Space tourists set for '09 lift off - Emirates24|7

Space tourists set for '09 lift off



A Dubai-based tourism company has begun marketing a truly out-of-this-world experience and has already sold voyages that will create the first Emirati astronauts.

Sharaf Travels has sold $200,000 tickets for a journey on Virgin Galactic’s space flights (Galactic boss Richard Branson is pictured above), which will begin blasting off on a regular basis from the last quarter of next year.

And while officials were unwilling to disclose the names of clients, they confirmed the first Emirati space traveller has already purchased a seat.

Each space voyage will carry six passengers and two pilots above the Earth into zero gravity, allowing clients to enjoy the weightlessness for about 10 minutes.

Ahead of the once-in-a-lifetime experience, travellers will have to undergo three days of training.

To market the space adventures, Sharaf Travel has recently set up a new section headed by Sharon Garrett, head of space marketing and public relations, for the Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Office in Dubai. She said the trips have met with a lot of interest from a diverse group of customers, encouraged by the fact that no age limit is imposed.

And Garrett predicted there would be a considerable number of space passengers from the UAE on board Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, the second generation of manned space ships.
Globally, more than 300 people have bought tickets for a trip into
space, with total deposits paid in excess of $30 million (Dh110m).

Trips will be launched from Virgin Galactic’s operational headquarters, Spaceport America, which is being built in New Mexico. However, initial flights will be launched from the Mojave Spaceport in the Mojave Desert, California.

“Initially, there will be one flight per week. As operations progress, this will increase to one and potentially two flights per day. SpaceShipTwo will carry six astronaut passengers and two pilots,” said Garrett.

“Preparation will ensure you are mentally and physically prepared to enjoy every second of your spaceflight.

“We are making every effort to make space travel as inclusive as possible. Medical assessment will be simple and unrestrictive. Your safety is our priority and although we don’t expect many medical restrictions to prevent people from flying, we will not jeopardise your safety if we believe you are at serious risk.”

The spaceship after launch will climb up to 360,000 feet, and will be out of earth’s atmosphere. This takes about 90 seconds and the craft reach a speed, of just over three times the speed of sound, or 4,023kph.

Shortly before maximum altitude is reached, the spaceship folds its wings in preparation for its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere, drawn by the earth’s powerful gravitational pull.