Space adventurers race to
get aboard Virgin ship - October 12,
Fueled by a desire to travel
into space, millions of starry-eyed Web surfers are
flocking to the Virgin Galactic space travel site.
Since its debut
two weeks ago, approximately 7.5 million people have
visited the Web
site of Virgin Galactic, a space travel venture
founded by British airline and entertainment magnate Sir
Richard Branson. Around 3,500 of those visitors said
they are willing to pay a deposit as soon as flights are
available, said Will Whitehorn, a Virgin spokesman.
"Demand is going extraordinarily well since our
Sept. 28 launch. We've had twice the number of people
visit our Web site than we expected," Whitehorn
said. Would-be astronauts also have
shown up at Virgin's London office with checks in hand,
he added. The cost for the two-hour flight, five minutes
of which will be spent weightless, hovering above Earth,
is approximately $190,000.
"We had about 185 people
come to our office. One of them was Trevor Beattie,
creative director for TBWA. That's one of the largest
advertising agencies in the United Kingdom. He showed up
at our office with a check, and we said we weren't
accepting checks yet," Whitehorn said.
Beattie, known for his
controversial advertising campaigns such as FCUK for
retailer French Connection in the United Kingdom, flew
to the Mojave for the second Ansari
X Prize, where he met with Branson and the team for SpaceShipOne,
which blasted into space from the desert floor.
There, the relentless Beattie
gave Branson his check for a ride on Virgin Galactic's
VSS Enterprise, once it begins flights in 2007.
Other celebrities also made flight requests while
attending the Ansari X Prize competition. Former Kiss
singer Gene Simmons expressed his desire to blast into
space, as did Star Trek actor William Shatner. Other interested parties who
filled out the online registration form and expressed a
willingness to plunk down a deposit included chief
executives, entrepreneurs and folks just looking to
fulfill a lifelong dream to travel to space, Whitehorn
said. "Seventy-eight percent of
the registrants were from the U.S., with the rest split
evenly among England, Germany, Japan and
Australia," he added. "And the gender, as far
as we could tell, was 58 percent male, which was less
skewed than I expected."
One - Scaled Composites build
The age range of interested
space travelers also was quite wide--from people in
their 20s to 60s.
Whitehorn noted that visitors
to the Web site were informed they needed to be in good
health in order to take the trip.
While details have yet to be
finalized, space tourist will undergo six days of
medical preparation, G-tolerance training, talks with
space experts and simulator training. On the actual flight day, the
Virgin Galactic aircraft will travel down a runway,
rather than a launch pad for a two-hour flight.
After the larger aircraft
reaches 10 miles above sea level, the smaller VSS
Enterprise will blast off from the mother ship, hurtling
into space at a speed faster than a bullet. Once the VSS Enterprise enters
space, the motor will idle and the weightless vessel
will float in space for five minutes before returning to
earth like a glider.
resorts in 25 years - March 1,
SAN FRANCISCO--In a
generation, outer space is going to look sort of like
Orlando, if space pioneer Burt Rutan is right.
Rutan and Intel's CEO Craig Barrett
Speaking at the Intel
Developer Forum here, Rutan said commercial space
flights that will let ordinary individuals go into outer
space will start to occur in about 12 years, with
resorts showing up in about 25 years.
So far, only 455 people have
orbited in space, said Rutan, who designed SpaceShipOne,
the craft that won
the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private space
travel. Intel CEO Craig Barrett brought
Rutan onstage during a keynote speech on the opening day
of the three-day conference.
"Twelve to 15 years from
now (commercial space trips) will be in the $30,000 to
$40,000 area to go outside the atmosphere," Rutan
said. "We're going to have orbiting resort hotels
in 25 years."
By comparison, Richard
Branson's space tourism venture, Virgin
Galactic, is charging would-be weekend astronauts
approximately $190,000 for planned two-hour flights, of
which about five minutes would be spent in weightless
A key factor in this will be
improved safety. In a few years, early space flight
companies will be able to offer the safety that 1930s
airline companies provided, which is "about 100
times safer than the U.S. and the Russians offered in
the first three decades of space travel," Rutan
re-entry is one of the aspects of
Rutan's SpaceShipOne craft that could help pave the way
toward commercial space flights. The flight of the craft
last year also could inspire a new generation of
aeronautics engineers. Howard Hughes, Werner Von Braun
and others were children when the early aeronautical
achievements took place from 1908 to 1912, Rutan noted.
Galactic Enterprise - SpaceshipOne
recently NASA and its glacial
pace took much of the romance and excitement out
of space travel, he said. "In the last 30 years, we
have bored our kids with the space program," Rutan
Galactic Enterprise - Mike Melvill test pilot