Sunday, February 19, 2006

If you can't afford a Bugatti...

...then how about riding a rocket into space? Space Adventures, the only operating space travel agency, plans to build a space port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It will offer the most spectacular "rides" in the world: a jet plane-assisted rocket ride 60 miles above the surface of the earth:
The company said it had already received clearance from the UAE authorities to operate suborbital spaceflights in their air space.

"The close proximity to Dubai, one of the worlds leading luxury tourist destinations, makes (Ras Al-Khaimah) a choice location for spaceflight operations," said Space Adventures president and CEO, Eric Anderson.

"Suborbital flights will offer millions of people the opportunity to experience the greatest adventure available, space travel," Anderson said.

Currently the only operating space tourism agency, Space Adventures first made its name by sending US millionaire Dennis Tito into space in 2001.

Apparently the new space port is budgeted at $250 million. I wonder where the money's coming from? Space Adventures got $20 million from Greg Olson last year to spend eight days aboard the International Space Station; the only others have been just Tito and a South African man who have taken rides into space. The sub-orbital rides are going to cost $100,000 each. How are they going to make any money?

Don't get me wrong, I love the whole idea. It has a flavor of Robert Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" to it. But a quarter of a billion dollars? Maybe they'll charge admission to watch the launches. But the rockets are going to be dropped from jet planes, so the "take off" won't be visible. And everybody's seen a jet plane take off.

A theme park, perhaps? T-shirts? Maybe they'll form a film company to make blockbuster science fiction movies. Beats me.

No comments: