Boarding at Gate 3A: Flights to space
Boeing plans commercial passenger trips to the International Space Station.
The only question is whether you have to take off your moon boots to get through the TSA screening line.
Boeing plans to have its new
seven-person spaceships carrying passengers into Earth's orbit by 2015. The
aircraft manufacturer has teamed up with private space tourism company
Space Adventures to sell seats on the flights, fitting in well with NASA's goal
to have private companies handle commercial space flight.
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Space Adventures, founded in 1998 by Eric Anderson, has
already taken a handful of civilians with deep pockets into space. The
company has flown seven clients on orbital space flights using different models
of the Russian-made Soyuz spacecrafts.
The company also began offering high-atmosphere flights, letting passengers experience zero gravity without taking them into Earth's orbit. Boeing's plans would actually make for the first space flights on ships built specifically for untrained civilian passengers.
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A number of private entities have announced plans to begin
space tourism programs over the past decade.
Virgin Group's Richard Branson
famously announced Virgin Galactic in 2004. Virgin Galactic's primary goal was
to offer suborbital, zero-gravity flights like Space Adventures' but using
SpaceShipOne, the first privately manned ship to achieve suborbital flight.
The plan was to offer flights by 2007, but it was pushed back in
anticipation of the development of SpaceShipTwo. That ship went into production
in December 2009, and commercial service is now expected to begin in 2011, well
before Boeing launches its competing service.
While Boeing and Space Adventures are still haggling on prices, previous trips to space have cost passengers about $45 million.
That's a pretty penny. But for people who have the cash, there is a possible competitor to the Boeing space flight plan -- a Russian-backed lunar mission with a ticket price of $100 million.
No word on whether the snack box or second bag will cost extra.
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