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One small step for man, one giant leap for billionaires, er … humankind.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson successfully flew to the edge of space on Sunday, beating competitor and ex-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by just nine days. While Branson’s flight is one of the first major steps in commercial space, don’t pack your bags yet.

Virgin Galactic hopes to launch full-revenue commercial flights in 2022. Approximately 600 reservations have already been made for prices peaking at $250,000. (Pro-tip: You can enter a sweepstakes offering two tickets to space on the same plane here.)

I’m Alex, welcome back to Your Week — an exclusive newsletter for subscribers like you. If you’re new here, hello! Last Wednesday, we officially announced USA TODAY subscriptions for our premium journalism to all of our readers.

Editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll and publisher Maribel Perez Wadsworth said it best, so I’ll repeat it here: “We are partners in this democracy. Together, we’ll hold the powerful accountable. … We are proud to tell the diverse, rich story of the USA, every day. We thank you for supporting this important work.”

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Now, the powerful journalism you came here for.

The best stories from last week

How the FBI played a role in the capture of a princess

Princess Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum was fleeing her father, the authoritarian ruler of Dubai, when her escape was thwarted in a dramatic high seas raid. How she was found remained a mystery for more than three years. Until now.

Here’s what happened: 

  • When Princess Latifa tried to escape at age 16, she was caught and tortured. Her escape attempt at age 32 came after years of planning.
  • She traveled by car out of Dubai, out of the United Arab Emirates and into neighboring Oman. From there, Princess Latifa used an inflatable dinghy to get to the U.S.-registered yacht Nostromo that was waiting for her in the Arabian Sea.
  • After 8 days at sea, the Nostromo was overtaken by Emirati and Indian commandos who bound her wrists and dragged her off the boat, according to eyewitnesses.

How did they find her? USA TODAY’s Kim Hjelmgaard and Kevin Johnson pieced together the harrowing events through witness interviews, video, audio and other data. They learned that the FBI, responding to an urgent plea from Sheikh Mohammed’s office, helped locate the princess. Read the full story here.

Stories we can’t get enough of

SCOTUS | When Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the Supreme Court last year, some predicted a diminished role for the man who had emerged in recent years as the court’s unlikely swing vote: Chief Justice John Roberts. But as one big opinion after another landed, a more nuanced picture of Roberts’ power came into focus. While the chief justice is no longer casting tie-breaking votes, his incremental approach to the court’s work appeared to once again prevail. Story by John Fritze.

OLYMPICS | Olympic athletes are famously meticulous. Their workouts are carefully structured, their diets carefully balanced — every move designed to maximize athletic potential, with nothing left to chance. Sleeping is no different. While nobody can nap their way to an Olympic medal, sleep has become an important frontier for elite athletes – an opportunity to both rest their minds and rebuild their bodies. And the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee treats it as such. Story by Tom Schad.

TRAVEL | Friction between visitors and locals is nothing new in overcrowded tourism hot spots like Maui, Hawaii. But the rapid rebound in travel combined with lingering COVID-19 restrictions and high post-pandemic expectations of residents and tourists have exacerbated the situation. “We get cussed at every day,” said Ute Viole, a ranger at Wailele Farm. Story by Dawn Gilbertson.

Feel free to respond to this email, or you can reach me directly at alex@usatoday.com.



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