Tag: Space Travel

How Will Space Tourism Look (and Feel)?

With Virgin Galactic’s planned launch drawing nearer, World Hum contributor Terry Ward takes a look at the aircraft that will soon be carrying the first paying civilians beyond Earth’s atmosphere:

In order to imagine how Virgin Galactic’s brand of space travel will work, you have to get images of a classic NASA shuttle launch out of your head. Instead of a land-based launch, Virgin Galactic’s system involves a mothership, called the Virgin Mothership Eve (VMSEve). The innovative aircraft, also designed by Rutan and built by Scaled Composites, is the largest all-carbon composite aviation vehicle ever built and, according to Virgin Galactic, the most fuel efficient of its size.

The VMSEve, a twin fuselage aircraft with one enormous wingspan that stretches 140 feet across, is the vehicle that will carry SpaceShipTwo into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. SpaceShipTwo will be positioned under the wing, between the mothership’s fuselages, for the ride up. From an altitude of over 50,000 feet, the spaceship will be launched from the mothership, using its own rocket power to reach its destination of 68 miles above the Earth’s surface. The most recent test flights, Attenborough says, had a pilot inside the spaceship “taking the last preparations for the first solo flight of the spaceship.”

There’s no firm date set yet for Virgin Galactic’s debut, but 2012 looks likely. When they do launch, we hope they’ll remember our advice about the five songs that have no business being played in space.

A Space Travel Playlist

Lapham’s Quarterly has a list of the tracks that were launched into space aboard Voyager 1 and 2 back in 1977. Thankfully, none of the top five songs we never want to hear in space made the cut. (Via Kottke)

Top Four Reasons Why Soichi Noguchi is the Coolest Astronaut Ever

4. The Japanese astronaut has been posting amazing photos from the International Space Station of Earth via Twitter—the Telegraph has collected a dozen of them here.

3. He has posted videos on YouTube from space, including this one looking down on Madagascar:

2. He recently became the first space traveler to make a sushi roll in space. Behold the feat—and what a salmon roll looks like in zero gravity:

1. He has the coolest Twitter handle ever: Astro_Soichi.


Even Astronauts Want to be Travel Writers

At least one well-known astronaut does: The one who happened to be stuck in the middle of the drive-non-stop-from-Houston-to-Orlando-allegedly-in-diapers love triangle. In reporting on the case, Florida Today notes that former astronaut William Oefelein and former Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman—she was the victim of a pepper spray attack by her rival—are currently running this travel writing website.

Welcome to the travelsphere, William and Colleen! Please note, however, that someone is already on the disposable underwear beat.

Top Five Songs We Wouldn’t Want to Hear in Space

Top Five Songs We Wouldn’t Want to Hear in Space istockphoto

Thanks to Virgin Galactic, Spandau Ballet could become the first band to perform in space. That got us thinking.

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Where no Travel Writer has Gone Before

star trek graphic By Doug Mack

In a five-part series, Rolf Potts joins Trekkies aboard a "Star Trek" theme cruise to Bermuda

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Congratulations, First Clown in Space!

Space tourist and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté blasted off for the international space station yesterday, red clown nose and all. Now that’s a milestone to remember.

The Wi-Fi-in-the-Sky Wars

The Wi-Fi-in-the-Sky Wars Photo by Marc Smith, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by Marc Smith, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

AirTran fired off a powerful volley this week in the competition between airlines to provide wireless internet access on flights. It kicked the service off with a flight on Tuesday, and says that all 136 of its planes will have Wi-Fi by the end of July, making it, as USA Today reports, “the first large U.S. airline to offer wireless Internet access on every flight nationwide.”

As Ben Mutzabaugh put it in another story in the same paper, “AirTran’s promotional flight points up how fast airlines are racing to provide Wi-Fi capability on their planes after experimenting with it for more than a year.”

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Filmed Here: ‘Men in Black’

Filmed Here: ‘Men in Black’ Photo by Eva Holland

I celebrated the spring weather this week by heading out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, aka “the Central Park of Queens,” for a wander in the sun. I didn’t know much about the park, beyond the name of the nearest subway station—so imagine my surprise when I walked through the gates and saw ... an extra-terrestrial spacecraft?

More precisely: what I saw was the observation tower of the now-abandoned New York State Pavilion (a relic from the World’s Fair), which served as a murderous alien’s would-be get-away vehicle in the climactic scene of the 1997 Will Smith flick, Men in Black. I’d seen the movie before, of course, but had never known where that final battle was set. Coming across the “space ship,” and the nearby Unisphere (which also plays a role in the battle), got me thinking about action movies and the major landmarks they use as props.

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Baikonur, Kazakhstan

soyuz REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

The Soyuz spacecraft is transported to its launch pad at Baikonur cosmodrome.

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Meteor Crater, Arizona: National Treasure or Big Hole?

Meteor Crater, Arizona: National Treasure or Big Hole? Photo by Sophia Dembling
Photo by Sophia Dembling

Meteor Crater in Arizona seemed a very long way off the highway. By the time my husband and I reached it and paid our $15 each admission, we could only agree with the little boy who, standing crater-side with us, turned to his mother and said accusingly, “It’s just a big hole.” Truly, it looked cooler when we saw it from an airplane.

Now the The New York Times reveals us as the philistines we are, in this story about the crater’s wonders. Guess we better return with the proper attitude.

Earthrise: ‘How a Picture Transformed Our View of Ourselves’

On the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 8 launch, the Guardian offers this thoughtful essay about the mission, its accomplishments and the iconic photograph (pictured) shot by its NASA crew. “Certainly, Earthrise is a striking reminder of Earth’s vulnerability,” Robin McKie writes. “We may have forgotten the men who risked their lives getting to the Moon and who explored its dead landscape—a ‘beat-up’ world as they put it—but the view they brought back of that glittering blue hemisphere continues to mesmerise.”

Have $100K to Spend? Take a Ride on Space Tourism’s New Oddity

Have $100K to Spend? Take a Ride on Space Tourism’s New Oddity Photo by Aaron Escobar via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Aaron Escobar via Flickr (Creative Commons).

A plan has been unveiled for a “fishbowl”-like suborbital space shuttle that will offer 360-degree views of space. The vehicle can carry two passengers, and may be flying as soon as 2010. Worth noting: the shuttles look like giant outer space moon bounces—completely awesome.

Space ‘Tourist’ Returns Safely to Earth

After his Soyuz capsule landed in Kazakhstan without incident, American Richard Garriott called his odyssey into space a “pinnacle experience.” And no worries, Richard, you’ll always be a space traveler in our eyes.

Travel Headline of the Day: ‘Tourist Reaches Space Station’

Don’t worry, Richard Garriott, in our book, you’re no space tourist. You’re a space traveler.

Travel Headline of the Day: ‘NASA Set to Approve Japanese Fleet of Origami Space Shuttles’

The shuttles are apparently made from chemically-treated sugar cane fiber paper, and are designed to fly from space to the earth. Really. The experiment, which may take place next year, could offer insight into the next generation of spacecraft design. Video below.

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Profile of a Space Tourist

Photo: NASA

The space tourism business is heating up, but who are these customers willing to spend millions of dollars for what they hope will be the ride of their lives? Wired offers a fascinating profile of one would-be space tourist—Japanese tech millionaire Daisuke Enomoto, who completed a grueling training program only to be grounded by a kidney stone.

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NASA Celebrates 50 Years In Space

Photo: NASA

As private outfits like Virgin Galactic look ahead this week to the future of commercial space travel, NASA looks back, and celebrates 50 years in existence. Wired has an in-depth essay about the space agency’s history, scientific achievements and cultural impact—most notably, the iconic Cape Canaveral liftoffs of the 1960s, when news anchor Walter Cronkite “made it clear to his audience that they were taking part in something momentous, something that not only represented the flowering of a great technological achievement but stirred the human soul as well.”

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Virgin Galactic Unveils ‘WhiteKnightTwo’ Mothership

Photo via Virgin Galactic.

It’s so hot Xeni Jardin wants to fondle it. Other reports from today’s unveiling of the high-altitude aircraft that will carry SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s commercial space ship, to the edge of the atmosphere were almost as breathless. Wired, the Los Angeles Times, Jaunted and others have reports from the scene in California’s Mojave Desert.

From Candy Consumer to Space Tourist

It’s like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A French air hostess opened the winning candy wrapper in a contest to rocket into space and experience five minutes of weightlessness. She called it “a dream come true.” Are there Oompa-Loompas in space?