Sick of Richard Branson


I won’t be buying a ticket on Virgin Galactic.

There’s a lot of confusion about Richard Branson’s plans to send paying customers into space. That’s probably because of the way it’s being reported. The media seem so keen to jam a buzz word or scientific sounding phrase into their reports that they’re just getting things wrong.

I’ve heard it reported that passengers will be sent into “orbit”. That’s not true, Branson’s ‘Spaceship Two’ is only designed to go up 68 miles and come down, it will NOT orbit the earth. Low earth orbit can only be achieved above a hundred miles high. Now I don’t expect journalists to be familiar with Newton’s laws of motion and his law of universal gravitation but it would help if they knew the difference between something that goes up and comes down and an actual orbiting spacecraft. The International Space Station is in orbit, it’s 236 miles above the earth.

The phrase “space tourists” gets used a lot. It’s as if we’re supposed to believe that the passengers will actually go somewhere. They won’t, they’ll just go up and come down. Part of the problem is that “Virgin Galactic” is similar to “Virgin Atlantic” so it sounds like some kind of extension to his airline. The truth is that a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York lasts about twice as long as a Virgin Galactic flight to space will. The round trip to space and back will last just two and a half hours. You’ll only actually be in space and experience weightlessness for six minutes of that flight.

A ticket on Virgin Galactic is $250,000. So what do you get for your money? Well, the view out of the window must be amazing but a lot of people get queazy the first time they go weightless. NASA astronauts called their zero G training aircraft the “Vomit Comet”.

I’m sure lots of people will pay for the experience Richard Branson is offering. There’s definitely a demand for it, you only have to look at every British town centre on a Friday or Saturday night. Just after closing time, you’ll see hundreds of people who’ve spent more than they can afford, just so they can lose their balance, bump into people, see stars and throw up on themselves.

Craic on!

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