Are You Ready For A Trip To Space?


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When Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, unveiled his commercial space airplane White Knight 2, amidst much fanfare in early 2008, he promised the world that it would be ready to take tourists to Space by late 2009 or early 2010 - and it looks as though he may actually keep his promise.

The spacecraft, has so far conducted three successful test flights, soaring higher each time. In its most recent flight, it flew for over two and a half hours at its maximum speed of 140 knots and an altitude of 18,000 feet. While it still has a few more test flights to go, the company believes it will be ready to take tourists to space by early 2010.

Powered by four of the world's fastest and most efficient engines, White Knight 2, will fly six passengers at a time to the edge of Space, an altitude of 62 miles. Once there, the pilot will activate the aircraft's movable wings, which will allow it to glide back to Earth and land safely. The total flight time of two and a half hours, will include five minutes of weightlessness.

Though the $200,000 tab per passenger is not cheap, it is a bargain compared to the current cost of flying to the International Space Station, where a ten-day stay costs $20 million USD. Not surprisingly, over 200 people have already pre-paid to be "astronauts", albeit, for a short period of time.

White Knight 2 expects to conduct four flights a day, 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 may be the first, it will certainly not be the last - for there are three other space airline "startups" currently in the works.


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