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Race to Blast Tourists Into Space Is On ! - 3/20/2006 11:16:24 AM   
SiliconFreak


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Joined: 7/4/2003
From: Melbourne, Victoria, AUS
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If floating weightless and peering down on a shimmering-blue Earth sounds appealing, you might consider being a space tourist.

As long as you've got a fat wallet.

Two years after the first privately financed space flight jump-started a sleepy industry, more than a dozen companies are developing rocket planes to ferry ordinary rich people out of the atmosphere.

Several private companies will begin building their prototype vehicles this summer with plans to test fly them as early as next year. If all goes well, the first tourist could hitch a galactic joy ride late next year or 2008 — pending approval by federal regulators.

Unlike the Cold War space race between the United States and Soviet Union that sent satellites into orbit and astronauts to the moon, this competition is bankrolled by entrepreneurs whose competition could one day make a blast into space cheap enough for the average Joe.

"This time, it's personal. This space race is about getting 'us' into space," said space historian Andrew Chaikin.
For now, commercial space travel remains an exclusive club.

Over the past few years, three tourists have paid a reported $20 million each to ride aboard a Russian rocket to the orbiting international space station.

A fourth would-be tourist — Lance Bass from the former boy band 'N Sync — did astronaut training, but failed to come up with money for the trip.

The three who made it spent about a week weightless and described the experience as "paradise" and "wondrous." The most thrilling part for millionaire U.S. scientist Gregory Olsen, who blasted off last year, was viewing the swirling Earth from the dark of space.

Prospective prices for the next round of personal space flights aren't so astronomical — a seat aboard one of the yet-to-be-built commercial spaceships will fetch between $100,000 to $250,000. Space entrepreneurs expect the price tag to drop once the market matures.

Full story...


Source : YahooNews
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