If you were a kid when Sir Richard Branson was, circa mid-1950’s, did you wonder what the year 2000 would look like? Would we be traveling in space cars, or living in clusters of communities in outer space like the Jetsons? Would our houses be completely automated with robots where dishes, floors, and laundry washed themselves?
And when you thought of yourself, did you imagine what you might be like 50 years, or so, in the future? Would you even still be here? In those days, to a kid, the idea of being over age 50 seemed more like observing dinosaurs in encyclopedias or museum exhibits. Interesting, fascinating even, but…..well… too old and strange for comfort.
Yet, today, at the crossroads of a new year, 2014, happily, many Baby Boomers are living, happily and healthily, over-age 50. Many of us are grandparents now, and no, we don’t look, act, or move like dinosaurs. In fact, as a whole, with all your future-looking emphasis on health, fitness, and anti-aging, most Boomers have aged remarkably well and are still aiming for major milestones of achievement that their generation is noted for.
Some of you, like Sir Richard, age 63, are planning for achievements of astronomical proportions. Even though, at the top of 2014, there are no space cars yet, at least not ones that humans from Planet Earth are driving, and we’re not yet living in space communities, if it’s up to Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic project, August 2014 will be a banner date for humans. Branson vows that his company will be the first to book the first commercial space flight and will boldly go where most of us never have, on the first commercial “ride” into outer space.
Branson’s company has already built the prototype terminal, Spaceport America, in Las Cruces, New Mexico which now serves as the “Welcome Center” for the first space travelers. Future space travelers will stay at Spaceport America for 3 days before embarking on their space flight.
If you think you’d like to be on that first space ride, you’ll want to figure out a way to come up with $250,000 for the ticket pretty quick as this project looks like it’s really going to become reality. Even NBC television has nabbed an exclusive right to televise its maiden voyage. Keep in mind though that you’ll have to undergo G-force training, just like other astronauts do, but paying the somewhat hefty fee you’ll instantly become part of the world’s most exclusive, and growing, 600 private astronaut community waiting for their ride. So what will they be traveling on? An amazingly designed rocket plane called the SpaceShipTwo.
The rocket, designed by Galactic’s engineer Burt Rutan, is built with safety at its core, says Virgin Galactic’s website. Let’s hope so – as, even though you enjoyed the TV show as a kid, you don’t really want to be Lost in Space with your fellow astronauts if an, oops – we forgot what? moment occurs. The space ship’s safety factor, says the research overview on their website, is enhanced by its simple design – with the rationale that a more intricate system has greater chances of failure.
Another safety factor, apparently, is the fact that the launcher for SpaceShipTwo, called LauncherOne, unlike traditional NASA-based space shuttle launches from the ground, will launch from space. It will do that by launching horizontally from LauncherOne at 50,000 feet rather than the traditional vertical rocket launches we’re used to seeing.
Yes, the blueprint really is on the table and traveling to outer space is really in the works. And, in the not too distant future, like all those space-based TV shows that many of us over-50’s enjoyed so much as kids, we really could be zipping around in the family spaceship, looking for a parking space at the nearby SpaceMarket, or SpaceRise where many of us will likely be working on business space outposts of the future.
And if Branson’s “virgin voyage” is successful, and commercial space flights become an everyday reality, likely the quarter-of-a- million dollar ticket price will eventually go down. As you grew up in the Space Generation, where we actually put a man on the Moon, and built space stations that have successfully sat, and worked, in outer space for years now, it’s only fitting that, you too, should be able to visit that realm yourself.
One day soon, you could book a trip on one of Virgin Galactic’s flights, leave the Planet for an amazing trip into the cosmos, actually be conscious of doing so, and return to tell your grandkids about it. Better yet, take them with you.
Check out the fascinating research and Branson’s vision, plan and travel particulars at Virgin Galactic’s website here. Then ask yourself, like eccentric billioniare John Hurt in the space-travel movie “Contact” asked astronomer Jodie Foster, wanna take a ride?