Boeing buys a ticket for the new space race - Science - News - The Independent

Boeing buys a ticket for the new space race

The world's most famous plane-maker has signed a deal to send passengers into orbit by 2015

"Please ensure your spine is in the stiffened position and your fears of hurtling towards the stars are stowed for take-off. Any passengers not planning to visit the Space Station today should disembark now."

These are niceties you probably will not hear should you become one of the lucky terrestrials to land a spot in the new Boeing "space taxi" that could be blasting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida as soon as in 2015. It will be cosy in there – you, perhaps another couple of casual tourists and, hopefully, three or four professional astronauts.

Catching a cab to the constellations may sound like science fiction, but not according to Boeing. The aviation giant has entered a joint venture with Space Adventures to catapult Joe Public to the stars. Based in Virginia, Space Adventure is the outfit that has arranged already for a very few – and very rich – individuals to visit the International Space Station (ISS) by way of Russia's Soyuz spacecraft. Seven souls have taken that trip.

The Boeing announcement offers a new glimpse into a future where space routes will be commercially exploited and travellers running out of places to see on Earth will suddenly have new, rather inky horizons stretching beyond the planet. Vanishing are the days when space travel is exclusively government-run and funded and blast-off is something you only watch on television. Globe-trotting will no longer do. Prepare to space-trot.

The plan – though it hinges almost entirely on the outcome of squabbles in Washington about the future of Nasa – is for Boeing to build capsules much like the familiar Apollo ones; blunt cones, just 15 feet across, and then send them up to the space station carrying astronauts from Nasa and tourists. Space Adventures will do the marketing, persuading you and me that a week in space might make for a different sort of holiday.

The space-excursion industry already has other players, most notably the British aviation tycoon Richard Branson, the founder of \Virgin Galactic, which expects to begin test flights beyond the Earth's atmosphere, all being well, next year. The company said it welcomes Boeing joining the fray because the two will not be in direct competition.

Customers of the Virgin Galactic, which has its base in the Mojave Desert close to Los Angeles, will be paying far less for a much less involved expedition. They will essentially go up into space for three hours or so and then come back down again, all for around $200,000. If it is anything like the rides already offered on the Soyuz, those riding on the Boeing capsule will pay as much as $40m for a round-trip ticket. They will circumnavigate Earth as they rendezvous with the ISS and they will remain in space, presumably, for days at a time.

"This is not a competing product in any shape, sense or form," said Will Whitehorn, the president of Virgin Galactic, arguing that what Boeing has in mind will "be more like putting lots of Darwins on the Beagle than space tourism".

That US government policy on space exploration is in flux means opportunity and peril for the new Boeing project. The Obama White House is pushing for a new direction for Nasa, under which it would give up trying to develop new spacecraft of its own to ferry astronauts to the ISS – the current shuttle fleet has only about two more missions left before it is retired – and turn instead to commercial companies to develop them. It is into this breach that Boeing hopes to tread. Taking tourists as well as astronauts is a way towards greater viability.

Congress, however, is less convinced about Nasa sub-contracting for spacecraft and would like to see the agency do as it has done before – launch astronauts into space on its own vehicles. But for now, Boeing and Space Adventures are betting that the White House view will prevail, if only because the dollars may not be there for Nasa to continue as before. Boeing was one of seven companies chosen by Nasa earlier this year to begin looking into the commercial development of a "commercial crew" system to provide "low-cost" transportation the ISS.

Boeing is also partnering another firm that expects to build other space labs. These would essentially become orbiting hotels, giving space travellers, of the more distant future, choices of destination beyond the ISS. Eric Anderson, the chairman and founder of Space Adventures, said his company was already in contact with prospective passengers for the space taxi. He also hinted that while he cannot put a price on a ticket yet, it should be cheaper than those already sold for travel with the Russians.

"With our customer experience and Boeing's heritage in human spaceflight, our goal is not only to benefit the individuals who fly to space," he said. "[It's] also to help make the resources of space available to the commercial sector by bringing the value from space back to Earth."

The agreement with Space Adventure "creates another opportunity to jump-start the human migration to space," added Brewster Shaw, Boeing's vice president and general manager of space exploration.

Space tourism pioneers...

Dennis Tito

The US rocket scientist-turned-investment manager became the first space tourist in 2001 with a seven-day stay at the international space station. He paid an eight-figure sum that some reports put as high as $20m (£13m) for the privilege of going into space.

Yi So-yeon

A South Korean bio-engineer had a hair-raising ride back to Earth when her landing capsule failed to separate on time, sending it into a steep trajectory known as a "ballistic descent". The capsule ended up 230 miles from the landing site and Mrs Yi spoke of how she thought she was going to die.

Richard Garriott

The sixth space tourist, Richard Garriott, became the first American to follow his father into space. Owen Garriott, a US astronaut, photographed Earth from the Skylab space station in 1973 and was a veteran of numerous space flights. His son also had ambitions of joining Nasa, but owning to his poor eyesight knew that he would never be able to do so. Instead, he developed a series of fantasy computer games, becoming a multimillionaire in the process. The Texan was a board member and investor in the US-based company that organised the space flights for the other millionaires.

Guy Laliberte

The last of the seven paying space tourists that have so far made the trip to the international space station, and – as befitted the founder of the Cirque du Soleil – was the first to blast off while wearing a bulbous red clown's nose. The billionaire stilt-walker and fire-breather paid $35m for the flight, which the Canadian said was to highlight the plight of millions of people who face an uncertain future without access to clean water.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week