Lance Bass's trip into space cost him around $20 million, but the European space agency EADS is offering people—and rich ones at that—the chance of a quick one-and-a-half hour blast into space. The trips, starting in 2012, will cost around â‚¬200,000—and will give punters the thrill of experiencing three to five minutes of weightlessness at the height of their journey.
But anyone expecting a trip in a traditional rocket—EADS is behind Ariane, which launches many of the world's satellites—can hold it right there. Astrium, the EADS division behind the commercial trips, unveiled its space jet at a press event in Paris yesterday—at least, the front half of the thing was...
It looks a bit like Tom Dickson has asked his favourite question to the space shuttle, a commercial jet and a traditional rocket, IMHO. Using normal jet engines, the thing will take off and climb to a height of seven and a half miles above Earth. Then hang on to your lunch as, turning vertically, the spacecraft's rocket engine will propel everyone 37 miles high in just 80 seconds.
By the time the rocket shuts down, the craft should have sufficient velocity to carry it above 65 miles and into space (it's the final frontier, you know). Then, after your five minutes of weightlessness (just enough time for you to get blasÃ© about it all), the plane will start to fall back to Earth. Using small thrusters to control its altitude (although the BBC said attitude, so I may be wrong and the robot might be a moody son of a bitch), the pilot will guide the spaceship back into the atmosphere. Then it's jet engines set to stun or something and back to the airport.
The cabin has been designed by Aussie super-aesthete Marc Newsom, who replaced the traditional seats with what he describes as "hi-tech hammocks." He told the BBC that passengers would not be disappointed with what they saw and felt. "There are 15 windows and only four passengers, so there're are plenty of opportunities to float around the interior of this cabin and take different views of space, the stars, the moon, and the Earth."
"It will be amazing," he continued. "You'll actually be outside the Earth's atmosphere; you'll be able to see Earth as a spherical object and everything else around you will be black. There must be millions of people who have dreamt about this since they were little kids."
EADS Astrium is looking for a billion euros ($1,329,600,000 in real money) to develop the idea, as well as financial and industrial partners. Any takers?
Firm rockets into space tourism [BBC News]