It is no secret that the 16th richest Brit, Richard Branson of Virgin Group, has been planning to send citizens into space in his latest venture, Virgin Galactic. It was first reported in 2008, albeit a little over ambitiously, that the first flights for paying customers would be occurring in 2010. Four, almost five, years later things finally seem to be taking shape, and space may be as close as a check made out to Virgin Galactic.
Recently the newest spacecraft in the Virgin Galactic arsenal was first shown to Rachel Crane of CNN, though she was not allowed to take any pictures or video of the technological marvel. What can be said is that the SpaceShipTwo Serial Two will be 60 feet long, will include two windows for every passenger and will be spun from a space age carbon fiber alloy that will allow the spacecraft to reach speeds over Mach 3. The ship will be taking six passengers at a time 60 miles up to the edge of earth and space by the 2015.
Because the people paying to see the curvature of earth will actually be regular citizens, the second man to walk the face of the moon, Buzz Aldrin, does not think that they should be called astronauts. He pointed out that term was coined by the military for the male and female warriors that trained their bodies for years, beating out countless others, for the honor of being named on the list of potential martyrs for the cause of space exploration. It is an apt observation, because civilians that ride in jeeps, Humvees or even tanks are not referred to as soldiers. He believes that the space explorers should be referred to as “star-travelers” or “starflyers.”
Regardless of the terminology, thanks to the Virgin Group a voyage to space may be an option as soon as 2015, at least for those able to afford the $250,000 price tag. The list is already 700 people long, including names as big as Brad Pitt and his wife Angelina Jolie, professional Steve Jobs impersonator Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber. One couple, or rather ex-couple, may cause a little drama in zero gravity as Russell Brand got his ticket from ex-wife Katy Perry who then bought herself her own… before he ended their marriage via text message. There is also a bit of intrigue to the bookings, as Leonardo Dicaprio has a thus far unnamed riding mate who won the honor by bidding $1.5 million in a charity auction. It is also evident that the ship will also be handi-capable as world famous astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is also on the list of riders. Therefore, anyone with a disposable quarter million dollars can ride, although there will be quite a wait.
Virgin Galactic is making headlines in other avenues as well. The company is in the midst of a secret potential venture with Google. Google has made multiple bids on space capabilities of late, buying a number of companies in order to use small satellites to bring broadband to countries that have never before had internet. It is speculated that Google plans to use SpaceShipTwo Serial 2 to bring their satellites up to lower orbit for their global internet plan. While that may or may not be true, what is unmistakable is the fact that Virgin Galactic has brought space closer to average citizens.
By Eddie Mejia