Saturday, 20 December 2008

Space Flight With Virgin Galactic

My previous post got me thinking about the possibilities of commercial space flights and space tourism. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to enter orbit for either the experience and/or to travel to the other side of the world in a fraction of the time. Well the Virgin group headed by Richard Branson could make this possible by 2012.

Initially the space craft will be limited to a six person cabin, and will only fly from California and then later from a spaceport New Mexico. The 2.5 hour space flight has caught many eyes with 65,000 people showing interest despite the $200,000 price tag, but clearly there is still a long way to go before it will have benefits other than being pretty cool.

This all seems well and good but it has been met with different reactions. The biggest issue underpinning the concept is safety. Many people, including myself to an extent, would be apprehensive in taking a trip into space. Virgin Galactic’s answer is a mandatory 3 day training session at the spaceport to get used to the gravity difference and to ensure that people can make the most of the experience. This could be quite annoying for holiday makers wanting a last minute escape to Australia, but on the plus side I would imagine this training/briefing would only have to be undergone once. Medical checks on the other hand could be necessary for each take off.

So what will this do for the future of air travel? Clearly this is not affordable for the average person but if competition emerges and prices fall, space tourism would be a welcome reality to reduce lengthy flight times. I think it is a definite possibility that by 2020 we could see spacecraft which will take hundreds of passengers into orbit much like the planes of today. Virgin aims to make the possibilities of space travel available globally and are looking to build spaceports around the world. I don’t think this will spell the end for traditional long haul flights just yet because to make space trips affordable will take time and probably competition from another provider. Watch this “space”.

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