Top 5 Ways To Hitch A Ride Into Space
With a growing interest in space tourism, the savvy traveler must carefully consider the safest and most practical methods for launching themselves into orbit.
Space travel is easier than ever. If you find yourself yearning to explore the great beyond, here are the top five ways to get yourself a round trip ticket.
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly round trip. At NASA’s beckoning, Ed Schmidt and Mark Bundy of the Army Research lab were hired to look for alternative ways of firing projectiles into orbit. Rockets are expensive and often single use, why not launch your astronauts without all the expense and mucking about with rocket-science?
Several options were carefully weighed, including a blast wave accelerator, and several versions of an electro-magnetic rail gun. The winner, however, was SLINGATRON. A giant hypervelocity slingshot.
Slingatron would spin a projectile at increasing speeds through a spiral tube, much like a discus thrower. The projectile would be released at hyper velocity, sending cargo, capsule and all into orbit. This would significantly reduce the costs of putting a payload into orbit; to a mere few hundred dollars. Final analysis of SLINGATRON was presented by the Army Research Lab back to NASA. The idea was deemed entirely possible, expensive to facilitate, needing significant research, and extremely high risk. Oh yes, and the g-forces would be extremely high and would most likely kill human payloads.
4. The Japanese Rocket Society
In 1993 the Japanese started a formal study program to determine how to best establish a commercial service providing low earth orbit visits to fare paying passengers. The program was deemed to be profitable if 52 vehicles were launched 300 times a year with 45 passengers per flight, each at the cost of just 2.95 million yen. (around $30,000) The estimated wait time is 10 years and a 1.4 trillion japanese yen investment for the program to get off the ground. The Japanese government has released all findings in full, an avalanche of research phases, findings, estimates, and prognostics, with no set release date. Makes us miss the simplicity of SLINGATRON.
3. Hitch a Ride of Aboard a Russian Soyuz TMA-01M Rocket.
Like the one that launched just days ago carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one US astronaut, keeping with the new US trend of buying a seat aboard Russian rockets as their primary means of getting to the International Space Station. Two other space tourists have made the trip; U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito and South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth both paid their way aboard a Russian Soyuz Spacecraft. The technology may not be NASA Shuttle Discovery quality, but right now, its seemingly the only show in town.
Former child star Lance Bass also hoped to fly abroad the Russian rocket to the International Space Station, gathering sponsors and donating millions of his own money. Unfortunately for Bass, he was replaced at the last minute by a cargo container.
2. Be Elon Musk
Real life inspiration for Tony Stark of “Iron Man” fame, Musk is the real deal. Musk at 38, is incredibly rich, the designer of the Falcon 9 booster, as well as the largest provider of solar power systems to the US, and designer of the Tesla supercar. After his undergraduate degree, Musk considered three areas he wanted to get into that were “important problems”, as he said. “One was the Internet, one was clean energy, and one was space.”
Twenty four former US astronauts began a campaign to encourage NASA to use private spacecraft. At their behest, Musk founded SpaceX, envisioning a space taxi service that could carry people to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX created DragonLab, a free-flying, fully-recoverable, reusable spacecraft, and then signed the largest-ever commercial rocket deal for its Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX’s focus is low cost, reliability, and reusability.
1. Ride Virgin Galactic
Leave it to the man who kitesurfs with naked supermodels on his back to make space travel sexy. Sir Richard Branson founded yet another company under his steadfast flagship, Virgin Galactic.
The first landing of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo-class vehicle occurred October 10th, 2010 at Mojave Air and Space Port. The test flight was a wild success, allowing VSS Enterprise to detach from the Eve mothership at an altitude of 45,000 ft (13,720m) and glide to a perfect landing.
Overall, the Eve has now flown 40 times since completing its maiden flight in December 2008. The mothership has flown with the Enterprise attached to the mid-point of its arched wings on four flight tests.
First flights into space will begin in late 2011. More than 300 depositors bought tickets for the 2 1/2 hour ride into space. Virgin has unveiled a vision for offering suborbital space trips for thousands of passengers using a fleet of hundreds of SpaceShipTwos and a dozen motherships, all operating out of Virgin Galactic’s new SpacePort America, which will be having a runway dedication ceremony this Oct 22.
On the initial $200,000 price per flight, Branson notes:
Within five years of launching, we hope that price will come down dramatically. We accept that $200,000, even though the dollar is not worth much anymore, is still too expensive for the majority of people.
By comparison, a trans-Atlantic flight in 1939 between New York and England cost the equivalent of $47,000 in today’s dollars, and that was only one-way.
Bookings on the first Virgin Galactic Flights can be made here: www.virgingalactic.com/booking/
Space, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…’
Are you on the waiting list for Virgin Galactic or perhaps flown one of the other methods mentioned here? Let us know in our Facebook Whisper section below.