Friday, October 15, 2010

Huge space tourism expansion just months away

I think every kid that grew up in the 50's and 60's had a deep fascination with space exploration. I too wondered why the excitement of those years waned and, with the moon landing in the past, all we had were shuttles, that were little more exciting than boxcars, delivering supplies to the space station.

For many of us, these new developments are too late, but for those of you younger than myself, good old commercial ingenuity will finally be opening new vistas of exploration and excitement.

King believes the $200,000 he and other passengers pay for a seat on a Virgin Galactic spacecraft will help create a new future when "flights like this are happening every week, when lots of people go, and the cost has been massively reduced due to the economics of scale."

Prices are coming down, even before space tourism has started taking off.

Russia charges private travelers $40 million to ride on its Soyuz spacecraft and spend a few days aboard the international space station. For a much shorter journey, Virgin Galactic wants $200,000 for a flight to suborbital space. But Space Adventures advertises suborbital trips for about half that price: $102,000. King says he knows people who've taken out mortgages to buy their spacecraft tickets.

The plunging prices are opening doors to consumers who have been all but closed for half a century to everyone except "right stuff" supermen and superwomen with names like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.

Virgin Galactic plans for each traveler to undergo a three-day pre-flight launch preparation program immediately before each mission. But many who've signed up, including King, have undergone centrifuge training to experience in-flight stresses stronger than gravity, known as G-forces.

I believe in this. This is not a just a bunch of rich people going into space for fun.

"At six Gs, talking is extremely difficult," King said. "It feels like you've got a weight on your chest and your head is stuck to the back of the seat."

Virgin Galactic owner Sir Richard Branson and a virtual hall of fame of other wealthy business figures have invested much of their vast fortunes in hopes of gaining a toe hold in commercial space. Budget Suites owner Robert Bigelow, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk and's Jeff Bezos are all developing their own space hardware for traveling to -- or living in -- Earth orbit.

Working with NASA, their companies are developing space stations, spaceplanes, rockets and capsules for space travelers. Many of these systems are expected to be operating and deployed within the next five years.

A whole bunch of our major assumptions about space travel are undergoing a major shift.

"This is a big deal, and the American people should be excited about it," said Charles Miller, NASA's senior adviser for commercial space. "If you get the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and Sergey Brins of American entrepreneurs working on space travel for the American people in partnership with the U.S. government, that's a good thing, which is why it was done."

NASA's shift toward the privatization of space has been planned since the Reagan administration,

Read full CNN article here.

No comments:

Post a Comment