By F. Martin
TTC Service.- Virgin Galactic CEO Sir Richard Branson said last week to entrepreneurs in Helsinki, Finland that the first space trip that his company is preparing could be possible by early 2018.
Virgin Galactic has been testing for several years the capabilities of their ship, the VSS Unity, a commercial suborbital spaceplane. Earlier in 2017 they tested the ship’s re-entry system after successfully completing a couple of solo-glide flights in 2016.
Space tourism is a dream that is getting closer and closer to fulfill.
The true success will be sending groups of tourists into space on regular trips, in a operation safe enough to avoid catastrophic trips that erase for decades the essential characteristic of “recreational” of the so called space tourism.
Branson’s company has described in advance how those trips to space around the planet Earth will be.
“SpaceShipTwo will travel at approximately three and a half times the speed of sound, propelling the vehicle and passengers to space. After the rocket motor has fired for around a minute, the pilots will safely shut it down. Having just experienced a thrilling, dynamic rocket ride, the dramatic transition to silence and to true weightlessness will be a profound moment for our astronauts as they coast upwards towards space.
The amateur astronauts will then leave their seats to experience weightlessness. The whole experience is expected to last two hours. The spacecraft is expected to carry six passengers and two pilots. Once SpaceShip Two has reentered the earth’s atmosphere, the vehicle’s wings will be returned to their normal configuration, and the spaceship will glide back to the original runway”.
The journey for tourists to the space around the planet is still only a promise. But is already within the reach of technology. However some experts see differences between the tourist interstellar short rides, and the heroic space conquest full of lives sacrifices which has gone step by step for 60 years.
The definition of space tourism is “the practice of travelling into space for recreational purposes”. According to experts, it is essential that results in these recreational space trips exclude any kind of disasters that endanger human life. Maybe thats why the preparations to start this tourist modality are slow and rigorous, perhaps looking for perfection.
A first steps have already been taken.
That has been the case of Dennis Anthony Tito an American engineer and multimillionaire, most widely known as the first space tourist to fund his own trip into space. Tito was accepted by the Russian Federal Space Agency as a candidate for a commercial spaceflight. In mid-2001, he spent nearly eight days in orbit as a crew member of ISS EP-1, a visiting mission to the International Space Station. This mission was launched by the spacecraft Soyuz TM-32, and was landed by Soyuz TM-31.
In 2013 Tito announced his intention to send a privately financed spaceflight to Mars by 2018,
an objective that even those who support his adventures consider impossible without the participation of NASA or other successful entities of space exploration backed by Russia, Europe or China.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic is on a different path than Tito’s.
Earlier in 2017 Virgin tested the ship’s re-entry system after successfully completing a couple of solo-glide flights last year.
Branson said he wants to do more than just send people into space for sightseeing. He’s looking at using Virgin Galactic’s spacecrafts for point to point travel at roughly 483 k/h (300 mph).
“My love for space is about how much it can do for people back here on Earth”, he added.