Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Prepare for Lift-Off: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Prepare for Lift-Off: Resources

Article excerpt

The first powered flight of Virgin Galactic's spaceship has brought space tourism a step closer: passengers could be on board next year.

It sounds like something from science fiction. But billionaire businessman Richard Branson's dream of taking tourists into space is now a step closer after the spacecraft SpaceShipTwo made its first rocket- powered flight over California last month.

SS2, as it is known, was released into the upper atmosphere from a jet- powered carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. Its engines burned for just 16 seconds before it glided back to Earth to perform a conventional runway landing.

It was the spacecraft's first powered flight after three years of testing. Branson and his company Virgin Galactic now claim that the first passengers could be flying as early as next year. How would your students feel about being on board? Excited? Or terrified?

The spacecraft was officially unveiled on 7 December 2009 at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was at the time governor of the US state. Virgin Galactic plans to operate a fleet of five SS2 spacecraft and has been taking passenger bookings for some time, at a minimum price of US$200,000 (Pounds 128,494).

Each spaceship will have room for eight people: six passengers and two pilots. The craft will launch at an altitude of 50,000ft (15,240m) and will go supersonic within eight seconds. Flights will last about two and a half hours, although only a few minutes of that will be in space. Reportedly, 400 customers have already paid for their flights. …

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