Thursday, 1 November 2012

A trip to the moon for $150 million? Bargain!

Alright, so space tourism is not exactly a new idea. In 2001, an Italian-American engineer called Dennis Tito (the dude on the right) with more money than he can spend in many many lifetimes paid $20 million for the privilege of an eight-day holiday on the International Space Station. I don’t blame him for a second – if I could do it, I totally would – but, at the moment, it is somewhat out of my price range.

But hopefully not for long. Given that by "long", I mean a couple of decades. So ... hopefully not in the semi-distant future.

Starting in 2013, Virgin Galactic, as well as three other companies arranging similar ventures, will be taking paying passengers to the very edge of space that are arranging. But Virgin Galactic offers the swankiest deal for your money. The lowest price is $95,000, so it is still some time before I can afford it, but it is predicted that it will be a hell of a lot cheaper as it becomes a more common pastime. Over nine hundred people – including Ashton Kutcher – have already reserved seats on the space flights. In a matter of years, flights to the moon will become commercially available at a starting price of $150 million.

I don’t even care. I want to go. I mean, how fucking awesome does this thing look?

Regulations will state that passengers have to be over eighteen years old and have to “consent to the risk”, which essentially means that they have to agree not to sue if they have any awkward side effects. I'm weird enough not to care that much if anything else unfortunate happened to me, and I'm already over eighteen, so that's all good. Customers will be offered a medical exam beforehand, but the companies will not apply height or weight restrictions, so fat people can do it too!

In all honesty, my favourite thing about the comparative lenience of the regulations is the thought that the stag parties of very rich young men could well be held - one day - in space. Or hen parties. Or birthday parties. Or anything. As long as you and all your guests are over eighteen. But, then again, who invites anyone under eighteen out anyway? At least, not without offering them a fake ID. I accept that they are probably a bit more strict about letting me in than your average shitty club.

The trips can take anywhere between 35 minutes and 2 hours, but Virgin Galactic will put you up for five days in accommodation, during which time you will have training and medical checks with your trip on the fourth day. You also get free entry – but no coverage for the cost of travel, which sort of sucks – to exclusive events between the time you buy your ticket and go on your flight. That means you can go to parties and presentations and air shows and test flights with all the big shots and astronauts and scientists, which is pretty awesome, and probably well worth a big chunk of the ticket price. Not to mention the fact that the waiting time between buying the ticket and actually going into space could stretch to as far as a few years, so depending on how much you take advantage of this you could get a hell of a lot of awesome nerd times out of it.

And then ... this:

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation reckons that flights available from spaceports in the US will offer suborbital flights in the next couple of years and orbital flights picking up shortly after. Within ten years, prices are expected to drop to below $50,000.

It’s not impossible…

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