Posted on Jul 24, 2012 in Find things, Travel
Is there any way that a regular person (that is, a non-astronaut) will be able to take a trip into space any time soon?
You can name every episode of Star Trek — from all of the series. You would get up at the crack of dawn so you wouldn’t miss a single shuttle launch. You dragged your family to Florida, but skipped Disney World in favor of the Kennedy Space Center. You know every word of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
In short, you’re a space buff. And while practically every kid — at some point — wants to be an astronaut when they grow up, the reality is that few of us will even be in a position to apply to NASA, let alone be selected.
Grounded. Stuck stargazing.
Or are we?
The good news is, you don’t have to be one of the lucky ones selected by NASA to ride a rocket into space. The bad news is, it’s not cheap no matter how you go about it. Here are some options for getting out of this world.
Space Adventures is the original “space tourist” company (they now prefer the term “Spaceflight Participant”), first enjoying fame by launching Dennis Tito into orbit, where he spent 7 days on the International Space Station in 2001 — who paid a cool $20 million US for the roundtrip ticket on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Since then they have launched 6 more tourists to orbit — with Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi becoming their first repeat customer, flying in both 2007 and 2009. As of their last client’s trip, the bill came to a tidy $35 million in September/October 2009.
While the sticker price may be a bit of an issue for those of us working stiffs, it’s worth noting that Space Adventures’ clients train for several hundred hours training in Russia’s Star City for their flights — so make sure you’ve got enough vacation time saved up.
While not offering a full orbital flight, Virgin Galactic is selling seats for suborbital hops to 360,000 feet aboard SpaceShip Two, where passengers will experience roughly six minutes of weightlessness during the two hour flights. Why 360,000 feet? The internationally defined boundary between earth and space is 100 km, and 360k feet works out to 109.73 km. So while you won’t make a complete circle around the earth, you absolutely will make it to space.
If you pay the full $200,000 price up front, you’ll be one of the first 500 passengers to fly — as of this writing (July 2012) there were a very limited number of these slots remaining. If you haven’t got the scratch at the moment, a $20,000 deposit secures you on the waiting list and locks you in at the $200,000 price. Of course, if you’re the generous type, you can fork over $1 million and get a reserved seat for you and 5 of your closest friends. And who knows, you might sit next to Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Katy Perry, or Brad Pitt — just a few of the notable people who have already submitted their deposits.
While Virgin Galactic refuses to set a definite date for the first flights, SpaceShip Two has completed a number of test flights at the time of this writing.
In many ways, SpaceX is blazing the trail for commercial space flight. They’ve launched a number of payloads to orbit using their own rocket systems and in May of 2012 made history when their Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to dock with the International Space Station.
While Dragon is not yet certified for human flight, they anticipate this will happen within the next three years — and will become the first truly commercial enterprise sending humans into orbit.
If you’re truly patient and don’t mind not being able to see much, taking a flight with Celestis is also an option — it’s a one-way ticket, however.
You see, they’re in the business of launching human remains into space.
You heard me.
If you remember to put this one down in your will, you can have your earthly remains shot into space for as little as $995 (as of this writing) for a flight that returns to earth, $2995 for earth orbit, $9995 for the moon, or $12500 to be flung into deep space. Your loved ones will be able to witness the launch as you are committed to the darkness of space.
You’ll be in good company if you choose this option — notable folks buried in space include Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Scotty himself James Doohan, as well as original Mercury Seven astronaut Gordon Cooper and LSD guru Timothy Leary.
So, while you can’t exactly go on Expedia and book your next space flight yet, slipping the surly bonds of earth is certainly within reach — if you have the cash. And even more affordable if you don’t mind being dead when you make the trip.
Hmm, now, how does my 401k look…? [Edit from wife: Nowhere near good enough -- sorry.]
Top photo: Richard Branson introduces Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne at the Farnborough International Airshow in 2012; Photo 2: Russian Soyuz spacecraft
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© Synchronista LLC. Format designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by WordPress