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Let Space Tourism Begin in 2020

April 23, 2020

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People like me, who are born under the Aquarius sign are always looking for the next wondrous adventure. Or, said differently: Aquarians are born to update the current structure and change the rules if necessary. This is the only explanation I can give for my fascination with the future of space travel – even the idea of traveling to Mars – in the upcoming years.

We recently wrote about this subject and Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane in Mojave, California. If you missed this blog, please CLICK HERE to catch up.

 A QUICK LOOK AT RICHARD BRANSON. This year he will turn 70 and he’s still going full speed ahead. He dropped out of school in England at 16 and quickly became an entrepreneur. At 21 he opened the first British discount record store and two years later he helped form Virgin Records, which quickly became the principal label worldwide for punk and new wave.

This was just the beginning: when he was 34-years-old he became the majority backer of the airline that he renamed Virgin Atlantic Airways. In 1987 he was part of the first team to cross the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon. The Queen took notice of his astounding accomplishments and now he is known as Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson and is worth $4.1 billion. Not bad for a high school dropout who struggled with dyslexia – in fact, his life story is empowering and awe-inspiring.

SPACE TRAVEL: WHERE WE ARE IN 2020. Page 20 of this year’s January issue of Air & Space from the Smithsonian sports an arresting headline Will Space Tourists Finally Get a Ride? This is followed by a subhead that reads, Virgin Galactic Has Moved Into Its New Mexico Spaceport. Let the Flights Begin” and the name of the author, Joe Pappalardo.

IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME COMING. In October 2009 it was announced that flights would begin within two years. This was followed by years of delays and a fatal in-flight accident plus another on the ground. Then things started to gear up in May 2019 when Branson announced that the company is ready to begin flights as soon as a second SpaceShipTwo vehicle is complete.

Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnight Two resides in Spaceport America’s hangar which is in the middle of the New Mexico desert

SAFETY REMAINS A SENSITIVE SUBJECT. In 2014, the first SpaceShipTwo cracked apart during its flight – killing the co-pilot when it crashed into the Mojave Desert. Branson’s decision to ride into space may help with memories of this event. However, he says, “I certainly won’t go into space before brave test pilots feel 100% comfortable that we’ve checked every box.”

The elegantly designed lounge where the affluent prepare for departure -- and celebrate after their flight – they’ll dine out on this trip for years!

SINCE THE SPRING OF 2019 the number of staff (from California to the New Mexico facility) has tripled. Last year there were only 40 employees, but this has swelled to 120 and is expected to rise to 160 in 2021. Perhaps the most hopeful sign of progress is on the wall of the empty mission control room: there’s an Aztec pyramid of Post-It notes detailing all the public services needed to pull off this LANDMARK FUTURE EVENT. At the top of the pyramid, one note stands alone: “First Flight.”

The walkway that leads the Future Astronauts (as they are called) to their waiting vehicle is designed to look heavenly, ethereal – and very outer space

All photos courtesy of Air & Space magazine, January 2020

VIRGIN IS ALSO LOOKING AT WHAT THEY CALL “High speed point-to-point transportation.” This is basically a suborbital airline that could reach anywhere in the world in just two hours. But right now the countdown clock is ticking and the day that Virgin’s space tourism business either rises or falls is coming. The final verdict will be delivered over central New Mexico and we’re all invited – with a $250,000 ticket in hand, of course.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

1 Response

Karen Armitage
Karen Armitage

April 28, 2020

Awesome, personally I like to keep my feet on terra firma. However, wonderful to read about such a visionary and inventor.

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