Sunday, January 27, 2008

Weightless tourism!

We push for space tourism... will we make it? For the millions that some people have payed to get into orbit and float a while, this isn't much. The "Mothership" of the travel looks more like a plane than a command ship, and it basically is. However, it can go fairly close to areas of very low G, and then a rocket can be launched from its centre safely, where it will fly farther out and then dip back to the earth. The plane could also, possibly, provide cheap transport and launching for satellites. So this is a craft that can obviously stand conditions further away from Earth than the average plane and have things launched from it. Will this mean a baby step taken so long ago become not only visited territory, but truly an outer domain of humanity?

The project is scheduled to be ready in two years, and industry almost certainly pounce at such an opportunity. However, will this be done on time? In addition, well... will it work? The plan is only to take a short 'dip' into low-G for a couple hundred thousand dollars, hang on nothing for a few minutes, and then drift back down here. The height is around 15.5k metres from sea level, so we're talking not even twice the height of Everest here. We are talking people who are paying and expecting not to die. Space is notorious for making a mockery of models, but we've improved. This is also a lot closer than the greater virtual void to which we dare not send extensively trained astronauts yet. Mars, technically our neighbor, has an order of magnitude of hundreds of millions of kilometres when measured from us. That's close compared to all the other planets, objects, and major groups of objects around the solar system. All that aside, can we pull 15.5 thousand kilometres as a lucrative tourism business?

My opinion is that there will be setbacks. All it takes is lemon juice. But I think it will at very least get some decent swing.

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