First Space Flight Sweepstakes Announced

August 2, 2011 by
Filed under: Commercial Space Flight 

Organizers of the 50th anniversary of Seattle’s Space Needle want to celebrate by sending you into space, and they’ve teamed up with Virginia-based Space Adventures and with Armadillo Aerospace to offer the winner of their Space Race 2012 sweepstakes a suborbital flight. If realized, the trip is sure to be the ride of a lifetime.

Space Adventures has already placed 7 people onboard the International Space Station, the last being Cirque Du Soleil creator Guy Laliberte in 2009. And Armadillo of Mesquite, Texas has been designing a vertical-launch vehicle that is presumed will be the carrier. But here’s the catch: though the company has designed piloted vehicles like their Black Armadillo, this one will carry no pilot. The only persons on board will be it’s two passengers. I’m guessing one to light the fuze and one to pray. Curiously, the term “spam in a can” comes to mind.

As much as I would jump at – almost – any chance to board a space flight, I think I would choose to sit this one out. Aside from the obvious regulatory hurtles that any such launch system is sure to face, there is a far safer choice making its way through flight testing now. SpaceShipTwo, the upscaled successor to the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne built by entrepreneur and aerospace genius Burt Rutan, has been designed from the beginning to be the safest space launch platform available. It’s pilots (note the plural – it has two per ship) by virtue of a feathered wing, can literally fold their arms and the vehicle will align itself in the correct attitude for what is aptly named the “carefree re-entry.”

But if you’re the truly adventurous type, the Grand Prize might be for you.

If you don’t make the cut from among what is predicted to be entries numbering in the millions, there is a First Prize flight aboard Zero G Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE. You’ll take a ride on a Boeing 727 specially modified to take passengers on parabolic flights. These are where the airplane climbs and descends in a series of arcs, the apex of each will simulate a zero gravity environment like that you would encounter in space. It’s a concept that’s been in operation to train astronauts for decades and has proven quite safe.

Though not a fan of the launch system currently being proposed for the worlds first space flight giveaway (the design of which could change, by the way), I applaud the decision to conduct a sweepstakes offering a flight into space, and I suspect it’s but the first of many to come. When average guys and gals begin returning from space to describe to their friends and family an experience that has left them with a deep and abiding sense of awe, that has completely changed the way they view the world and mankind, heads will begin to turn upward to the sky with new expectations and a realization that before our very eyes the final frontier has transformed itself from the fanciful backdrop of a science fiction story to a real place of real opportunity for real people.

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For more information on Space Race 2012, visit http://SpaceNeedle.com.

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