Jon de Vos: Blasting off but on a different journey
August 1, 2008
With the release of the smash hit, “Journey to the Center of the Earth” … Wait. Hold it right there. I am distinctly not talking about the new lame 3-D movie. I reviewed that dinosaur a couple of weeks ago. No, I mean the 1970 vinyl release of the same name by the rock band, Jefferson Airplane. There, on the cover of this album, the band upgraded their dosage and changed their name to Jefferson Starship. In a move, probably unrelated, the British Bazillionaire, Sir Richard Branson, just changed the name of Virgin Airline to Virgin Galactic, apparently in response to an unexpected surge in the demand for sub-orbital tourism.
“To loose these surly bonds of Earth” will cost you $200,000 for a seat on the six-passenger White Knight Two, unveiled earlier this week in California’s Mojave Desert. The flight will zoom up, up, and away to a height of about 65 miles and at the top of the apogee, the highest point of the flight, for the slimmest fifth part of a million bucks, you’ll get about five minutes of weightlessness. Really, isn’t Jenny Craig a better deal?
Back in 2004, Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, spent a hundred million dollars on a privately-funded spaceship just so he could hang his arm out the window and shout, “Smokin’ Rockets, Commander!” That’s a lie. Spaceship windows don’t roll down. He did it, along with the American spaceship designer, Burt Rutan, to win the ten million dollar Ansari X prize in a contest to build a reusable ship that could ferry spacemen around cheaply. Likely this same team has an eye on America’s Space Contest. This contest, funded by Robert T. Bigelow, hotel magnate of Budget Suites fame, expires in 2010, but carries a prize of $50,000,000 for the first American-based,
privately-funded team to build a reusable craft that will carry five persons to a Bigelow Aerospace inflatable space module. Now, I know what you’re thinking, what astronaut has the lung power to blow up an inflatable space station? Nonetheless, Bigelow has orbited two latex space stations successfully. Sadly I must put lie to the rumor that you can order blow-up space stations in blonde or brunette. Budget Suites, huh? Not at $200,000 a night.
Why, oh why, would anyone spend a big pile of money to win a little pile of money?
Because this is America and there are currently more than 250 deposited, bobble-headed imbeciles, er, excuse me, make that “space tourists” (ha-ha, same thing) queued up to ride his rocket. In America, you see, if you want to throw all your money away on food and rent, that’s your business. If you have enough left over at the end of the month to purchase five minutes of weightlessness in a low earth orbit, that’s Virgin Galactic’s business.
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Before you go blasting off into the nether reaches of the universe you should try to get a little perspective. The nearest star is 40 trillion miles away, while the moon is a measly quarter-million miles. Your $200,000 flight? A measly sixty-five miles, the distance from Fraser to Denver. Of course, the price of gas might make that a bargain by 2009 when the first “space tourist” is scheduled aboard. Health consciousness what it is today will probably have him shout, “Non-Smokin’ Rockets, Commander.”
If you Google White Knight Two, you’ll quickly notice two peculiar things. You have to get very, very close to see the strings dangling it in front of the camera and two, Flash Gordon is not wearing a decoder ring
Once in a while, when writing on deadline, you make an error in judgment and things that you wouldn’t have said had you more time to ponder them. Ill-chosen words wind up in print and you can’t take them back. However, when you have to apologize, I’ve learned it’s best to just suck it up and blurt it out, so here goes: Jeff Peckman, I’m sorry I ever doubted that Denver should have an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission.
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