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Commercial Space Travel

Ever since the Russians successfully put the first man into space in 1961, the race to explore and colonize it has been relentless. Regularly scheduled space travel is around the corner for those who dare and have deep pockets.




Ever since the Russians successfully put the first man into space in 1961, the race to explore and colonize it has been relentless. There has been manned missions to the moon and the renowned international space station is home to many astronauts on their tour of duty.

Now we are at the threshold of commercial space travel for those who dare and have deep pockets. American engineer, Dennis Tito, took the title of being the first space tourist in 2001 when he spent eight days in orbit on the Russian Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft and the International Space Station. Space travel via the Russian spacecraft however is limited to one tourist at a time since that is not their primary function.

British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, is leading the charge with Virgin Galactic to become the first commercial manned spacecraft operator. The company plans to take tourists into space for way more than many of us can afford.

So what can space tourists expect for the $200,000 ticket? For starters, they must complete g-force and safety training prior to making their grand ascent. The first phase of flight will be an hour-long journey where they will be taken to 50,000 feet by a mothership before being released. Following that, the spacecraft will glide before being fired up for the next stage of flight which will ascend to approximately 68 miles above the Earth’s surface. The spacecraft will reach speeds of more than 3 times the speed of sound, and g-forces of 3 and a half times that experienced on Earth.

In part, this is how Virgin Galactic describes the journey: “As you hurtle through the edges of the atmosphere, the large windows show the cobalt blue sky turning to mauve and indigo and finally to black. You’re on a high; this is really happening, you’re loving it and you’re coping well. You start to relax; but in an instant your senses are back on full alert, the world contained in your spaceship has completely transformed”.

At altitude, the rocket gets turned off so that passengers can experience the silence of space, the absence of gravity which dominate their whole lives and the stunning view of Earth. After a few minutes of bliss, the journey home begins. All this may start as soon as 2011 following the rigorous flight testing regimen to ensure safety. So is this experience worth the cost? I’ll tell you when my pennies add up.

Virgin Galactic

On another front, Bigelow Aerospace is working on a commercial space station that will be used for research and development, space manufacturing and an orbital hotel for space tourism.

The domain of space travel obviously comes with great risk including collisions with space junk which is said to be around 20,000 pieces of debris. If this is any consolation, there is danger in all of human endeavor, even the act of hiding in one’s home.

What excites or concerns you about commercially exploiting this new frontier? Speak to me.


14 Responses

08.06.10

I think that would be an amazing adventure. I’ve always wanted to travel to space. Do I have any concerns? Sure the cost… 😉

08.06.10

That would be the experience of a lifetime.

Hi Wayne, you’re right – that is a heap of cash. But when you think about it people have homes that are worth more than that and I’m sure many of them would be willing to cash it in for the trip of a lifetime like this. It’s exciting buy my concern is that I would need to lose more than a few extra pounds to fit into a space suit!! HA!

08.06.10

Ileane you are funny, but maybe that would be an incentive to shed the pounds.

08.06.10

That is exciting! I think I would be too chicken to actually do it. I would also have to hide in someone’s bag since I can’t afford it, thus I would miss the view.

08.06.10

I’d love to go up there, but I do want to see safety demonstrated first. Then there is the issue of the cost of the ticket to deal with.

08.06.10

its an experience like this we get to appreciate how beautiful life is… I wonder how long it will take before I get myself $200,000

08.06.10

I suggest that you start saving those pennies from now.

08.06.10

Now Wayne, I do have many other priorities, but, the way you put it has me seriously considering getting those pennies together. Hopefully, competition will sooner rather than later reduce the costs and risks so that more persons can have this once in a lifetime (for the majority) experience.

08.06.10

Indeed competition will bring down the cost, but on another note, the experience will be worth it. So I say rearrange those priorities….lol.

08.06.10

$200.000….it’s worth it (although I don’t have that kind of money right now). It is already such a fantastic experience flying here on earth (almost spiritual)….I could only imagine what it would be like gliding in space.
I don’t know how widespread “space junk” would become with commercial space travel though…It might be a potential problem decades from now.

08.06.10

I do not think that commercial space flight of the nature discussed here would contribute to the space junk, I’m just concerned about accidentally hitting the now existing space junk.

08.06.10

I think it is neat that Virgin is offering this but i can’t see how it would be profitable and it will loose it’s luster unless the price falls.

[…] Looking back over the years though, the flying machines became bigger, faster and their range have been extended. They have been built for all kinds of military and civil operations, manned and unmanned. As I write, aircraft are even being developed to take thrill seekers into space…..thanks to Virgin Galactic. […]

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About Wayne Farley

Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, an aviation safety evangelist who once made my living working in the control tower. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from the aviation world. After writing "13 Characteristics of an air traffic controller" in 2010, it went viral and established me as an unofficial ambassador for ATC.

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