2012 the year free enterprise gets people in space

Did you know that going into space will soon be slightly simpler than buying a loaf of bread in Weimar Germany?

That’s right, all you need is to take a wheelbarrow full of cash into the offices of Virgin Galactic, or even better use a credit card with $20,000 room on it.

Sometime in the next 12 months passengers will be able to journey into the final frontier aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, heralding the true beginning of commercial space flight according to CEO Sir Richard Branson.

While the US has forsaken manned space flight in the 21st century, (not counting hitching on Soviet fireworks - Virgin Galactic will be the first to offer seats to everyday people onboard commercial spacecraft from its spaceport in the New Mexico desert.

A trifling $200,000 books you a seat onboard the 60 foot spacecraft that will take you on a suborbital trip 110 kilometres above the Earth’s surface for six full minutes of weightlessness and view the curvature of the Earth.

So far over 430 people have booked their spot on SpaceShipTwo which has a crew of two and can carry six passengers. To do so is as easy as booking online direct with the website and forking over a $20,000 deposit, followed by a three day training regime once a series of medical tests are passed.

Virgin Galactic has been working on its space tourism program for the past seven years, with the first commercial spaceport 'Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space' at Spaceport America, New Mexico launched in October 2011.

Virgin will offer tourists and science enthusiasts the chance to travel just beyond the space barrier this year. The company engineered and developed a rocket ship specifically for the purpose, and it is charging less for tickets than the tens of millions of dollars a lucky few have paid to travel aboard one of Russia's rockets to the ISS.

While still exciting, a trip aboard a Virgin Galactic spacecraft offers a different experience from a NASA's Space Shuttle or a Russian Soyuz. Virgin Galactic will take passengers on a 150-minute journey through space. Passengers will experience weightlessness for approximately five minutes, according to the company.

Aside from enabling private citizens to travel into space, Branson said that engineers would use Virgin Galactic to aid in their research, the tycoon said the company's spacecraft were built to exacting specifications, and that they were able to mitigate much of the deleterious environmental effects of NASA's Space Shuttle program.

"First of all, our space company, because our technology is brand new and not 40 years old as NASA's was, we will be able to put someone into space for less than the environmental price of an economy class ticket from London to New York and back," he said. "On top of that, we can put satellites into space for almost no carbon output because we’re launching them from 60,000 feet rather than land-based satellite launches. So we definitely will bring the carbon footprint of space travel down quite dramatically."

virgingalactic.com

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