Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie take a step closer to space....

We've talked about it on numerous occasions, but it warrants a brief recap: humans are progressing to space one step at a time. You'll also notice that many of those steps are taking place weekly and sometimes even daily. A humans-in-space future with robots of all types, holographic technologies and mind-blowing medical advances is rushing at us quite quickly, and if it makes you smile even a little, it's worth noting the steady progress.

(photo: compliments of Virgin Galactic)
Today, we're talking about a subsidiary of adventurer Richard Branson's famous Virgin conglomerate. Virgin Galactic has taken a page straight out of NASA's shuttle program. Their WhiteKnightTwo (you have to love their ship names) is a large launch vehicle designed and built specifically to boost a smaller "space delivery" vehicle to 10 miles above Earth. When fully operational, the smaller ship will then break free and travel an additional 58 miles up to the edge of space.

On April 5th, 2013, the company successfully "drop tested" the smaller ship and allowed it to return on its own to the California's Mojave Air and Space Port. During the test, the company says SpaceShipTwo was able to rotate its tail up to 65-degrees from the ship's space-age composite body, increasing the drag force and helping to slow the vehicle during its return. Various components of the rocket motor system were also tested successfully.

"The flight went great," said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic's CEO. "The team executed very well throughout and brought us another important step closer to first powered flight."

For those who aren't aware, the Virgin Galactic's business model currently includes plans for sub-orbital tourist spaceflights, suborbital space science missions and full orbital launches of small satellites. The SpaceShipTwo tourist program will allow for six passengers and two crew members to fly to the uppermost reaches of our atmosphere (68 miles above Earth).

The total time from the White Knight booster's desert take off and SpaceShipTwo's landing after the sub-orbital flight will be about 2 1/2 hours. Passengers will experience weightlessness and be able to float around the cabin for 6 minutes during the apex of the trip when the view will be black space around them and blue Earth below. As of May 2012, there were around 550 ticket-holders who had paid $200,000 each. Some of the more famous people on that list include Stephen Hawking, Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie.

It's worth noting that California's Mojave Air and Space Port and industrial park is currently home to dozens of companies, many of which are engaged in flight development, advanced aerospace design and flight test and research. When we consider that there are now similar private space launching facilities in Texas, Alaska, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia and Oklahoma (which doesn't even include the various private & government facilities located in many military bases across the country) it starts to become clear that the effort to reach space has grown into a full-fledged commercial race.

Make no mistake about it, mankind is about ready to burst onto the interplanetary stage.

Will you leave Earth for even 6 minutes when the time comes? 

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  1. Hubby says, "No thank you!" But my 13 year old son says, "Definitely!!" If Brad and Angelina invite me, I am going!

    1. Ah, so she is a Hollywood fan. I, too, would probably be willing to take the trip...but signing that $200K check would be a problem. You could travel the world at a slightly lower altitude quite a few times for that kind of money :-)


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