Richard Branson – the world’s most eccentric billionaire – has had a number of noteworthy pursuits over the years such as the purchase of exotic islands, film cameo’s, knighthood and numerous world record attempts. His latest pursuit however, is focused on opening up the wonders of space to the average tourist (albeit, the incredibly wealthy average tourist). Space tourism is not an original concept with wealthy American businessman Dennis Tito paying a casual $US 20 million to hitch a ride to the final frontier in a Russian Soyuz craft in 2001. It is apparent that since 2001, no economies of scale have been achieved as the most recent tourist trip to space cost $US 40 million. Virgin Galactic aims to change all that by charging a much more reasonable fee of $US 250,000 (don’t worry the deposit is refundable). Already the bookings have been flowing in with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Paris Hilton, Stephen Hawkings (not sure how that will go in zero gravity) and Tom Hanks securing their window seats.
The experience itself will involve the slightly unimaginatively named SpaceShipTwo (also named VSS Enterprise) being taken to 50,000 ft by the WhiteKnightTwo craft which bears resemblance to a catamaran style vessel (see photo below).
Once this altitude is reached SpaceShipTwo is released and its independent rocket booster ignites and carries the spacecraft into space. The rocket booster propels the craft to 3000mph which is four times the speed of sound. Upon exiting the atmosphere the passengers are to be treated to time in zero gravity and presumably breathtaking views of the earth. I am unsure whether in-flight refreshments are offered at this point but for $US 250,000 I would be expecting more than some peanuts. Once the space portion of the experience is over, the flight then begins its unpowered descent back to earth.
Check out the video below which demonstrates the separation of SpaceShipTwo from WhiteKnightTwo and the firing of the rocket booster propelling the craft into space.
The first flight is predicted to take off December 25th of this year. Richard Branson in his true eccentric style even hinted that he may dress up as Santa Claus for the occasion. You can take a look at the website (and make your booking if you are keen) using the following link. If anyone who reads TSW actually has the means to purchase a ticket – please take some photos for us.
Author: David Henderson @davehenderson90