Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Commercial Spaceflight a Reality?

According to the London Evening Standard, it may indeed soon be a reality. Richard Branson's Virgin has unveiled a commercial spacecraft in New York today and intends to being offering commercial spaceflights within two years. According to the Standard,
More than 200 potential astronauts are believed to have already paid deposits for the £100,000 flights, including actress Victoria Principal, scientist Stephen Hawking, and Princess Beatrice.

Flights will last for two hours and will include four and a half minutes of weightlessness.

The 60ft ship is expected to reach an altitude of 110km - 68 miles - and will be launched from underneath a mother ship called White Knight.

This is fascinating. Although the duration is short and the passengers will be astronauts in name only, the idea is bold,. And in addition, although the price for these flights is still well outside the range of most people, the fact that Virgin is doing this will hopefully open the doors to even more development and perhaps lead to true commercial spaceflight.

I can recall reading many science fiction tomes as a child that posited true commercial spaceflight, and I believe that it is one of the last true frontiers for mankind to to conquer. Virgin's commercial spacecraft is not a realization of that hope, but it is a significant step in the right direction.

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