In 2012 came the news that we space enthusiasts had all been waiting for – the announcement that commercial space tourism is expected to begin in 2016 – thanks to the world’s first commercial spaceline pioneered by Sir Richard Branson.
And, since then, around 530 future astronauts, including celebrities, have snapped up tickets for Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flights into space – stumping up cash sums in the region of $200,000 a pop.
Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are just a few of the celebrities in line to become the world’s first intergalactic tourism guinea pigs.
They’re hoping to make their space launch from WhiteKnightTwo – the carrier aircraft, which made its first flight in December 2008, for both SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne and also the largest 100-percent carbon composite carrier craft ever built – in less than three years’ time.
‘But what about the risks?’ we hear you ask.
‘Won’t Angelina mind disembarking with a swollen and puffy face because of the lack of gravity interfering with her liquid flow?’ and ‘How will Hanks and Kutcher cope with the inevitable motion sickness?’
Yes, our intrepid celebs will be the first to thoroughly review any potential health and safety implications before we mere mortals can even come close to affording a ticket.
That’s one thing to thank them for – even if we do feel insanely jealous of them swanning off into space.
By the time we common folk can jet off into the galaxy, all 442 discovered health conditions relating to space travel will be ironed out – or at least well documented and surmountable.
Anyway, enough about celebs and health risks, let’s indulge in the wonder of space and the thought that, in the not too distant future, we too will be holidaying far beyond the realms of planet Earth.
Without further ado, here are our…
Top 10 things you didn’t know about space travel
1. Spacesuits weigh around 280lbs—without the astronaut— and takes 45 minutes to put on.
2. Of the health problems associated with a lack of gravity, motion sickness and back pain are the most common. The human back is particularly vulnerable during space travel.
3. Snoopy, from the retro Peanuts comics, is the astronauts’ personal safety mascot.
4. To even be eligible to apply to train as an astronaut, candidates must have completed at least 1,000 hours flying time in a jet aircraft.
4. Explorer 1 launched on January 31, 1958 and was the first artificial satellite sent into space by the US. The satellite orbited Earth every 115 minutes and its cargo included a cosmic ray detector designed to measure the orbit’s radiation environment.
5. Each space shuttle astronaut is allocated 3.8lbs of food a day, which is individually packaged and stored for easy handling in zero gravity. Foods are precooked or processed and are either ready to eat or can be prepared just by adding water or heating. The only exceptions are fresh fruit and vegetables, which are stowed in the unrefrigerated fresh food locker – some of which must be eaten within the first two days or they’ll spoil.
6. A manned rocket reaches the moon in less time than it took a traditional stagecoach to travel the length of England.
7. America’s first space station was Skylab, which was longer than a 12-story building and contained almost 12,000 cubic feet of living space.
8. It takes six hours for a space shuttle, aboard a crawler-transporter, to make the trip from the vehicle assembly building to the launch pad preceding a mission.
9. Although it might appear to be flying backwards, the flag on a shuttle is positioned to appear as though it’s flying alongside the ship in accordance with the regulation for displaying the US flag on a national vehicle.
10. Flying American flags to space originated with the flight of the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, in 1961. Elementary students from a Cocoa Beach school bought the flag for Shepard to carry onboard; the flag was rolled up and placed between cables behind Shepard’s head inside his Freedom 7 Mercury spacecraft. Onetime NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin said, “The American flags are a patriotic symbol of our strength and solidarity and our nation’s resolve to prevail”.
Virgin Galactic vehicles at a glance:
Virgin Galactic has developed two types of vehicles, both of which were
designed by Scaled Composites. It’s now developing a third vehicle for small satellite launch.
• SpaceShipTwo (SS2) – SS2 is a reusable spaceplane designed to carry six passengers and two pilots into space. It uses much of the same technology, construction techniques, and basic design of SpaceShipOne, but is twice the size. It was unveiled in December 2009 and test flights began in March 2010. SpaceShipOne is now permanently displayed in the Milestones of Flight Gallery at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
• WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) – WK2 is the carrier aircraft for both SpaceShipTwo and LauncherOne. It is the largest 100-percent carbon composite carrier craft ever built. It made its first flight in December 2008.
• LauncherOne (L1) – L1 is an expendable launch vehicle designed to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit. It is a two stage rocket powered by liquid rocket engines, and will be air-launched from the WK2 carrier aircraft. LauncherOne was announced in July 2012, and is expected to make its first flight in 2015.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford space travel, there are a number of registered space agents throughout the world, while bookings can also be made via the Virgin Galactic website.
Pictured above is WhiteKnightTwo, christened ‘VMS Eve’ after Richard Branson’s mother, Eve, during a captive carry flight with SpaceShipTwo – known as ‘VSS Enterprise’. Photo by Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic.
Sadly, MyTravelMoney.co.uk can’t supply intergalactic currency just yet but rest assured we’re working on it. Watch this space!