A time to mourn

SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It was a sad week for the burgeoning U.S. private space program.

First was the loss of the unmanned Antares supply rocket last Tuesday. It exploded just seconds after liftoff in Virginia, and 5,000 pounds of food, experiments, and supplies for the International Space Station went up with it. It was the third cargo mission to the ISS contracted by NASA.

A few days later, the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two crashed during a test run in California’s Mojave Desert, killing the co-pilot. A malfunction took place shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that hoists Space Ship Two to an altitude of 45,000 feet.

The food, supplies, and scientific experiments can easily be replaced. However, the losses would have been much greater if Spaceship Two had been filled with the first batch of space tourists. More than 600 people have already bought their tickets at around $200,000 a seat.

Because of the forced retirement of NASA’s shuttle program in 2011, the U.S. is totally dependent on the Russians to get our astronauts into space, and on private industry to get supplies to the ISS. It is what it is.

There will be long-term repercussions from both of these incidents, but that doesn’t mean we should discontinue our exploration efforts. Space is, and always will be, a very dangerous place.

Maybe Next Year

Over the weekend, Amy celebrated yet cake another birthday. In an effort to keep things uncomplicated in the past, we’ve acknowledged each other’s momentous occasions by simply going out for lunch. It usually includes Chinese food.

This year I thought about splurging and getting her something a little more spectacular. Sure, it is a little pricey, but what Astro Babe wouldn’t appreciate being one of the first 1,000 to get a ride on SpaceShipTwo?!? Nothing like speeding along in space at 2500 mph to get your heart rate up.

However, I read this morning that after the first 1,000 people have taken a ride, Richard Branson is planning on dropping the price from $250,000 down to $200,000. Not one to waste money, I guess that means that Amy will have to wait until next year. This year, she’ll have to once again settle for a card and a birthday lunch with chopsticks.

Sorry Amy. In the meantime, Happy Birthday! And have some cake!


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