As 2013 closes Virgin Galactic has just recently tested re-entry of their VSS Enterprise, originally known as SpaceShipTwo spacecraft at a maximum altitude of 46,000 feet above the ground. This has been Richard Branson’s lifelong dream which is to commercialize space or otherwise known as to make space flights more affordable for ordinary people to venture out there and see the stars, planets, nebulas, comets and asteroids with their own naked eyes. The second test (yes there had been two re-entry tests already) was a success and if you can recall the SpaceShipOne took to the skies just over 2 weeks ago at the New Mexico facility.
Is it for Profits or for Science?
At $250,000 per flight it is by far the cheapest way to get to space or I should say low Earth orbit is the technical term for it. The Russians charge $20 million to take a 2-week vacation in their Soyuz space craft with their own version of space tourism; however, that program ended in 2009 and they will require you to go through cosmonaut training before strapping yourself with a couple of billion tons of rocket fuel.
Personally, I think a $250,000 ride to space is still far from our reach, I mean we who are the middle class folks. But one has to ask is this done for profits or science? It really depends who you will direct that question to because for Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson he simply wants to offer you the adventure of a lifetime and make a profit from it. If you’re like me; however, you would probably do it for the adventure and the science. Well, in any case it makes everyone happy!
Space Tourism Kicks in Next Year
To date there are already 640 customers who have secured flight reservations for The Spaceship Company (TSC) which is basically Branson’s version of NASA; however, no official word yet from Virgin Galactic as to when the first commercial space flight will take place. But the company is certain that it will start anytime in 2014. His Mojave Spaceport which was completed back in 2004 has an out-of-this-world sci-fi setting to it that will make even ordinary spectators excited about this development in the history of space flight. No doubt thousands of people will gather there next year for VSS Enterprise’s historic first space flight ferrying people to space – even just for 6 minutes in orbit.
What is the Future of Space Tourism?
Well, while we are light years away from visiting other planets (literally), according to NASA, the Canadian, European, Russian space agencies and other experts; space shuttles might ferry more people and cargo into space, the International Space Station (ISS) or even to the Moon! Assuming of course the Chinese will not claim it first like it has done with so many islands here in South East Asia already, but that’s another issue. Still experts do not rule out that with the vast resources and wealth of corporations like Virgin Galactic they may beat government funded space agencies in colonizing other planets in the distant future.