Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Space Flight For Sale
How Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites are rewriting the rules of space travel
Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan walk by VMS (Virgin Mothership) Eve, the first WhiteKnightTwo built by Scaled Composites for Virgin Galactic.
Today, Lina Borozdina is one of the first 100 people to have plunked down $200,000 for the privilege of going into space aboard Virgin Galactic's spaceliner, SpaceShipTwo, conceived and built by Burt Rutan's famed Scaled Composites (www.scaled.com) in Mojave, Calif. But Lina's story is about more than just paying money for a space ride; hers is a tale of the American dream. It's about how innovative engineering, private funding and savvy marketing have come together to create the most exciting space race since NASA launched the first Mercury mission in 1961.
Lina Borozdina, a biochemist who mortgaged her home to finance her space dream despite a fear of flying, poses next to a model of SpaceShipTwo, which will take her into space.
Lina's dreams of space flight, though, would be difficult to fulfill. "I was a sickly child," she says in her slight Russian accent, "so I would never have been a cosmonaut." Instead, she concentrated on her education and put those nagging thoughts of space into her back pocket for a time. She earned her B.S. in chemistry and her master's in biochemistry. Then, at 19, she came to the United States seeking political asylum. "I came to the States in 1991 with three pairs of underwear and a T-shirt," she laughs. "I went to Pasadena, California, and got a job washing dishes." With her advanced degrees, she eventually followed the biotech industry to San Diego and found a career there as a scientist. She met her husband and was settling into life as a bioscientist when the space dreams came back. A television commercial for Virgin Galactic was offering space flights to "ordinary" people. Within weeks, Lina and her husband were headed to Los Angeles to talk with Virgin Galactic about being a space passenger.
Between Rutan, Branson, Lina and all her fellow pioneers, a new era in space has begun. This is the first generation of space tourists.It's no news that Sir Richard Branson launched Virgin Galactic (www.virgingalactic.com) as part of his successful Virgin Group to offer suborbital space flight to the paying masses. The key to the Virgin venture was the success of Rutan's innovative and soul-stirring SpaceShipOne. In October 2004, SpaceShipOne launched into history, becoming the first manned, private spacecraft to exceed an altitude of 328,000 feet twice within 14 days, thus claiming the $10 million Ansari X Prize. The X Prize was modeled after the Orteig Prize that Charles Lindbergh won by flying solo across the Atlantic in 1927.
Page 1 of 4