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If you have two hours and $200,000 US Dollars to spare, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, promises you the ride of a lifetime - A trip to Space!
"SpaceShip Two" and its launch pad "White Knight" are expected to be ready for test flights by this summer. If all goes well, Virgin Galactic will start regular flights to Space by late 2009 or early 2010.
SpaceShip Two, which has a capacity for six passengers, will be launched and released into the sky by White Knight. The SpaceShip Two pilot will then fire up the spaceship's rocket engine and shoot it upward to an altitude of 62 miles, which is considered the edge of Space. Once there, the pilot will activate SpaceShip Two's movable wings, which will glide it back to the earth and allow it to land safely. The total flight time is expected to be two and a half hours and will include five minutes of weightlessness (floating in the air without gravity).
While this is an expensive trip, it is a bargain compared to the current cost of flying to the International Space Station where a ten-day stay costs $20 million US Dollars (five people have done this). Not surprisingly, over 200 people have already pre-paid to be "astronauts", albeit (even if) for a short period of time.
SpaceShip Two expects to fly 500 passengers in its first year and over 50,000 over the next ten years.The cost of flying to Space is expected to go down considerably as more flights are added and other airlines - or should we say "spacelines", start to offer the same. While Virgin Galactic is the first one to make the announcement, there are three other space airline "startups" currently in the works.
We are sure that by the time our DOGO readers grow up, these flights will be very common and more affordable. Meanwhile, watch the video of the unveiling of SpaceShip Two and hear Richard Branson's vision of the future of Space Travel.