All About Eve

It’s always been my hope that humanity can embrace a glorious future among the stars. I just wish we’d get a move on. Thankfully, on Monday Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic opened the hangar doors to reveal WhiteKnightTwo, the launch vehicle that is intended to begin the sub-orbital journey for passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo in eighteen months’ time.

Until recently, space travel was the sole preserve of governments, and very few of those at that. Then came the Ansari X Prize offering $10 million for the first ship to reach an altitude greater than 100 km twice in the space of a fortnight. Many teams took part, but on 4 October 2004 it was Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites that took the money with SpaceShipOne.

Branson and Rutan teamed up; fast forward four years and for the princely sum of $200,000 you can buy a seat along with two pilots and five fellow passengers that will give you a view of the curvature of Earth from space and about five minutes of weightlessness. And let’s not forget the rush of the launch and then the glide back down to collect your spacewings.

SpaceShipTwo is still in the hangar, apparently 70% built, but WhiteKnightTwo is expected to begin flight tests later this year. It’s like a catamaran for the skies, with two hulls that between them will carry the space vehicle to a height of 15 km before its hybrid rocket engine lifts it to sub-orbital altitude. At first, Virgin Galactic aim to manage a flight each week, but when everything is up and running at full capacity there should be four flights a day from their New Mexico spaceport.

Branson’s mother officially christened the launch vehicle – it was named “Eve” after her, as well as symbolizing a new beginning for space exploration (let’s hope Apple stays well away from the computer systems). WhiteKnightTwo could also herald a new age in more traditional aviation, being the largest all carbon composite aircraft with the huge benefits in efficiency that promises.

Apparently more than a hundred future Virgin Galactic astronauts are fully paid up and ready to fly. My name officially went on the list on 28 September 2004, but they’ve still not asked me to show them the money. Maybe, if my astronaut application with the European Space Agency comes through, I won’t have to.
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~ by keithmansfield on July 30, 2008.

One Response to “All About Eve”

  1. > Maybe, if my astronaut application with the European Space Agency comes through, I won’t have to.

    You not had a reply yet? Most people got their rejetion letters last week and apparently they told the successful candidates within 2 days! Se my blog for the discussion:

    http://www.colinmcnulty.com/blog/2008/07/24/booo-esa-rejected-my-astronaut-application/

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