is looking for ideas as to how best to approach and grab hold of the sixty six kilogram satellite, whose original mission was to investigate the space environment. It might not be possible to bring it all the way home through the atmosphere intact. For starters, it would need protection from the heat of re-entry, but, at the very least, just de-orbiting what is now a piece of space-junk would be a statement of Britain's commitment to the sustainable use of space. Orbits above the Earth are becoming cluttered with old hardware, which risks colliding with - and destroying - those operationally useful spacecraft which provide us with important services such as Earth observation, meteorology and telecommunications. 'This is a challenge to ourselves, to the space industry in the UK,' said Alan Thompson, Skyrora's head of government affairs. 'Ultimately, we'd love to recover Prospero and bring it all the way down, but we recognise that would be very difficult. The point here, though, is to accentuate industry principles of responsibility and sustainability,' he told the BBC News website. The company held a reception on Wednesday evening to discuss ideas. This took place at the inaugural UK Space-Comm Expo, which is being staged this week at the Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre in Hampshire. Prospero and its launch rocket, Black Arrow, represented something of a false dawn for Britain's space efforts. Even as the lipstick-shaped rocket - which looked like something designed by Gerry Anderson for Thunderbirds - climbed skyward, the government had already decided to cancel the technology development programme. The UK remains the only country to have developed a successful launch capability and then, immediately, abandon it. Half-a-century on, an indigenous capacity is being revived in the form of Skyrora, Orbex and a handful of other start-ups who wish to launch from the UK proper - not, this time, from Australia. Regulations are in the process of being signed off by government with the intention that operating licences will be open for application later this year. Skyrora is determined to pursue its activities in as green a way as possible. Although burning a carbon-based fuel, kerosene, in its rockets, this will be made from recycled plastic. It also wants the top section, or third stage, of its orbital vehicle to not only place satellites in orbit, but be capable of removing redundant spacecraft as well. It has been busy testing a 'space tug' that would do just this kind of work. 'The challenge of removing space debris and either knocking it into the atmosphere so that it burns up, or bringing it back to Earth, is one of the most important and topical challenges in space,' commented Lord Willetts, the former UK space minister. 'It would be great if British enterprise and British entrepreneurship played a role in tackling this challenge.' In order to retrieve Prospero, one would first have to locate it. Although the satellite is no longer communicating with Earth (the las contact was in 2004), its orbit is known, says Ralph Dinsley from space surveillance experts Northern Space & Security Ltd. 'It's in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, coming as close as about five hundred and twenty two kilometres and going out as far as about thirteen hundred kilometres,' he said. 'Not only is Prospero up there, but part of the rocket body that put it there is up there as well. Finding Prospero is all about applying inspiration to what we need to do for the future. There's a lot of discussion about active debris removal, a lot of discussion about the threat of the space junk apocalypse. Wouldn't be great if the UK actually took responsibility for some of that junk?'
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson has successfully reached the edge of space on board his Galactic rocket plane. Pretty cool if you can ignore the fact that The Beardy Billionaire Hippy was ascending the heavens in a craft with the word 'Virgin' plastered all over it. The UK entrepreneur flew high above New Mexico in the US in the vehicle that his company has been developing for seventeen years. The trip was, he said, the 'experience of a lifetime.' Tragically, he returned safely to Earth just over an hour after leaving the ground. 'I have dreamt [sic] of this moment since I was a kid, but honestly nothing can prepare you for the view of Earth from space," he said in a press conference following the flight. "The whole thing was just magical.' The trip also makes him the first of the new space tourism pioneers to try out their own vehicles, beating Amazon's Jeff Bezos and SpaceX's Elon Musk. So, if you ever about a single by The Sex Pistols, XTC, The Skids or Public Image Limited, this one's down to you. The businessman was accompanied on the mission by the vehicle's two pilots, Dave Mackay and Michael Masucci, and three Galactic employees - Beth Moses, Colin Bennett and Sirisha Bandla. The latter trio and Sir Richard were presented with commercial astronaut wings after the flight by former space station commander and Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield. Branson billed the flight as 'a test of the space tourism experience' he expects to begin selling to customers from next year. These are all people who want to reach a height where they can see the sky turn black and marvel at the Earth's horizon as it curves away into the distance. Such a flight should afford them about five minutes of weightlessness during which they will be allowed to float around inside Unity's cabin. It has been a long road for Sir Richard to get to this point. He first announced his intention to make 'a space plane' in 2004, with the belief he could start a commercial service by 2007. But technical difficulties, including a fatal crash during a development flight in 2014, have made the space project one of the most challenging ventures of his career. Space tourism is a sector being rekindled after a decade's hiatus and it's about to get very competitive. Throughout the 2000s, seven wealthy individuals paid to visit the International Space Station. But this adventurism, organised under the patronage of the Russian space agency, ceased in 2009. Now, new initiatives abound. As well as Branson's approach, there are projects coming from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the California tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. The Russians, too, are reprising their commercial flights to the ISS and there are even those who want to launch private space stations for people to visit. Among these is Axiom, a company started by a former NASA ISS programme manager. Musk travelled to New Mexico to support his friend Branson and following the flight Bezos sent his congratulations. There Is clearly something of an edge in the Branson-Bezos relationship, however. On Friday, the retail billionaire's Blue Origin space company had issued a tweet that took a dig at Virgin Galactic's Unity vehicle. The posting repeated a claim that anyone who flew on the rocket plane would forever have an asterisk by their name because they wouldn't reach the 'internationally recognised' altitude for where space begins - the so-called Kármán line of one hundred kilometres. Which is a little bit like saying that anyone who climbs Everest should've taken a step ladder up with them so they could get just that little bit higher. The US government has always recognised the boundary of space to be at about eighty kilometres and it awards astronaut wings to anyone who exceeds that altitude. Before Sunday, only five hundred and eighty people had ever been above this height. At least, without the use of mind-altering drugs. Unity is a sub-orbital vehicle. This means it can't achieve the velocity and altitude necessary to keep it in space to circle the globe. The vehicle is designed to give its passengers stunning views at the top of its climb and allow them a few minutes to experience weightlessness. Unity is first carried by a much bigger aeroplane to an altitude of about fifteen kilometres where it is released. A rocket motor in the back of Unity then ignites to blast the ship skyward. The maximum height achievable by Unity is roughly ninety kilometres. Passengers are allowed to unbuckle to float to a window. Unity folds its tailbooms on descent to stabilise its fall before then gliding home.