Race is on to
Alex Tang, CEO of Space Exploration Corp. Asia spoke on Al Jazeera America on Monday. Click image to enlarge.
IT HAS LONG BEEN relegated to the realms of science fiction and fantasy, but space tourism on regularly scheduled flights is inching closer – and may be as little as one year away.
According to a report Monday on Al Jazeera America (only a four sentence summary seems to be available online in the U.S.), one of the two firms vying for big bucks customers is promising four flights a day starting next year.
Much of the research and testing on the new suborbital spacecraft is being done about 30 miles from my home – on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Mojave Desert.
States, too, are vying with incentives to lure the burgeoning spacecraft manufacturers with incentives to set up facilities within their borders.
WATCH A VIDEO OF THE FLIGHT OF SPACESHIPONE BELOW THE FOLD
REPORTING FROM HONG KONG on AJ America, Craig Leeson said recent advancements in spacecraft technology – especially in reusable rockets – mean that a trip to space may soon be had for a “mere” $100,000.
In a story headlined Space tourism industry targets Asia’s wealthy, Leeson talked with Alex Tang, CEO of Space Exploration Corp. Asia.
“The Chinese company could provide commercial flights to outer space as soon as next year,” Leeson reported.
The web site of Virgin Galactic, includes a spaceport in New Mexico being developed by Richard Branson. Click image to enlarge.
The presenter, in the introduction to Leeson’s piece, said something similar. “Two corporations – Virgin Galactic and Space Exploration Corp. – are expected to begin scheduled flights outside the earth’s atmosphere within 12 months,” he said.
The technology has already been proven. In fact, it has been nine years since Space Ship One, developed by aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan and funded by billionaire Paul Allen, became the first private manned space flight in history.
The launch took place at the Mojave Air and Space Port, close enough to my house to have been visible if the 9,000-foot tall mountains were not in the way!
Now the California Legislature, among other states, is weighing legislation to make it easier for manufacturers of the new space craft and their components to locate in the state.
In an article by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy and state Sen. Steve Knight, Guard aerospace innovators’ freedom to create in California they promote their legislation to protect the industry.
A view of SpaceShipOne on its first flight into space nine years ago. Click image to enlarge.
(Their article was also published in the Sacramento Bee on May 16.)
“The world witnessed another historic achievement above the skies of Mojave as SpaceShipTwo’s hybrid rocket motor propelled it to supersonic speeds in its first-ever flight test, marking another step closer to safe and routine access to space,” the authors say.
“Together, we represent the Antelope Valley, which has a long history in aerospace breakthroughs.
“It is the location where then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. It is where the Rutan Voyager was designed and built before successfully flying around the world without refueling. And now it is leading the way in private spaceflight with SpaceShipOne and now SpaceShipTwo.”
THE SPACE TOURISM STORY was updated three days ago by a local television station in Bakersfield, the largest city near the Mojave space port.
In California vies for new space industry, space tourism KERO, an ABC affiliate, reports:
“California is racing other states to woo new private companies planning to take people on trips to space.
The web site of Space Exploration Corporation, which is developing a reusable space tourism vehicle in the Mojave desert. Click image to enlarge.
“State legislators are debating a bill that will shield spaceship manufacturers and parts suppliers from lawsuits if someone gets killed or injured on a voyage.”
This would come on the heels of legislation enacted last year that protects space tourism companies like Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Space Exploration Corp.
“Space industry advocates expect such private ventures to be lucrative investments,” KERO reports.
Four other states already have similar laws in attempts to lure the space tourism business.
The four-sentence online item on the topic, Space tourism industry targets Asia’s wealth carries the sub-headline:
“Companies search for customers in Hong Kong willing to pay hefty price for six-minute visit to space.”
With Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceport in New Mexico well under way, and all the activity in California, there can be no doubt that a new space race is taking place.
It is a certain bet that within the lifetimes of most of us under 70 today, space tourism will turn from science fiction into science fact – for those with a wad of cash to spare.
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