Feature image - galactic flight

space… the Final Frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” – The opening line from “Star Trek.”

  • Soundtrack of the report
  • Theme
  • Star Trek

Last week, the VSS Enterprise (named for the Star Trek ship indeed) made its first solo flight over California. Ok, it was actually only dropped in the atmosphere by a carrier craft, the VMS Eve, and then glided down to the earth.

At this occasion, Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group, announced that it would take only 18 months until the first real suborbital flight with paying passengers would be launched by Virgin Galactic. But what is this really all about? Are people seriously going to travel as tourists into space?

Well, technically this is only a limited type of space travel, as the SpaceShipTwo craft and the VSS Entreprise are only capable of making suborbital flights. That means that the trajectory of the flight only intersects the limit of the atmosphere – established at 100 km above sea level, known as the Kármán line – for a limited amount of time before going back under this level. So you would get to space but not for a complete orbital revolution. Still, you’d be able to look down on the earth from where only a few people have and check for yourself that our planet is indeed a sphere.

Schematics
Schematics of the VSS Entreprise

To be more precise, according to Virgin Galactic data, you would spend around six minutes in space. This meaning you would also spend a period of time experiencing what many people dream of: weightlessness because of the zero-gravity. The good news is that the passenger will be allowed to release themselves from their seat. Of course, you would have to be really quick if you want to join the space mile-high club. I wonder if there are going to be toilets at all in the spaceship though? Or you could take six of your open-minded friends and organize a 6-minute fast-and-furious swinger party up there.

Spaceport concept image
Concept design of the space terminal

And did you know they are even building a spaceport in New Mexico? It’s called Spaceport America, also to be funded by Virgin Galactic. When I heard about this, I was expecting something awesome like the Mos Eisley spaceport. Well, it’s quite far from that and doesn’t really look like anything at all. Actually I’ve seen far more futuristic airports if anything. And I’m pretty sure there will be no Duty Free shop before flying to space. But wait, there will be a restaurant! It will probably be nothing like the Chalmun’s Cantina, but at least you won’t meet any dodgy aliens.

Virgin Galactic logo

Is the Virgin Galactic package sounding good to you so far? Well now you just need to go to the Virgin Galactic booking page and fill out the form. Wait, did I mention the flight costs $200,000? Yes, It’s very expensive indeed. But it’s a ticket to space, not your favourite isolated island in the Pacific!
From a personal point of view, I think it’s a huge waste of money and think it very silly to spend that much money for a short experience, however unique it may be. But that’s also what I think of people who go out and buy things like a Ferrari, a yacht or a Breitling watch. Probably because I can’t afford any of those things I guess. Or, more simply, I’m not what many would call a ‘douche bag.’ That said, if I was offered the trip, I would definitely relish in the opportunity to travel into space. But only perhaps if the spacecraft was called “X-Wing”, as I’ve never been much of a Star Trek fan.

Alex