In my blogs of a few weeks ago I focused on the good old days of aviation with discussions of the DC-3, the 727, and “Stews” that had fun with pilots. It is now high time to refer to High Flight, the inspiration for many pilots. “Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.” is the first line of the enduring poem written in 1941 by John Gillespie Magee. Magee was a RAF pilot and after enjoying an exhilarating flight in his Spitfire aircraft he was inspired to write his poignant poem which is now inspiring people to slip the surly bonds and get right on out there into space.
There are many players in this adventure to escape gravity and the earth’s atmosphere but the person most likely to spearhead an innovative adventure of this nature, would of course, be Sir Richard Branson. Branson is now approaching the iconic status of Howard Hughes and his civilian space program will plant him firmly in the history books. His company is aptly named Virgin Galactic and a recent photo-op media extravaganza was culminated when he christened their new facility in the New Mexico desert. The facility has the appearance of having just stepped off the set of a sci-fi space movie. For some great photos go to http://www.virgingalactic.com/
The initial launch will take the “PAX” to 70,000 feet where they can engage in a few seconds of weightlessness as the pilots push the nose forward to create a zero-G situation. They can also look out and see the curvature of the earth and looking away from earth will reveal the darker sky of the edge of space. During my F-4 Phantom days in the Air Force I would occasionally zoom the Phantom to 65,000 feet above sea level and I was able to venture to the very edge of space without becoming an astronaut or shelling out the $200,000 for this projected trip for anyone who has the financial wherewithal to cough up just short of a quarter million for a great view.
The bright side is that one only needs to pony up $20,000 to get an assigned seat for their trip out to the perimeter of our atmosphere. If you haven’t booked yet, you can do so by going to http://www.virgingalactic.com/ and getting listed for a future flight (expected to be in 2012). Or, if you prefer, you can contact your local accredited space agent. Yes, it is so! There are such entities and they are not even confined to cyberspace; they can be found in the “brick-and-mortar world.” But hurry, there are only 450 slots available and it appears that 430 have already been spoken for.
Interestingly enough, there are other options. A company called Blue Origin is pursuing civilian space travel and Space X is planning a flight to the international space station on February 7, 2012. Other commercial space travel/sub-orbital flight ventures are as follows: Rocketship Tours, Space Adventures, Armadillo Aerospace, and XCOR Aerospace. Unfortunately Mother Earth will continue to take a beating with these projects as NASA has stated that the soot extinguished from these wannabee-astronaut-excursions will result in a net increase of global temperatures. Since far too many of our politicians and their puppeteers have already nixed this concern by the scientists regarding global climate change for their own short-term profits, why not add a couple of more degrees. If your end-of-year bonus is adequate, just set aside .2 million of it for an over-the-edge carnival ride. The other option (a better one) is go to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and start contemplating the magnanimity of planet Earth.