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Space Tourism

Virgin Galactic continues to postpone its first flight from Earth to outer space. After an earlier carrier aircraft’s test run ended in the death of its pilot, Virgin Galactic sought to prioritize safety.

Virgin Galactic uses a vehicle that is attached to a carrier aircraft. After take off, this aircraft detaches from the vehicle and a rocket engine propels the passengers and two pilots into space.

700 people have already signed up to go to space with Virgin Galactic once the trial runs are over.

Scientists are also testing out different engine systems. SABRE (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) is a hybrid engine that allows the vehicle to work both on Earth and in space. Right now, SABRE is nothing more than just a concept. Should this blow up into a full-fledged project, this engine has the power to revolutionize space tourism.

World View Enterprises wants to take passengers to space in a helium-filled balloon. Specifically, the company has designed capsules that will be carried by the helium-filled balloons into space. The Voyager, as the capsule is known, will float for some time to really allow passengers to immerse themselves within the experience and within the reality of space.

Right now, space tourism is dominated by private companies and therefore only accessible to the very wealthy and the elite. Consider this – what if space tourism were an enterprise that attracted all kinds of people? Researchers at the University of Surrey are trying to create a cheaper alternative to space travel. The project, “Virtual Ride to Space” proposes virtual access to space through a compilation of HD images. It would be like sitting in a movie theatre with 3D glasses.

“Virtual Ride to Space” will recreate the experiences of space travellers. A weather balloon flying 20 km above ground will take footage of space with an HD camera. In comparison, commercial airplanes hardly ever go beyond 10 km above ground. The footage will be disjointed after it is captured by the weather balloon. The software will piece together the footage from the weather balloon to form a cohesive view of space. Prospective “space travelers” will be able to immerse themselves in this virtual reality by viewing the footage with the virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift.

The project would cost an estimated 30,000 pounds, which the researchers at the University of Surrey hope to raise through crowdfunding. This project aims to provide a space travel experience to those who cannot afford space travel itself. Involving more of the public challenges the exclusivity of other space tourism companies, most of which are privately-owned.  

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Space Tourism
I am a medical student at the University of Toronto. I enjoy meeting new people, drawing and writing.