What’s it like to go to space?

With Virgin Galactic’s successful flight today to space, we inch ever closer to true, commercial space tourism.  While it’s true that 7 people have paid their own way to orbit before, today’s wannabe space tourism providers are eyeing a much larger market, one where you and I can actually think seriously about the possibility of going to space in our lifetime.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to go to space?

The reality is, there are already several providers vying for your business, each offering a different experience.  Virgin Galactic hopes to provide a horizontal takeoff and landing in the aircraft you see below.

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SpaceShip Two mated to the mothership, WhiteKnight Two, in Mojave, CA

An approximately 90 minute experience will have you departing from Spaceport America in Las Cruces, New Mexico in the small spacecraft called SpaceShip Two, which will be mated to the mothership White Knight Two.  You’ll ascend to about 50,000 feet, at which point the spaceship will be dropped from the mothership, the rocket motor on SS2 will kick in, and you’ll ascend rapidly up to about 62 miles, the internationally recognized edge of space known as the Karmen Line.

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The view Al Shepard, first American to space, had from Freedom 7 in May of 1961.  VG astronauts will see a similar site.

At the top of the plane’s trajectory, you can get out of your seat and experience about 4 minutes of weightlessness – think about it like when you’re in an elevator and you feel momentarily lighter just before the elevator comes to a stop.  Once gravity takes hold of you again, you’ll get back in your seat and descend back towards the Spaceport and land on the same runway you took off from.

Why go to space in the first place?  In Frank White’s book, the Overview Effect, the common theme from the astronauts who have been is that the experience can be fundamentally life-changing.  The view of the Earth, the Universe, and humanity on Earth can cause a fundamental change in the way we look at our place in the Universe.

What do you think about the idea of going to space? There’s a big, empty Spaceport below just waiting to welcome you as a future astronaut.

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