Friday, January 25, 2008
Fly me to the moon
Sir Richard Branson, founder of all things Virgin, wants to blast average Joes and Janes into space – to which I say, “Cool!” Earlier this week, this nerd’s favorite billionaire unveiled Space Ship Two, a new flying machine that will carry two pilots, six passengers and 600 mini bottles of peppermint schapps 100,000 feet into the air, providing close to five minutes of weightlessness and a chance to say you’ve “done the space travel thing.” So fare, hundreds of people have put down $30 million in deposits for the chance to be one of Space Ship Two’s first passengers.
Given my tendency to vomit in a minivan, I probably won’t be one of those people – also, I don’t have the $200,000 ticket fee – but damn if it doesn’t look fun. The design is sleek and futuristic, but actually functional. The ship works by piggybacking on a jet up into the highest regions of the Earth’s atmosphere before unlocking itself from that plane and firing its own engines, which rely on a combination of solid and liquid fuel. The original Space Ship One prototype ran on rubber and laughing gas – no foolin’ – so I imagine version two runs on wool and whippets. Or something. I’m no scientist.
Besides ushering in a new era of space tourism, experts say this style of aircraft might have other applications as well, including transporting military troops and launching small unmanned crafts and satellites into space.
Check out this article in The Economist for full details on the ship and its capabilities. And watch this video from Virgin Galactic touting the new craft. Watching it made me feel like I was living in some Stanley Kubrik movie…from the future!