Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Space Plane

Europe's biggest aerospace company, EADS, is looking to ferry tourists out into space, for brief little jaunts that will take an hour-and-a-half round trip, and give passengers the thrill of about a minute-and-a-half of weightlessness. Peter B. de Selding, at MSNBC, says that EADS has spent a couple of years designing the vehicle that they hope will take passengers up, up and away--100 kilometers up to be exact. They've got the combination rocket-plane all planned out, and they're looking for investors to get the ball rolling, hoping to start with a fleet of five and go on from there. Once the money's on board the fun can begin.

If you've got big hopes about your own future space travel, here's a way to indulge that dream. Now, the trip could cost somewhere in the $267,000 range per person, so there's a couple ways you could go about it. The first is by saving every penny, foregoing home ownership, higher education, dinners out, high speed Internet, car maintenance (you can make this possible by not owning a car in the first place), electricity, heating oil, new socks, toothpicks, etc, etc. The second way is a bit simpler; you could just start out rich in the first place. It's your call, of course, but I suspect the latter plan has a better chance of succeeding.

For those of us who don't think it would be worth sacrificing our whole lives for a minute-and-a-half of dream fulfillment, this rocket-plane plan is still actually a pretty cool potential development. Private space tourism may start out as something fit for a segment on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but it's all that rich-people money that will make the Technological Law of Gravity kick in, so that the price comes down and someday the rest of us can go for a ride. Even better, by the time that the average Joe can afford it, the technology will have improved dramatically, and it won't be just a quick trip out to lose your lunch, followed immediately by a return to Terra Firma. By the time the rich people have all payed for the R&D on space planes, there could very possibly be space hotels and giant space stations and the like, and lunar colonies might even be making their debut, making the trip into space much more destination-oriented. The well-to-do are really doing us a favor on this one. They'll go ride on the kiddie coaster, 100 kilometers up, all the while funding the Colossus for the rest of us--space proper. I say, "Go for it, Rich People. Go twice, even. Have fun, and tell us all about it." After all, didn't passenger trains and automobiles and airplanes all start out as rich-people-only clubs? Just wait. The rest of us will get our shot, as long as companies like EADS meet with success in these early ventures. Here's wishing them high flights and higher profits!!

Hat tip: Instapundit