Early Briefing: Google Founder in Space?

Google co-founder Sergey Brin, center, trains in zero gravity above Northern California. (By Steve Boxall -- Associated Press)

*Sergey Brin, the 34-year-old president of technology for Google, has put down a $5 million deposit for a seat aboard a Russian spacecraft, tourism company Space Adventures of Vienna said.

With a launch date set for 2011, Brin will join an exclusive club of the super-rich who have used their fortunes for the ultimate in adventure travel: a voyage to the final frontier. Space Adventures has sent five wealthy people into outer space since it opened its office in 1998 with $500,000 in seed investments.

*James A. Johnson, a consummate Washington insider and former Fannie Mae chief executive, resigned from Sen. Barack Obama's vice presidential search committee, just four days after he was caught up in controversy over low-interest home loans and lucrative business deals.

*Opponents of a proposed 16-story office building in downtown Bethesda have stepped up efforts to derail the project, saying Montgomery County's planning staff is withholding critical information on internal dissent from the Planning Board days before it is scheduled to consider the plans.

Supporters of the plans by the Meridian Group are urging the board to approve the project, saying that it offers a shining example of "smart growth" that meshes with the master plan for downtown Bethesda and provides a much-needed boost to the Metro station entrance and the plaza above it.

*A nearly $15 billion Amtrak bill passed the House as lawmakers rallied around an alternative for travelers saddled with soaring gas prices. The bipartisan bill, which passed by a veto-proof margin of 311 to 104, would authorize funding for the national passenger railroad over the next five years. Some of the money would go to a program of matching grants to help states set up or expand rail service.

Besides the $14.9 billion provided for Amtrak and intercity rail, an amendment to the bill would authorize $1.5 billion for Washington's Metro transit system over the next 10 years if Maryland, Virginia and the District provide matching funds. All three have pledged to do so.

*The most advanced version of Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon's costliest weapons program, made its first flight.

This milestone triggers the award of a $1.3 billion contract for the first six production models of the short-takeoff, vertical-landing aircraft, a Pentagon official said. Everything went smoothly, a Lockheed test pilot said in a release. Lockheed is in Bethesda.

By Terri Rupar  |  June 12, 2008; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Morning Brief
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