Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Virgin Galactic unveils spaceship

For space geeks like myself, Christmas has come early. Burt Rutan and Sir Richard Branson have unveiled SpaceShipTwo (the first example being christened VSS Enterprise), a six-passenger suborbital spacecraft which, assuming testing goes well, will start carrying passengers in 18 months. Three hundred people have already plunked down cash to buy or reserve a $200,000 ticket for a 2 and 1/2 hour ride that will take passengers up some 100km and include five minutes of microgravity.

COMMENT #1: Would I plunk down $200K for this? If I had the money, I would have already done it.

COMMENT #2: I'm not one of the "private enterprise is always better" ideologues, but in this case... space geeks know of the countless efforts governments have made to do something similar to what Rutan and Branson have done. In less time and with less money than it took NASA and Lockheed Martin to half-develop and then scrap their unmanned X-33, Rutan and company have delivered flight hardware. Test results will be all-important, of course, but it looks like a great leap forward has been made by people of vision. Will governments learn something from this? History doesn't give us much cause for optimism.

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