Space, Ahoy! Virgin Galactic Spaceship Completes First Solo Flight
That's one more landmark in space tourism down, now that Virgin Galactic has successfully completed a free flight and landing of its commercial spaceship VSS Enterprise. The vehicle is the first of five that the company plans to build and up until now it has been hoisted into the air and brought back down by its mothership Eve. Not any more. It was released at 45,000 feet above the Mohave Desert and glided its way down for 11 minutes before making a perfect landing. You can see Virgin's Flickr gallery of the flight here.
The sky is no longer the limit" said Richard Branson, not bothering to add that you'll need to pay $200,000 to get a seat on the aircraft. We covered the industry dynamics behind sub-orbitals like the Enterprise when the ship was unveiled last year, and there are also broader forces pushing ticket costs down. Still, the 100km flights are going to be out of reach for most people for most of the foreseeable future. Plus the first 370 seats have already been reserved to the tune of $50 million total, so there's even a waiting list.
Meanwhile things are progressing on the ground. New Mexico's Spaceport, which has been open for tours but not blastoffs, is going to see its runway completed within the next few weeks. The official inauguration ceremony is currently set to go off on Friday the 22nd, just a couple weeks from now. After that it's more waiting, with the first flights set to start somewhere in 2011 or early 2012.
On the other hand, the FAA has to approve everything before the first passenger gets to go into the air. So we're either a few years away from actual space tourism, which is kind of mind-blowing to think about, or government bureaucrats will drag their feet until the sun goes nova. We're putting the odds at around 50/50.
[Photo: Virgin Galactic / Mark Greenberg / Wiki Commons]
· Virgin spaceship makes first free flight [TG Daily]
· Richard Branson [Jaunted]
· Space Travel [Jaunted]