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Archive: virgin galactic

December 6th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Space | 1 Comment

The Future of Space Tourism and Commercial Transportation – Part Two

By Mary Ann Keeling

Space Tourism By The Numbers
To put things into perspective, a typical airplane will fly at a height of three miles above Earth’s surface. High-altitude jets fly around 13 miles above the surface. Now, multiply that figure by several times and you’re in suborbital space, about 65 miles above the surface. You’ll be able to go more than three times further than that, even, on the Space X Dragon which travels in orbital space over 200 miles above the Earth’s surface. For a suborbital space flight, passengers will be in the zero gravity zone for roughly 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the type of spacecraft they’re in. On-orbit trips can last up to a couple of weeks.

XCor, Virgin Galactic, Armadillo Aerospace and Booster Space are the primary companies competing to take consumers into suborbital space. Companies like Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Bigelow Aerospace are going further than that into what is known as on-orbit space. Space X is taking it to the next level with their Dragon spaceship, which will make them the first commercial company to dock at the International Space Station. The Dragon will take you to on-orbital space, and will allow passengers to spend up to 12 days in space.

Fun Facts about Space Tourism
The very first person to travel to space as a tourist was a billionaire from California named Dennis Tito. When CNN asked him about the experience, he said “I spent 60 years on Earth and eight days in space, and from my viewpoint it was two separate lives.”

There’s a non-profit called the Mars One Foundation that has a goal of sending humans to live on Mars. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up to hopefully be chosen for this voyage, even without any guarantees that the technology will exist to get them back home. That astonishing amount of interest for a one-way ticket to Mars shows how fascinated people are with what’s out there. The reason it’s hard to get back to Earth is simply because of the amount of fuel required to get to Mars and the amount that it weights, they aren’t able to carry enough to get back home. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before Mars One becomes a reality, but they’re making fast strides.

A Frequent Flyer Program That Gets You Further
When you think of frequent flyer programs, you probably think of earning a few points here and there and maybe one day having enough to get a discounted plane ticket to visit the in-laws, or something else as equally unexciting. Velocity is taking that to the next level. Thanks to the Velocity frequent flyer program, Velocity is offering the prize of a lifetime, by giving one lucky traveler the chance to win a suborbital space flight on Virgin Galactic worth $250,000. The lucky winner will have a chance to do what so few people have done, to float out there in space, looking down at the pale blue dot known as Earth.

In Other Futuristic News…
Suborbital space travel for consumers is already a reality; it’s just a matter of rolling it out the final stages. Obviously, not everything that is predicted comes true and not everything that is invented ends up being practical. For example, supersonic transport looked very promising at first. Being able to travel faster than the speed of sound means you can get from one coast to the other in much, much less time. However, it wasn’t practical, it was too noisy, and it never ended up changing commercial travel the way people had anticipated.

The DaVinci Institute has some pretty interesting predictions for the future of traveling on earth. They predict that by 2015, gas powered vehicles will start to decline in favor of hybrid and electric cars. By 2020, they’re anticipating “glow in the dark” highways, which will drastically change night driving. By 2030? We’ll start to see the first flying cars. That might seem kind of out-there to imagine right now, but who thought we would be sending tourists into space?

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*Mary Ann Keeling is a writer and a blogger from Brisbane who likes to share her passion for the future through her writing.

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December 5th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Space | Comments Off

The Future of Space Tourism and Commercial Transportation – Part One

By Mary Ann Keeling

At one point or another, just about everybody has dreamed of traveling to space. Can you imagine yourself floating out there, weightless, and looking down at planet Earth, which is now just a small blue dot in the distance? Many astronauts have come back to Earth after being in space and described how the experience of seeing Earth from space is absolutely life changing, how it puts everything into perspective, and is very humbling. Everything that used to seem like a big deal on planet Earth, small conflicts and drama, late fees on your phone bill, someone cutting you off in traffic – none of it seems as significant when you’ve seen the world from afar. This dream is getting closer and closer to reality as each day passes, and space tourism is just around the corner. Soon, you won’t have to be a celebrity or an astronaut to get the chance to travel to space; it’s going to be available to the general public.

Space Tours with Virgin Galactic
It’s been nearly a decade since Virgin Galactic was founded in 2004. They aren’t offering commercial flights just yet, but their vessel SpaceShipTwo is planned to take its inaugural voyage at the end of 2013, so it’s likely that actual space tourism isn’t that far out of reach. The latest news on space tourism is that Richard Branson himself will be taking part on the first flight into space, and really putting his mouth where his money is. This huge show of confidence in the technology and their ability to get to space is demonstrating great leadership and will undoubtedly help to ease some of the concerns that people have about space travel. Imagine being on the very first commercial flight into space? In case you’re wondering what the price tag is going to be, at least initially, to fly to space with Virgin Galactic you’re looking at a cool $250,000. Also aboard early flights will be TV and film star Ashton Kutcher, and actress Kate Winslet (who, and this is true, once saved Richard Brandon’s mother from a house fire!). To top off all this star-power (pun intended), the first flight of Virgin Galactic is going to be broadcast on NBC, which is a television network that has been struggling in recent years to bring original and interesting programming – but you can’t do much better than televising the first commercial space launch!

Other Ways To Get To Space
Virgin Galactic isn’t the only company interested in getting people into space, even though they’re the most talked-about and the closest to making this a reality. If you read the $250,000 price tag and felt your dreams slowly being crushed – there are other options! There’s a program named World View by a company called Paragon (They make equipment for the International Space Station) which aims to take a slightly different approach to getting people into space, namely using a high-tech version of the hot air balloon. You may have also heard of Paragon’s plan to send people to the planet Mars by 2018 which has been heavily discussed in the media. 2018 sounds like a very ambitious goal, but that’s how you get things done when it comes to space travel – ambition!

You may recall when Felix Baumgartner parachuted from space for Redbull, this stunt used a similar balloon system to the one that that Paragon is hoping to use as part of their World View program. They’ve still got a lot of hurdles to jump through and regularity steps to take, so hot air balloon trips to space are further out than the Virgin Galactic option, but they’re expected to be a little bit less costly coming in at around $75,000 for a trip.

If both of those options are a little too pricey, there’s a way that you can win your entry into space, too. All you need is a little luck!

NY Times Branson Space TravelInfographic source:
Richard Branson’s Space Race

*Mary Ann Keeling is a writer and a blogger from Brisbane who likes to share her passion for the future through her writing.

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January 19th, 2011 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Space | 4 Comments

Space Tourism 2011

(Written with Catherine Otten)

The space experience race is on.

I have always wanted to go into space. It could happen sooner than we think. All I need is the money.

According to the Space Tourism Society, billionaires such as Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos, and Sir Richard Branson are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building space enterprise/tourism companies. Millions of government dollars are supporting these efforts as international competition for space business prestige and profit heats up. The U.S. federal government in particular is pushing the entry of private companies into the space launch business, intending soon to rely on private companies for most space access.

For those of you wanting to be a space tourist, or wanting to work in the business, the Space Tourism Society is hosting Space Tourism 2011 (ST11) on April 28, 2011. This international annual event will bring together leaders in many fields involved in building the space enterprise/tourism industry and creating the orbital lifestyle as well as new participants seeking business, marketing, and investment opportunities and exciting space careers.

Virgin Galactic
There are a number of companies already selling seats on their rocketplanes. You can read more about these on MSNBC and Popular Science.

Our favorites for personal access so far are Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR’s Lynx. Virgin Galactic is pricey, charging $200,000 per passenger, but they already have $30 billion in pre-bookings from over 200 people. SpaceShipTwo plans to take you on a 2.5 hour trip with 6 minutes of complete weightlessness. They are currently running tests and plan to start taking ticketed passengers in 2012 .

XCOR
XCOR‘s Lynx rocketplane is planning commercial rides starting this year for only $95,000. It reaches 60 miles in 30 minutes and travelers achieve weightlessness during the 4 minute apogee. The Lynx has only 2 seats, so you get to sit shotgun next to the pilot every time. XCOR has established a commercial relationship with an entity named Space Experience Curacao (SXC). In November 2010 SXC linked up with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. KLM plans to offer vacation packages to Curacao (in the “Netherlands Antilles” in the Caribbean) and from there into space aboard an XCOR Lynx spaceship.

Both of the XCOR and Virgin Galactic rocketplanes currently launch from Mojave Spaceport in California, but Virgin will move eventually to their Spaceport America now being built in New Mexico and they also have plans for Sweden.

“Eventually there will be a price war,” according to Doug Graham, former spokesman for XCOR. “The market is going to decide if floating around demands a premium over a front row seat.” He may be comparing the XCOR seat next to the pilot to primary competitor Virgin Galactic, where passengers will sit in the cabin, but the same comment could easily be directed at the more complex and costly space tourism goal of placing people in orbit.

Space Adventures, based in Virginia, is the one company offering the true astronaut experience complete with training. Space Adventures flies private-pay passengers on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, and for the trip they charge over $20 million. If you ask us, $20 million is steep, though you do get an extended stay in orbit.

However, if space hotel dreamers like Bigelow Aerospace succeed with their inflatable space station-like modules, cheaper accomodations in space may become available. Bigelow is currently testing its inflatable module Genesis II in orbit while the more advanced module called Sundancer is scheduled for launch and testing in 2014. NASA too is looking into adding a Bigelow module to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most successful commercial space company to date, SpaceX, run by Elon Musk, became the first company to send a privately developed craft into orbit and retrieve the craft upon re-entry. Now they set their sites on the long-term goal of launching human crews into space. As SpaceX announced in a press release on January 17, 2011:

The Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to fly at least 11 more times and the Falcon 9 launch vehicle is scheduled to fly 17 times before the first Dragon crew flight. Given the extensive manifest of Falcon 9 and Dragon, the SpaceX system will mature before most other systems will be developed.

The inaugural flight of the Dragon spacecraft confirmed what we have always believed—the responsiveness and ingenuity of the private sector, combined with the guidance, support and insight of the US government, can deliver an American spaceflight program that is achievable, sustainable and affordable. The SpaceX team is excited about the new opportunities and challenges the New Year will bring.

To sum up, wider access to space, including for you and me if we have the money, is coming. Companies like Virgin Galactic, are already pre-selling seats. It is likely that they, and others, will succeed and through efficiency and competition bring down the prices. A few more years and it might be affordable for everyone.

[This post was updated on January 20, 2011 based on factchecking from XCOR. Please see their comment.]

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July 1st, 2009 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 1 Comment

Future of Travel and Tourism

Last week I spoke to the Travel and Tourism Research Association on alternative futures for travel and tourism. It was the 40th Annual Conference of the association, held in Honolulu, and my appearance was coordinated by Goldstar Speakers. The key slides from my brief program are available for download via Slideshare.

I asked where the future of travel and tourism lies, between the vision of a Virgin Galactic for space adventureVirgin-Galactic Space Port, and that of the creators of the Null Stern Hotel in Switzerland, meaning the “zero star” hotel in recognition of the current and future austerity of travel?Null-Stern Hotel

The heart of the program focused on 4 converging forces driving the future, and 4 emerging trends in travel and tourism. As a futurist speaker who tries always to see the 360-degree view of future forces, I began with a run-down on the primary forces shaping our time and which I see converging into one grand pattern – economic disparity and frugality, expensive energy, demographic destiny related to aging, young and diverse populations, and environmental imperatives with associated changes in life styles.

In the travel and tourism industry these forces are leading to 4 emerging trends:

1. Keeping it local. If trends in energy, economy, and environment continue, then traveling long distances for recreation will become more rare. In order for the resort community to maintain a market, they will need to cater more to a local clientele. This is captured in the concept of the 10-kilometer hotel, one whose prime customers come from the local area for a respite.

2. Alternative transport. Today the local paper in Seattle featured a photo of a local organic farmer delivering his wares via sailboat to the docks in Seattle. He calls it the no-oil food. In the travel and tourism industry this kind of move will be and is being mirrored as people seek out non-motorized experiences like biking through France, or taking trips by sail. Over the longer term, again depending on how energy, environment, and economic trends play out, it is likely that tourists will seek out slower, less energy intensive, even zero-fossile fuel energy experiences.

3. Destination evolution. This trend is underway, as destination resorts focus on becoming greener and more sustainable, more local in their attraction, more astute in their use of information technology for advertising and for management, and more knowledgeable of market trends via research.

4. New whys of travel. It is said that there is graffiti from ancient tourists on the monuments in Egypt. People have always and will always travel to see new places and people, even if they have to walk or ride an animal to do so. That is not going to change. But, one more time depending on how the converging trends play out, we may see a return to the why of travel being for two primary purposes – to visit family, and to seek new adventure. Business travel may decline as 3D-net technologies become robust, and distance travel may decline as economic and environmental imperatives demand. Local travel may fill the need for reconnecting with yourself and recharging the batteries. In fact making that a focus of what you offer in the travel and tourism industry may be one key to the future.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet video host and founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.

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