I’ve always wanted to go into space some day. When I was a kid and Apollo missions were landing on the Moon every few months, that seemed like a real possibility. Sci-fi features like 2001: A Space Odyssey forecast that routine commercial travel to the Moon would be available a decade ago. Of course, that didn’t happen . . . and now time seems to be running out.
But perhaps there’s still a chance for 50-something space traveler wannabes like me. Virgin Galactic is nearing completion of the beautiful, futuristic spaceport shown at left, called the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space, in the New Mexico desert.
The company plans on beginning passenger service in 2014. When the spaceport is operational, would-be astronauts will board a small rocket plane tethered to a mother ship. When the mother ship reaches a point nine miles above the earth, the rocket plane will be launched, the rocket will be ignited, the passengers will experience 3 gees of force as they zoom through the upper atmosphere until they encounter the blackness of space. The pilot then will cut the rocket engine and the passengers will experience four minutes of weightlessness and have a chance to enjoy a view so vast they can see the curvature of the Earth. Then the plane will reenter the atmosphere, hurtle back to Earth, and land on the spaceport’s long runway.
All this will be available to the average Joe — provided the average Joe can pony up $200,000 for the experience. If I had millions of dollars in the bank, I’d do it. Because I don’t have that kind of coin, however, I’ll just bide my time and hope that competition brings the price of space down to more manageable levels so that, someday, a codger like me will be able to enjoy the wonders of space.