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[i]..the "paper spaceplane" seems to be the latest twist on what appears to be an increasingly common phenomenon: flying cameras to high altitudes in balloons, taking pictures of the Earth below and dark sky above, and proclaiming to have flown in, or at least taken pictures of, space.
...the problem is not with the people actually flying the balloons. These are fun projects that, for a modest investment in money (and perhaps a larger investment in time), can result in stunning photos; they're efforts that by no means should be discouraged. And many of the projects make it clear they don't consider their efforts spaceflight...
The problem is not with projects, but with the media coverage. Take a picture showing a slightly curved, blue-and-white horizon and black sky, and you must be in space, the reasoning must go...
This could be dismissed as nothing more than a minor annoyance -- yet another example of the media getting it wrong -- but for two things. One is that these simple, inexpensive amateur projects are often, if wrongly, contrasted with much more expensive space agency programs.
...the danger is that coverage like this builds up a perception of a spendthrift agency that spends hundreds of millions to provide something that ingenious amateurs do on "beer money budgets".
...the second problem with this coverage is that it may lower the bar of space too[/i] far...
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