Lost in Spaceship - flying high on Virgin Galactic
Time for my periodic rant on the wretched excess lifestyles of the rich and not necessarily famous.
"We really do want to have a situation where hundreds of thousands of people who want to experience space travel are able to do so," said Branson at a media event at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.
I have to say that, as wretched excess goes, this doesn't bother me as much as $40M mansions, $2M private submarines, and $100 bottles of water. There is still, after all these years, something magical about a spaceflight, and I can understand how people would really lust after it.
While it is, of course, plenty show-offy to drop this kind of money - as Branson himself has noted, "Even though the dollar isn't worth much anymore, $200,000 is still too expensive for the majority of people" - it just doesn't seem quite as pretentious and "I've got mine" as some of the other ways of letting the world know that you can afford to drop big bucks on this kind of experience. All those kids who grew up fantasizing about becoming an astronaut...hey, why not?
And Branson is projecting that, within five years, "the price would come down fairly dramatically." (I'm guessing my definition of "fairly dramatically" is more dramatic than his.)
Over 200 folks have already signed up for a two hour trip, which means you just go up and down, a la Alan Shephard , rather than orbiting the earth, a la John Glenn.
Stephen Hawking is one of those who've plunked down a hefty deposit, and a big part of me says 'good for him.' Talk about someone who's starry eyed and obviously a life long lover of the extra-terrestrial. The other names of note listed in the article were Victoria Principal, who starred on Dallas, and designer Philippe Starck.
One of the lesser known sign-ups "bought the flight instead of splurging on a Ferrari, as he can't drive" - reason enough and, as I said, not as damned ostentatious as gunning the engine of a flashy car (which is pretty much all you could do if you don't drive).
Another fellow who'll be heading due-up tried and failed to get into the astronaut program. Again, reason enough. (And, again, good for him.)
Of course $200K is a lot of money, but Richard Branson is a man of the people compared to what I saw over on Space Adventures. Their specialty seems to be longer trips on Russian spacecraft. A few years back, an American businessmen reportedly forked over $20M to his tripsky with the Russkies.
$20M. Ding-ding-ding. That is some wretched excess. Not that I don't indulge in plenty of nonsense - whatever my paltry means allows - but $20M could do a lot of earth-bound good.
While Space Adventure - with a "vision to open spaceflight and the space frontier to private citizens" - plans on sending plenty of folks aloft in suborbital flights similar to the Virgin Galactic ones, they've also got some nifty packages that will separate the hoi-polloi with mere chump change from the true show-offs.
For $30-40 million, you can hitch a ride on a Russian Soyuz to the International Space Station, where you get to cool your jets for a week before getting ferried back to earth with the crew who's been there for 6 months.
For a bit more - $45-$55 million - you can boldly go where no one other other than bona fide astronauts have gone and do a space walk.
You can also craft your own personal mission objective.
Whatever you desire, Space Adventures can help develop a customized mission for you. The possibilities are only bound by your imagination.
Mark my words: It's just a matter of time before some a-hole hedge fund manager decides he wants to spend a few of his hard earned dollars on a bachelor party in space - replete with hand-rolled cigars, whatever-malt Scotch, and lap dances.
(And remember, you heard it here first.)
Hey, it's only money.