Thursday, July 31, 2008

To infinity and back... you'll have to wait a bit more for 'beyond'

Lets just say you have USD 200k to blow on a holiday.
And lets say you can afford only a day for that holiday.
Where would you go and still be the envy (or derision) of the rich and famous/notorious?

Sir Richard Branson has the ready answer for you -- A trip to the outer-reaches of Earth on Virgin Galactic (VG)!

You'd have read them in the news by now, about the unveiling of the 'mother ship' called WhiteKnightTwo that will carry your space ship to a height of 18,000 meters (60,000 feet!). There, it will release the actual spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, where the spacecraft will then fire up her hybrid rocket engines, and continue the journey -- all the way up to 110km in the thermosphere.

110k is the distance from Port Klang to Seremban -- only this time you'd be travelling vertically, from ground zero, straight up! Oh yeah, you, your 2 pilots and your 5 other travelling companions be zipping at over 3 times the speed of sound (4200km/h)! Now that's adventure with STYLE!

Source: Wikipedia: WhiteKnightTwo, carrying SpaceShipTwo between her twin hulls

And how will your ride look like? The pictures above and below look like something straight out of Japanese sci-fi anime. But hey, this is for real! Both these planes were designed by the uber-genius of an aerospace designer, Burt Rutan, and built by his company, Scaled Composites.

Never heard of him? He was the guy who designed the first ever plane -- the Rutan Voyager -- to successfully fly around the globe non-stop, without refuelling. This is also the same guy who designed the first ever, privately-built spacecraft -- SpaceShipOne -- to make 2 successful trips to sub-orbital space within 2 weeks. He won the US 10m-dollar Ansary X-price for his efforts.

Source Wikipedia: SpaceShipTwo, something straight out of reality!

So how, interested? Sorry friends, you'll have to get in line. VG claims the first 100 seats have already been snapped up -- and paid for in full -- for flights that will be happening in the next 2 years. A further 170 clients have paid a deposit for future flights. Eventually, the price would come down to a much 'cheaper' US 20k per pax.

That's peanuts compared to the US 20 million Dennis Tito reportedly paid to be the first tourist in space. Tito is not alone in this elite club. Since then, four other space tourists have also paid hefty sums to experience life as an astronaut.

To be fair, this comparison is like comparing a ferry ride to holidaying on the QE2. The VG flight will last 2.5 hours, let you experience momentary weighlessness, before making a slow decent back to earth. In contrast, the 'real' space flight will see you zipping at 25,000 kmh, spend a few days in the international space station, and make countless orbits around earth!

Still. Going to space is going to space. And whether it costs 20k or 20 mil, not many will have that kind of bragging rights to say they were up there with the gods!

5 commented:

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't want to go on board for its maiden voyage even if I had the money. Who's to say what will happens! Doesn't sound like that much fun, just ego-boasting.

Center Parted said...

The designer, Rutan, said that the reliability of the plane is similar to those built in the 1920s. So yes, there is definitely a higher risk flying in one of these things.

The morbid would imagine this as the best way to go out -- with a bang!

Anonymous said...

space tourist eh.... i read somewhere that a certain good Doctor from Malaysia did fly to space.

Now the good Doctor is writing a book about it. May be to recoup part of the space ticket..

For USD20k, is peanuts compared to what the good Doctor paid. Sign me in man!

Anonymous said...

sorry, was that 20k or 200k? My eyes could be playing tricks on me early mornin, or the ticket is actually 20k but sold as 200k by some middleman from some RM1 company appointed by the govt to be sold dealer.

ops can't help myself there. had to take pop.

come to think of it if it was the case the ticket would be 2m instead!

Center Parted said...

Well, unfortunately the spirit of Malaysia Boleh has been distorted to a point where:
1) One is never too sure the point of achieving a supposed 'great feat'

2) One is unclear achieving the 'great feat' was done at what and who's expense