Flying with the mothership

VSS Enterprise
VSS Enterprise

VSS Enterprise, aka WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo attached together, succeeded in completing its first flight. The test flight only checked out that the mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, can fly properly while carrying the spaceship, SpaceShipTwo. It did not test if SpaceShipTwo will detach properly from WhiteKnightTwo during actual flight. Neither did it test out the rocket engine on SpaceShipTwo that will blast it into space. And even if all the tests succeed without a glitch, SpaceShipTwo will only achieve suborbital flight, being unable to accelerate to a high enough speed to achieve orbit. So the news is only interesting rather than exciting.

Still, it is a great first step towards suborbital space tourism, where reaching the boundaries of space would be a very expensive dream instead of a complete pipe dream to an ordinary person like myself.

WhiteKnightTwo, the mothership

I wish I'll eventually be able to afford a trip on the WhiteKnightTwo that was recently rolled out. Even better would be a ride on the yet incomplete SpaceShipTwo, the spaceplane that will take passengers on a suborbital trip near the edge of space. It would be a blast of a ride, with exhilarating G-forces on the way up and a few minutes of free fall at the top. And the view will no doubt be breathtaking. Although I do wonder if it's feasible to take a camera up with you and take pictures. You might be enjoying free fall and the view too much to spare any attention for taking pictures!

At $20,000 a ride, the first of which will probably be in a couple of years, the price is far too steep for the average proletariat like me. At least the price includes training on the WhiteKnightTwo and the actual suborbital ride on SpaceShipTwo, and prices might actually drop to an affordable level within my lifetime. Of course, a few years after Virgin Galactic starts its suborbital flights, I'll probably also start pining for a stay at a space hotel, like the one Bigelow Aerospace is hoping to launch within the decade. It would be even more out of my price range, though, with millions of dollars required for a single stay.