It seems like we’ve been talking about “space tourism” for ages now. One of the oldest players in the game is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic…but they still haven’t taken up any of their long list of paying customers, which includes Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, and Brad Pitt. They’re anticipating being able to begin commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo sometime in 2014. I’m guessing few of us reading these words have the disposable cash to book a flight — $250,000 for a ticket — so the above video, taken during one of SpaceShipTwo’s test flights, will either make you marvel at human ingenuity and the beauty of our homeworld…or just really jealous.
The video shows SpaceShipTwo hitchhiking beneath its carrier plane, the WhiteKnightTwo. WhiteKnight hauls SS2 to an altitude of around 16 km (52,000 ft), at which point the spacecraft detaches, kicks on the rockets, and burns all the way to the edge of space, around 100,000 km above the Earth’s surface. The video from Virgin Galactic includes both footage from cameras mounted on SS2’s exterior and from-the-ground footage courtesy of MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory.
During a period of around six minutes, the two crew members and up to six passengers will get to float about in weightlessness — with, I might add, one hell of a view out the vessel’s windows. Then the craft will begin its return to the earth’s surface, with the wing and tail sections rotating upward, “allowing the vehicle to slow its descent smoothly and stabley (sic).” All told, the round trip will take about two and a half hours.
If you are one of our Evil Billionaire readers, you can book your flight aboard the SpaceShipTwo right here. Just make sure you’re not going to have a panic attack the day of the flight — that $250,000 is non-refundable.
But let’s face it, SpaceShipTwo is small potatoes.
Almost no one Anybody can drop a couple hundred thousand clams for six lousy minutes of weightlessness. If you’re real hard-core space travel devotee, you’ve probably already applied for a one-way trip to Mars in 2023, courtesy of the Mars One project. The applicants who make the cut will not only get to leave their footprints in Martian soil, they’ll also, theoretically, become the first wave of human colonists setting up shop on our celestial neighbor. Assuming they get there. And assuming the whole thing doesn’t rapidly descend into a horrific, Lord of the Flies-style orgy of violence and desperation.
Either way, it should make good TV!