Is Space Travel Closer Than We Think?
Las Cruces, N.M. officially joined the list of major space centers Monday when a newly completed terminal and hangar facility was turned over to British billionaire Richard Branson and his commercial space tourism venture, Virgin Galactic.
The company aims to launch paying customers beyond Earth’s confines from the new $209-million futuristic-looking facility, named Spaceport America.
“Today is another history-making day for Virgin Galactic,” Branson said at the event.
Virgin Galactic said it has taken about 455 reservations for the ride. The price per flight for a would-be space tourist is $200,000.
Instead of launching people directly into space with a rocket, Virgin Galactic plans to do the following: A rocket plane with six passengers will be attached to the wings of a White Knight mother ship, flown to 50,000 feet and released. The rocket plane's engine then will ignite and propel the passengers into suborbit.
The spaceship is designed to climb to the edge of space, about 60 miles above the Earth's surface. At that suborbital altitude, people experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth.
Virgin Galactic’s sleek carrier aircraft and spaceships are made by the Spaceship Co. in Mojave, where the planes are currently undergoing test flights. Branson hopes to make its first passenger flight as next year.
Branson named one of the ground terminals the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.
The gateway will house preparation facilities for company’s passengers, which it calls astronauts. There is also a mission control center and an area for friends and family.
What are your ideas on Virgin Galactic and space flight? Do you think we are actually on cusp of traveling to deep space? Exploring the Galaxy, even mastering the technology of faster than light speed? (More info and ideas on FTL in a later post)
But for now, what do you think?