Monday, 27 November 2006 20:48

Chinese businessman to take off into space with Virgin

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With Virgin Galactic due to take off at the end of 2008, the rush in on to be amongst the first space tourists, with 65,000 around the world applying. A Chinese businessman has been selected, with a Chinese woman yet to be selected.

Want to go into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo? All you need is to have applied in the timeframe allotted for the 2008 timetable, you then need to be selected, and if you are, you’ll need US $200.

A Chinese man from eastern China’s Zhejiang province has been lucky enough to be selected in the first batch of 100 passengers. The man, who is under 40 and had asked for his identity to be kept secret is set to be China’s first space tourist, where after a 2.5 suborbital trip, only a reported four minutes will be spent experiencing the weightlessness of space.

Only six passengers will be carried at a time, with two pilots, on a flight that will take place only once per week. Virgin Galactics’s flights will be launched in the US from California and New Mexico.
In the past, the only way to become a space tourist was to spend considerably more than US $200,000, but ten times that at US $20 million per trip.

Only four private tourists with enough money and the stamina to survive a real rocket launch and up to a week in space have undertaken the trip so far, with the first being in 2001, when a US businessman travelled to the International Space Station and spent a week in orbit.

While space travel has only been the province of a selected few, with regular and advanced space travel only seen on science fiction TV shows, movies and in the pages of science fiction novels, the idea of space travel for everyday consumers (albeit with a spare US $200,000) is firmly here.

As prices fall, going into space will be the ultimate thrill. While regular space travel to the moon, orbiting space stations and even settlements on Mars and other planets is still a few generations away, space travel is finally on its way to becoming as common as a voyage across the oceans.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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