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Two evenings ago I watched with excitement at the test flight of Richard Branson’s Spaceship Two, the private Virgin Galactic spacecraft that will later this August, hopefully, take Branson and his two children on a suborbital flight. I found a few more background articles about his plans, including the first year booking price for commercial passengers ($200,000), the second year price reduction, contingent on success the first year ($100,000) and the possibility of third or fourth year prices as low as $50,000. The videos of the test flight were as spectacular as I expected.

This morning I woke up with some of those ideas still percolating in the back of my brain, when I had an apotheosis of sorts. My forty something son has mentioned often that he would mortgage his house in a heartbeat to go into space. Five years from now my granddaughter will be twelve, and if Branson’s dream unfolds as planned, two members of my family will go into space.

A number of years ago I went on a genealogy kick, and traced my eight great grandparents back to the 17th century (four Irish, two German, one French, one English). In all of our family history our son and his daughter will be the first to leave the earth, if only for a suborbital flight. Somewhere in a trunk full of family memorabilia,  there is a letter from my father written to me while on a trip, talking of how some day I might go to Mars. I’m sixty-five now, and that’s not going to happen. In fact, I’m not sure I would want to go on any sort of spaceflight at my age.

But the knowledge of my descendants doing so, leaves me with a memory of Walter Cronkite’s child like giggle when we landed on the moon. I am that excited for them.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    To the hungry, God is a loaf of bread. - Gandhi

    by bisleybum on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 01:58:43 PM PST

  •  I remember when watching the Appollo (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, chuck utzman

    missions my brother and I talking about when we grew up we would think nothing of taking a vacation to the moon and that trips to Mars would be, at the least, in the early stages of exploration. I remember the giddiness of the potential space age: hotels on the Moon, orbiting vacation destinations, etc.

    And then it all stopped.  Forty five years later (July 1969 - 2014) we are farther away from the space age than we were 45 years prior to the moon landing.  People were much more optimistic  / enthused in the 1930s for lunar travel than we are now!  

    We have lost, as a society, the awe of wonder, the blessings of curiosity, the wanting of the path towards knowing just a little bit more tomorrow than we know today.

    I regret that I will not have the chance to "fly me to the moon" in my lifetime but am encouraged that this dream may come true for the next generation.

  •  Hey John Glenn's 2ns Flight Was at Age 77 so (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, cskendrick, bisleybum

    if the finances permit, don't write yourself off purely due to age.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 02:20:52 PM PST

  •  Alternate diary title: Not About Christie (0+ / 0-)

    The dreams of the middle class may be dead, and the government interest in space, for want of a better word, flagging, but enterprising businessmen like Branson, Musk, and Bezos will keep the space vision alive, if only for the 1% who can afford it. But that's another diary for another day. Fixed income retirees are not likely to fly into space. If my son wants to buy me a ticket too, then sure, I'm game.

    To the hungry, God is a loaf of bread. - Gandhi

    by bisleybum on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 03:29:05 PM PST

    •  Suborbital DC-3? (0+ / 0-)

      Seems to me the Rutan-designed and built craft and it's attendant mother ship could easily be fashioned into a VERY high-speed transoceanic craft to replace conventional bizjets for the trendiest young Masters of the Universe to get back to overseeing massive investment fraud after a lovely weekend on the Riviera....

      Sardonic cynicism aside, the system is not that expensive, especially considering a used G-5 costs five million bucks, and a G-5 still takes nineteen hours to get to Sydney or Johannesburg, a suborbital shuttle could do those trips in forty-five minutes.

      Wouldn't be particularly difficult to have a cupla biznesses on each continent offering suborbital lift services for private owners of craft compatible with the big lifters the Virgin Galactic craft uses, which in themselves aren't immensely complex either, being built of readily available materials and systems, including their engines, there's basically very little in all of this that's really new and built one-of-a-kind, mainly the engines on the rocket, which apparently use RUBBER as one of the fuels sources!

      Rutan's original test-bed SpaceShip One and its mothership, the White Knight, even share systems and controls in the cockpit, they used the lifter as a partial trainer for the rocket plane!

      The lifters are useful for Other Stuff, because they are capable of lifting heavy weight to very high altitude, like as much as 60,000 ft--this is a big deal, most commercial aviation goes on below 40,000 feet and yer average two-hour leg in a Southwest 737 typically flies at around 35,000.
      Lear Jets and such are designed to fly as high as 55,000 ft, but they can't really carry a big heavy load to that altitude, like the Rutan carrier birds do. Rutan hires the White Knight out to the government for high-altitude research and it's capable of staying up there for a long time....

      I don't want a Moon vacation, just gimme a B-737-sized suborbital descendant of SpaceShipOne so us ordinary folks can fly to New Zealand without nineteen hours trapped in an aluminum cylinder, for less than a Concorde ticket, giving the space-transport bizness it's 21st-century DC-3, a spacecraft that can regularly and reliably leap across the planet with minimal maintenance between flights.

      "Ronald Reagan is DEAD! His policies live on but we're doing something about THAT!"

      by leftykook on Sun Jan 12, 2014 at 09:37:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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