Friday, February 8, 2008

I'm going to space!

Welcome one and all!

My name (well, my name here) is Joe Space Tourist. And let me tell you why:

When I was in high school (about ten years or so ago; I'm 26), I decided that someday, I would go to space. I was just a regular kid in a regular school among the regular masses, silent and vocal, repressed and excited, optimistic and beaten-down. But I had watched the shuttle launches. I had watched the old Mercury and Apollo, and Soyuz capsules fly into space, circle the Earth, bring people from this planet safely to the Moon and back again, and Touch The Sky. I knew; I knew that I had to be part of this. That I had to, somehow, in some way, bring myself to the edge of human exploration, of human thought and dreams and imagination. I wanted to do something fantastic, and I still do.

In short, I fully intend to light a rocket under my butt and shoot myself out of the atmosphere.

I had a problem though; I simply was not cut out for the astronaut corps. I (frankly) sucked at school, I have bad eyesight in one eye, and I wasn't willing to join the military, for reasons that I may or may not get into later. I knew back then, and I fully admitted to myself, that I would never be an astronaut in the traditional sense. So even back in high school, I put my hopes on private companies to eventually help me find a way to fulfill my dream.

Then came the Ansari X-Prize. What a great idea! To promise $20 million dollars to the first private company that could launch three people into space twice within a week. Practically the definition of space tourism! And the results were spectacular. In the year 2004, there were exactly four manned launches into space. One was a Russian Soyuz capsule sending new personnel and supplies to the International Space Station. The other three were SpaceShipOne.

SpaceShipOne and the whole team at Scaled Composites are amazing. A hundred and twenty people created a successful space program with only $10 million in funds. How incredible is that? Not only that, but the ship they designed only had a few moving parts, was mechanically controlled, was capable of re-entering the atmosphere without a heat shield and was first piloted by a 60 year old high school dropout! There is nothing about SpaceShipOne's story that isn't incredible! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend the Discovery Channel documentary on the design, construction, and testing of SpaceShipOne (on the right). It's very entertaining and thought-provoking, and they come very close to complete disaster no less than three times!

After SpaceShipOne's three successful flights, it was retired (it now hangs from the ceiling at the Smithsonian), and Scaled Composites partnered with the newly-founded Virgin Galactic to create SpaceShipTwo and sell flights to the general public. They're not the only ones; today, there are no fewer than five companies around the world with serious plans to provide similar flights. Virgin Galactic even set a price: $200,000 per flight.

$200,000? That's a bit of a stickler. Most people assume that this prohibitive price sets space tourism firmly in the realm of the obscenely wealthy.

Well, that is why I'm writing this blog. I'm going to prove them wrong, and I'm going to share my journey with you.

The $200,000 price tag gave me three choices. I could give up on my dream, but for me, that's not an option. I could wait for more companies to enter the arena and prices to drop; this could very well happen, but I don't want to rely on it. So my third option is to spend my life working toward this. That is what I have decided to do.

In other words, I'm not here to say that anyone can do this. Not everyone can. It's going to take a hell of a lot of drive, determination, careful planning, and above all, the ability to turn nay-sayers into fuel for the fire. Anyone who tells me I can't do this only makes me more determined to prove them wrong. In other words, what I am saying is that anyone with these qualities can do this. You, too, can go to space.

And I'm going to prove it.

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