Who They Are:
A company that is part of the Virgin Group, a massive British conglomerate owned by billionaire tycoon and possible crazy person Sir Richard Branson. The company is pretty diverse, having stakes in the totally related worlds of mobile phones and music distribution... as well as air travel, among hundreds of others. Indeed, it was the success of the various Virgin Airlines, and the CEO’s passion for the ridiculous, that lead to this ambitious venture.Where They’ll Take You:
They’re currently on their second wave of suborbital flight testing, using “SpaceShipTwo” crafts with the dork-gasmic names “VSS Enterprise” and “VSS Voyager” and the “WhiteKnightTwo” carrier aircraft “VMS Eve” and “VMS Spirit of Steve Fossett”. The idea is that the fused WhiteKnight “Virgin MotherShips” will carry the actual ships during takeoff and bring them to a certain speed/altitude, at which point the spacecraft takes over for sub-orbital flight. This means it reaches the boundary of space (generally agreed upon as 100 kilometers above sea level) but doesn’t make a full rotation around Earth at that height. Basically, it dips its toe into the space pool for six minutes of weightless action.
The Date on Your Ticket:
The “near future”. The company has been very open about selling tickets and making headlines, but shy about actually setting a date. However, the huge wallet of the often obsessive CEO, combined with actual hardware, testing and flights, makes this a frontrunner in the purely private sector.
Who They Are:
Basically, these are the travel agents of space. While it might seem kind of lame to include these astro-middlemen, they get the top spot for one main reason: they’re the only ones who’ve succeeded in putting tourists in space. The company is based in Virginia, but primarily has worked by getting people into seats aboard Russian ships.
Where They’ll Take You:
The company offers a variety of services for the incredibly wealthy and cosmologically minded. If you’re just looking for a taste of the real deal, through their subsidiary, Zero Gravity, they are the only private corporation in the US (or at least, the airspace over it) that offers zero-gravity flights. For only $3,675, their special plane takes you on parabolic arcs that simulate weightlessness in fifteen 30 second intervals. For the high rollers, you can buy a spot on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station for around $20 million. They’ve also announced an optional hour and a half long spacewalk package, which extends your training period by a month, your stay in space by about a week, and your tab by about $15 million. They’ve even put out offers for a ride around the moon, but at a price of $100 million for a seat, they’ve had no takers yet.The Date On Your Ticket:
Actually, now. As we mentioned, this is the only company that has yet to deliver. They’ve sent seven clients on eight missions to the ISS so far (the man with frequent flier miles to burn is ex-Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi). They do regular flights of their private version of NASA’s Vomit Comet. They’ve had some projects fall through in the past to do their own suborbital flights, but when something that works comes along, you can bet they’ll be the people to call to get on board.
Better start saving now.
Know some more desert-dwelling lunatics with a rocket and some monkey death wish? Post below! You can keep up with Kevin Mack on by following him on Twitter. Cheaper than microgravity and less likely to induce vomiting!
- - Armadillo Aerospace: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/8/8a/ArmadilloAerospace2006MissionPatch.jpg/800px-ArmadilloAerospace2006MissionPatch.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/d8/ArmadilloAerospace_Pixel_Attempt1_c.jpg/800px-ArmadilloAerospace_Pixel_Attempt1_c.jpg
- - Bigelow Aerospace: http://www.cbsnews.com/images/2006/07/11/imaged7928f6a-d831-4454-9af8-72a019800ee7.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/56/Sundancer_in_orbit.jpg
- - Space X: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/SpaceX_falcon_in_warehouse.jpg http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f0/SpaceX_Dragon_-_2007_X-Prize_Cup.JPG/450px-SpaceX_Dragon_-_2007_X-Prize_Cup.JPG
- - Virgin Galactic: http://i.thisislondon.co.uk/i/pix/2008/01/11_VirginGalacticLL_500x437.jpg http://raphealcrump.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/virgin_galactic.jpg
- - Space Adventures: http://senses.thirdi.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Space-tourism1-300x286.jpg http://images.mirror.co.uk/upl/m4/oct2009/7/2/guy-laliberte-pic-getty-image-1-680369888.jpg