As the age of commercial space travel barrels toward us at warp speed, you all knew that it was inevitable that something big was going to happen soon.
Many of the wire services are reporting this...a jawdropper no matter which way you slice it:
Richard Branson's space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, has announced plans to work with NASA to design its next generation of space planes. The space agency hopes one day to use the commercial planes to launch small satellites and carry out scientific research. Virgin Galactic is in the final stages of developing Space Ship Two, a spacecraft that will take paying customers to the edge of space for a price. There they will experience six minutes of weightlessness before gliding back to Earth. The first flight is scheduled to take off in 2009 from the Mojave desert in the western US.Whoa...NASA! Jeez Louise, you just don't get any more serious validation then the guys who invented space travel. And when you team up Richard Branson, Burt Rutan and the brainchildren at NASA, really awesome things can happen:
William Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic, said NASA scientists would work with his company on potential technology for Space Ship Three, including designing hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of traveling at more than five times the speed of sound. NASA also plans to buy seats on Space Ship Two for astronauts on its training program.One of the main things NASA's scientists want to find out are what the effects of space flight on people who have not had specialized training. According to NASA, only 470 people total have ever been to space, and all of those were hand-picked, extremely well-conditioned astronauts. NASA has very little data collected on the real impacts of going to space are going to be on Average Joe and Jane as they blast off for the “E” ticket ride of their lives.
I have absolutely NO DOUBT that when my future grandchildren are attending a fine university somewhere around the year 2027, jaunting off to the moon via Virgin Galactic will be where the kids will want to go for spring break.
I just wonder what the beaches might look like at Tranquility Base.