Space: The VSS Enterprise
Sunday 27 January 2008
Ever harboured dreams of floating weightless in the vast emptiness of space? Thanks to the ambitious plans of beardy entrepreneur Richard Branson, an experience once the preserve of science fiction is soon to become a standard package – albeit a pricey one.
Virgin Galactic is the British tycoon's multimillion-pound space-tourism project, and this summer will see the inaugural test-flight of the VSS Enterprise, a 60ft-long vehicle seating six passengers and two crew. The first flurry of commercial flights is scheduled to take place late next year. After three days of pre-flight training, passengers will board the £5m craft which, for the first segment of the journey, will piggyback a custom-designed jet-plane up to 50,000ft. There, it will detach from the mother ship and fire its rocket motor for a six-minute, white-knuckle ride straight up, taking the spaceship 70 miles above the Earth's surface. And yes, you will be able to use Virgin air miles to get you part of the way there.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only space-travel company. Snapping at its heels is the European aerospace giant EADS, which aims to begin flights for its hybrid jet and rocket ship in 2012. Meanwhile, Space Adventures aims to launch the first circumlunar voyage using existing Russian hardware – though the price will be an eye-watering £50m per passenger. Adam Jacques
Space flights with Virgin will be £100,000 per passenger for a two-and-a-half-hour trip, www.virgingalactic.com
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