After such a crummy year, we all deserve a break. Perhaps, a vacation to the dazzling white-walled Santorini or the idyllic, sun-streaked views at St. Lucia’s volcanic peaks? But have you ever considered going away to the star-speckled depths of space? Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Total Recall during lockdown! Space travel has long been a wonder since humanity first set steps on the moon. Songs, books and movies have been made in homage. If you’ve ever wondered too, this is a guide on how to get a first-class ticket into space.
How Did It All Start?
We’ve all heard of Virgin, right? Virgin Mobile, Virgin Hotels, Virgin Active… Now, there’s Virgin Galactic. Esteemed entrepreneur, Richard Branson, established the Virgin offshoot in 2004 with an aim to provide commercial space tourism. Shortly after, the American space-flight company licensed the technology of the SpaceShipOne, created by the aerospace engineer, Elbert Rutan.
Burt had committed himself to aircraft research since 1982 and the SpaceShipOne was a product of this. Following significant financial backing from billionaire and Microsoft Corporation co-founder, Paul Allen, the engineer’s craft recorded a civilian altitude of 40 miles in May 2004. Under six months later, he won the Ansari X Prize by sending the SpaceShipOne into suborbital flight – 62 miles above Earth – twice in two weeks!
Who Are The Space Race Big Players?
Fast-forward to today and Virgin Galactic have received their licenses for space launches from the Federal Aviation Administration and are set to launch from the New Mexico Spaceport in Upham. In addition to successfully establishing transport via Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Hot Air Balloons and Virgin Orbit; the multinational conglomerate will soon be adding space flights to its long roster.
Yes, soon. Virgin Galactic are yet to launch their first commercial flight, but the hype is real. The commercial spaceline has already sold 600 pre-released tickets to celebrities, scientists and other wealthy clients; raising over $80 million in deposits. Despite this, Virgin Galactic has maintained that its mission is to make flights affordable.
What Does It Cost To Get Into Space?
Yeah, right! Tell that to 61-year-old business school professor, Ketty Maisonrouge, who forked out $250,000 (or £190,500) for 90-minutes beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Not that she minded! Her childhood obsession started in July 1969 with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon and has since leapt at the opportunity to fulfil that dream. Zero-gravity training and Under Armour suits were included to sweeten the deal.
In the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty cheap for the world’s one percent. I say ‘cheap’ but hear me out. Renting a yacht for a week is $500,000; purchasing a private island starts at $230,000, and staying in a presidential hotel suite is $240,000 for just three nights. I guess space travel is a more creative way to spend your wealth. You can get creative too by signing up for Virgin Galactic’s next round of flights.
What Is Elon Musk’s Involvement?
On the opposite end of the spectrum is SpaceX. The space-transportation company, owned by Elon Musk, has had a booming 2020. I’m sure by now, we’re all familiar with the billionaire and his antics. DogeCoin, ElonGate and X Æ A-12 to name a few (no pun intended). Above all is his success with Tesla, where he has revolutionised the automotive industry and SpaceX is expected to replicate a similar feat.
Elon Musk officially founded SpaceX in 2002, despite his ambitions being made apparent in 2001, when he conceptualised the “Mars Oasis” project. The idea was to land a miniature greenhouse with dehydrated gel onto Mars to grow plants on Martian soil. As a result, this would be the furthest that life had ever travelled from Earth. So dramatic yet so Elon! The premise was to capture the public interest in space travel, which would in turn increase the funding to NASA.
The International Space Station
Since then, SpaceX has become the first private company to launch a crewed spacecraft into space, then return into Earth’s orbit. In addition to this, in 2020, they became the first private company to launch a crewed spacecraft and dock it at the International Space Station. These achievements have laid the perfect foundation for SpaceX to be used as the official vessel for space tourism to the ISS; where a one night stay is $35,000. Now let’s include travel and amenities!
Third-party companies such as Bigelow Space Operation from Las Vegas, Nevada, have already reserved sixteen seats on four SpaceX flights. Tickets for a safe passage to and from plus an all-inclusive two-month stay will set you back an eye-watering $52 million.
What To Expect On Your Trip
Here’s what to expect: Despite the fact that ISS is the largest object to ever be hurled into space, it will be a pretty cosy stay – literally. It’s estimated that the interior space is equivalent to a Boeing 747, so there won’t be room for a king-sized bed. In fact, you’ll be ‘resting your head’ on a sleeping bag that is strapped to the wall. In low-gravity, mattresses, pillows and duvets are redundant.
At the all-inclusive buffet, rehydrated foods will be served as the entre. Fancy! At least you can snack on crisps, brownies and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in between meals. Once all your food is digested and you’re in dire need for a number two, you’ll be able to rely on a vacuum-funnel toilet. In short, it’s a glorified portaloo. American astronaut, Peggy Whitson, compares her time in space to a camping trip. For that price, I guess we can call it glamping. Unfortunately, tickets and sign-up are currently unavailable.
Not to fear! If like me, you haven’t got $52 million to spare (pathetic, I know), then there’s the option to take a free trip to Mars. But there’s a catch – of course. Two words: indentured servitude. In an interview given to Business Insider, Musk predicts that human life will “dramatically improve if we’re a multi-planet species.” As a result, he aims to relocate one million people to Mars by 2050. Loans will be made available for ordinary people; however, payment will be expected upon arrival through manual labour.
You can register your interest in the SpaceX Mars Program here. Don’t sign up all at once now!
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