Virgin Galactic – civilian space travel

Dec 20th
Posted by shambo  as Aging, engineers, Travel
Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2

Virgin Galactic Spaceship 2

Let me say this about that.

The term ‘Bucket List” has been around for a while, but gained more popular use after the release of a movie of the same name in 2007.  It refers to a list of things you want to do before you “kick-the-bucket”.  As I get deeper in to my 60′s, I am beginning to see the utility in developing such a list.  In other words, if I’m gonna do something, I had damn-well better get on with it.

I started creating my “Bucket List” by summarizing some of the experiences I have already had in my sixty-some-odd years.  It was important to make sure my new list contained adventures I knew I could actually do, based on past experiences.  Surprisingly, the “done-it” list had already set the bar pretty high.  This base list already includes such activities as:

* Flying fighters in aerial combat training
* Crashing a hot air balloon into an apartment building parking lot in Vail, CO
* Diving on the Great Barrier Reef
* Sailing around Cape Horn in hurricane force winds
* Racing sports cars in Florida
* Catching a marlin in a war-zone
* Being selected for the 1964 Olympic trials


Stuff like that – nothing that’s gonna win a Nobel Prize, but definitely provided fuel for an occasional ‘adrenaline-junkie’ fix.  I couldn’t water-down the “done-it” list with what might be my last opportunity to experience something really special before ‘The Big Dirt Nap’ experience all of us are gonna have eventually.  After some research, I believe I have discovered the next thing going into my ‘Bucket’.

Become an astronaut.

Oh, I can hear you now.  Go ahead and yuk it up, but it turns out it is possible for a guy in his mid-sixties to become an astronaut with the help of…    a company called “Virgin Galactic”.  Virgin Galactic is a company formed by Virgin Airlines owner, ‘go-zillionaire’ Sir Richard Branson, and Burt Rutan, arguably the greatest aircraft (spacecraft) designer of our time.  They have developed a six-passenger, two-pilot space vehicle that is extremely safe during the two most dangerous parts of a space flight … launch and re-entry.

The carbon fiber composite space vehicle is strapped to the belly of a specially designed aircraft, flown to 60,000 feet and released.  A few seconds later, a rocket motor ignites and away you go – at 2,5000 mph.  Holy Moly !!! 

The rocket propels you to an altitude of 65 miles before it shuts down (about eight times higher than you can fly in a commercial airliner) where you will experience five or six minutes of 0-gravity …….  for the first time in your life.  In preparation for the return to Earth, the pilot changes the orientation of the wings so the vehicle falls slowly enough to avoid the heat of re-entry experienced by NASA’s Shuttle.  The special wing configuration allows the vehicle to assume flight characteristics similar to a badminton ‘shuttlecock’. 

When the vehicle descends to about 50,000 feet, the wings are returned to their original orientation and the ‘airplane, turned into rocket ship, turned into shuttlecock’  now becomes a ‘glider’  and returns you and your tight little sphincter back to terra-firma.

One does have to pass a medical exam to fly, but so far the three hundred people that have already forked-over $200,000 to take the trip, have a 93% pass rate - including one gentleman just having had his 88th birthday.  Two hundred grand is a lot of money for a two and a half hour experience, and would put a helluva dent into my retirement fund.  But what the hell,  Mrs. Shambo is a young woman so I say let her second husband worry about supporting her after I’m gone.

I worked in the space program after I received my bachelor’s degree in engineering and  I remember standing in the our company’s parking lot during the Apollo launches in the 60′s and 70′s wishing I could go too. 

Now, maybe I can.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.




  1. shambo  21st December 2009  

    If you like Pina Coladas,
    And getting caught in the rain,
    If you’re not into yoga,
    And you have half a brain,

    Yada, yada, yada

  2. sunsetcruise  21st December 2009  

    Mrs. Shambo is now accepting applications for Husband #2.

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