Is Space Turning Into the Next Tourist Hot-Spot ?
Reaching space, or more appropriately orbit, has traditionally been reserved for highly trained astronauts and billionaires who also receive extensive training. However, as our technology improves, the ability for the average person to reach the heavens is becoming more feasible. Virgin Galactic may bring us one step closer to reaching this goal with their new WhiteNightTwo Aircraft.
The WhiteNightTwo is the largest all Carbon Fiber airframe ever constructed. It will serve as a ferry for a smaller craft, SpaceShipTwo, to bring it to 48,000 feet above sea level. At this altitude, the two aircrafts will separate and the smaller SpaceShipTwo will then launch into Sub-Orbital space.
The reason for such a thing is tourism. Each time the smaller craft launches into space, it will be carrying a handful of paying passengers. The price will not be cheap, some people have already paid between $20,000 and $200,000 for priority seats, but it's still a drop in a bucket compared to the $30 million that Richard Garriott dropped for the experience. While the flight will not last nearly as long, the overall feel will still be there.
The launch system is also being looked at as a cheaper way to put satellites into orbit, rather than rely on the heavy lift platforms we currently use.
The first launch is expected to happen in mid 2010.