Virgin Galactic shoots for 2015 commercial flight launch

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    Virgin Galactic is preparing to take its first round of passengers on a suborbital space flight on SpaceShipTwo (pictured above) later this year. (AP Images)

    Virgin Galactic is preparing to take its first round of passengers on a suborbital space flight on SpaceShipTwo (pictured above) later this year. (AP Images)

    Would you pay $250,000 for a suborbital ride through space?

    That’s how much tickets are selling for aboard Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft later this year.  Hundreds of people, including Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt, are reportedly on the waiting list. 

    The spaceship is called SpaceShipTwo,” said Clara Moscowitz, associate editor of Scientific American. “It’s a suborbital vehicle so it doesn’t make a full orbit around the Earth, but it makes a giant arc into the sky.”

    It all happens within a day and passengers will get to experience five minutes of weightlessness and a five minute view of Earth from the blackness of space. The trip takes about two hours each way.

    “It’s a lot less burdensome than traveling to space and a lot wider range of people could handle this trip just fine,” said Moscowitz. “But you’re going to experience some extra G-forces, meaning two or three times the weight of gravity on your chest pushing down into you.

    Along with general health warnings, the flight comes with its share of risks.

    “Sending anyone off the face of the Earth involves some major risks,” said Moscowitz. “When we have our first major failure, it’ll really be a test of the industry to see if they can communicate to people that this risk is just something we have to accept in order to push this frontier into space.”

    And these flights aren’t just opportunities for prospective passengers. Many NASA astronauts who have been out of work with the retirement of the space shuttle are finding work through the private sector.

    “The number one place a lot of them look is the commercial industry, which is hiring right and left for experienced space travelers who have all the expertise they need in designing the next generation of vehicles to take people up to space,” said Moscowitz.

    Clara Moscowitz wrote about these commercial space flights for ScientificAmerican.com. 

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