The Mothership is Here--Is It Calling You?
Author of the book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, Barbara has published articles and short stories in collections like the Cup of Comfort series. Her first novel, The Elf Queen, is available from http://Amazon.com and Dragonfly Publishing; the sequel, The Elf Child, comes out in 2011. Also in 2011, Deliverance, a romance from TWRP. By day, a family law attorney, at night, parent to three special needs kids, and a constant novelist. Find out more at http://awalkabout.wordpress.comView all articles by barbara mountjoy
The WhiteKnightTwo is the name of their new ship, a carrier ship designed to haul smaller vessels similar to Rutan's X-prize winning Spaceship One 62 miles from the Earth, into space.
At the unveiling ceremony in the Mojave Desert this week, the two men posed for photos as the ship, named Eve in honor of Branson's mother, shone as the centerpiece show of four years' work.
The ship's wingspan is 140 feet, about the size of a B-29 bomber, and it will seat two pilots and six passengers as well as the SpaceshipTwo units, which will be launched from inside the motherships on their flight outside the reach of Earth's gravity. Travelers are expected to be able to experience a shirt period of weightlessness before returning. Both people wishing to take the SpaceShipTwo vehicles and those who just come up to watch them from the relative safety of the mothership will be able to travel.
According to the Virgin Galactic website, the ship will support four flights daily, can fly day or night, and carried a battery of "highly-advanced avionics." While the first flights are being reserved at $200K, the price gets cheaper thereafter, with the second 500 flights going for the much more reasonable price of $20,000 each.
Rutan's ambitious plans were marred last year by an accident that killed three of his technicians, but the engineer and his team seem to be determined to overcome it. Flight testing is ongoing and will probably continue through the year, with first official flights expected by the end of 2008.
One person, however, you won't see on those first flights is a man famous for boldly going where no man has gone before--William Shatner, a.k.a. Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame. Shatner told the Daily Mail, "I'm interested in man's march into the unknown but to vomit in space is not my idea of a good time. Neither is a fiery crash with the vomit hovering over me."
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