Passengers flying with Virgin Galactic on a joy ride* into space will be able to see themselves floating weightless against the backdrop of the Earth below while 16 cameras document the adventures.
Tickets are expected to cost about $350,000.
The company revealed its cabin design, including the “unrestricted astronaut float zone” for zero-gravity jaunts* in an online launch event on Tuesday.
Sir Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin, said the cabin was designed “to allow thousands of people … to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely”.
The rocket plane is called SpaceShipTwo and is being tested in preparation for paying passengers.
There are a dozen windows for viewing, seats that will be customised for each flight’s six passengers and capable of adjusting for G forces — the gravitational forces — plus mood lighting.
Yet designer Jeremy Brown said the passengers’ most lasting impression* may come from a large mirror at the rear of the cabin.
“We think that there’s a real memory burn* that customers are going to have when they see that analog* reflection of themselves in the back of the cabin, seeing themselves floating freely in space … that very personal interaction that they’ll have with the experience,” he said.
Virgin Galactic was founded by British billionaire Richard Branson after the flights of the experimental SpaceShipOne in 2004. He plans to be the first passenger when commercial flights begin.
Like SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo is a rocket plane slung beneath a special jet aeroplane and released at high altitude.
After a moment of free fall, the two pilots ignite the rocket and the craft pitches up and accelerates vertically at supersonic* speed.
The rocket shuts down but momentum carries the craft into the lower reaches of space where it flips upside down so that the windows on the roof of the cabin give a view of the Earth far below.
The passengers, dressed in space suits, will be able to leave their seats and float about the cabin, using handholds tested by chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses during Virgin Galactic’s second flight into space last year.
The test was aimed at helping finalise the design and at learning how to train passenger astronauts for what they will experience as they become weightless and reach the highest point in the flight (called apogee) before the descent begins.
Ms Moses said she tested different ways of getting in and out of the seats, moved around the cabin and waved at the mirror, concluding that it was not disorienting*.
“I also purposely went to a point in the cabin to most dramatically try to enjoy apogee and a view of Earth from the stillness of space,” she said.
VIDEO: Beth Moses’ Virgin Galactic test flight in 2019
Passengers will need to return to their seats after a few minutes as the craft turns back the right way around and begins to interact with the increasing density of the atmosphere and then glides to an unpowered landing 90 minutes after takeoff.
SpaceShipTwo was developed at Virgin Galactic facilities in Mojave, California, US, and will operate from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, US, where passengers will train for several days before their flights.
George Whitesides, the company’s chief space officer, said upcoming test flights will include four crew members playing the role of passengers.
The company has said more than 600 people have paid deposits for future flights.
This story was first published on The Sun and is republished with permission.
- joy ride: a drive or trip for fun
- jaunts: short excursions for pleasure
- impression: idea, memory or feeling about something
- memory burn: is very memorable, as in, burns into your memory
- analog: low-tech
- supersonic :faster than sound
- disorienting: confuses your sense of direction
- How long will each flight last?
- Will passengers be able to wear regular clothes and shoes?
- What is an apogee?
- How long will passengers train for?
- How many people have paid deposits for tickets?
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1. Write Some Travel Tips
Write 10 travel tips for people going on a trip on SpaceShipTwo or a longer space trip. Your tips should help them take everything they need, give some advice about life on a space ship holiday and help them to enjoy the trip as much as they can.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Visual Arts
Imagine you are in charge of an imaginary Kids News competition. First prize is a ticket on SpaceShipTwo. What type of competition would you create, including rules, that would decide who should win this prize? You cannot just draw a name out, kids have to do something to show that they deserve this amazing prize. Describe the competition, including rules. Design an advertisement about the competition, your rules and how to enter.
Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking
Read with Kung Fu Punctuation
Pair up with the article between you and stand up to make it easy to demonstrate your Kung Fu Punctuation.
Practice reading one sentence at a time. Now read it again, while acting out the punctuation as you read.
Read and act 3 sentences before swapping with your partner.
Have 2 turns each.
Now as a challenge ask your partner to read a sentence out loud while you try and act out the punctuation. Can you keep up?
Try acting out 2 sentences.
Are you laughing yet?
Have fun acting out your punctuation.
HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you spend $350,000 on? Would you use it to go to space?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.