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NASA Hires Virgin Galactic to Cover All That Space Flying Stuff

August 15, 2011 at 3:34 PM | by | ()

The United States doesn't really have a space travel program any more, inasmuch as our leaders found better and more inspirational programs to fund than ones that have astronauts literally reaching for the stars (e.g. empty rural airports in the home states of powerful Senators).

The problem is that NASA still has engineers and scientists who need to run experiments in low-gravity and no-gravity conditions, and they'd kind of like to keep doing some of those. So agency officials looked around, scratched their collective heads, and checked if there was still anyone still doing that space flight thing.

And that's the short version of how Virgin Galactic became NASA's official sub-contracter. The press release is here, and if you click through make sure you at least read the bolded quote in the middle of the release. It's the longest string of words that mean the least that you'll ever encounter.

Other than that, the substance is what you'd expect. This is the first time in history that a US agency has subcontracted its work to a commercial space flight company, and it should be mostly a win for most of the people involved. Virgin Galactic gets customers, NASA scientists get space trips, etc. Plus anything that gives commercial space flight a jumpstart is probably a win for all of us.

New Mexico's Spaceport America formally inaugurated its first runway last October and subsequently opened for tours in May. Visitors to the facility are invited to view the areas from which Virgin Galactic's suborbitals will be launched, which has to count as either the best or the very, very worst version of window shopping ever invented. You can get details on projected ticket prices from a backgrounder that we did a few months ago, but suffice to say that it's one of those "if you have to check you can't afford it" kind of situations. Unless you're a government engineer lucky enough to have suborbital flights be part of your day job.

[Photo: Akradecki / Wiki Commons]

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