Space Tourism a New Reality?
Space Tourism has been a dream of space entrepreneurs for the last forty years since astronauts Yuri Gagarin from Russia and Alan Sheppard from USA began sub orbital flights in 1961. During this decade the space travel is coming to the general public.
Photos courtesy of by Space Tourism Society
During the last quarter of 2005 the dream became closer to reality when Virgin Galactic (www.virgingalactic.com), the world’s first commercial space tourism business, announced that it will locate its world headquarters and Mission Control in New Mexico. The agreement between the State of New Mexico and Virgin Galactic calls for New Mexico to build a US$ 200 million spaceport in the southern part of the state, on 27-square miles of state land.
New Mexico’s spaceport, will offer fledgling astronauts an experience that will be truly out of this world. Virgin Galactic also plans to create a five-star destination experience in New Mexico to accommodate customers, their families, and space enthusiasts.
Funding for construction of the spaceport is expected to come from a combination of state capital outlay, federal appropriations, and a local-option gross receipts tax that will be proposed to voters of southern New Mexico counties that stand to benefit from the spaceport and the resulting job growth.
The agreement between New Mexico and Virgin says the state will build and then lease to Virgin Galactic customized hangar and training facilities, and the company will pay user fees for use of the spaceport, as is customary in the aerospace industry. Virgin Galactic will sign a 20-year lease.
Sir Richard Branson’s interest in space began when he witnessed the Apollo moon landings as a teenager. The name Virgin Galactic was first registered in March 1999 as Virgin began discussions with several fledgling private space ventures with a view to investment in the sector.
However, it was to be another three years before circumstances brought Virgin closer to SpaceShipOne and the X-Prize. Scaled Composites were in the process of constructing the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. This was an aircraft successfully piloted non-stop around the world by Steve Fossett in March 2005. Virgin saw Spaceship One under construction and forged an agreement with the visionary, Paul Allen, to license the technology should the craft successfully win the X-Prize.
A design for Spaceship Two is now in its final planning stages and construction of the commercial prototype is expected to commence in 2006 and be flying by 2008. It is expected that five Spaceship Two’s and two White Knight Two carrier aircrafts will be built, in order to allow 50,000 customers to experience personal space flight over a ten year period up to 2019. Currently, Virgin has 40,000 registrations from individuals from 120 countries.
New Mexico’s spaceport has been in the planning stages for 15 years. The spaceport, located in Sierra County, about 45 miles northeast of Las Cruces, and 25 miles southeast of Truth or Consequence is approximately 27 square miles of open, generally level, rangeland with an average elevation of 4700 feet.
ctober 4, 2004 - A team led by famous aerospace designer Burt Rutan and financed by Paul Allen won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. Their rocket powered craft, Spaceship One, flew into space 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) above the Earth twice in a two-week period to win the prize. The rules required that both flights be piloted and carry two passengers or an equivalent weight.
Photo by Samuel Coniglio
Among the main organizations that are covering the Space Tourism, Space Tourism Society (STS) founded by Mr. John Spencer in 1996 was the first
Not-for-profit society specifically focused on space tourism. STS (www.spacetourismsociety.org) is one of the key catalysts of the growing Space Tourism Movement. STS Defines Space Tourism as:
- In-Earth orbit experiences;
- Beyond Earth orbit (such as lunar and Mars) experiences;
- Earth-based simulations, tours and entertainment experiences; and Cyber space tourism experiences.
STS believes that space tourism is the most logical endeavor for private enterprise to pursue towards the goal of expanding humankind into space.
For more information on space tourism, Futron, the Aerospace and Telecom consulting company (www.futron.com) issued a report called Space Tourism Market Study covering both orbital Space travel & destination forecast for a period of 20 years that has been one of the major reference in the Space Tourism Business. The report is available at Futron’s website.
(Insert Bernardo photo and bio---pickup from January 2006 issue.)