In the middle of the desert at the Mojave Air and Space Port, there is a race underway: a race to build a spaceship that will take tourists into space. Two spaceships are leading the pack, Virgin Galactic’s ‘SpaceShip 2’ and XCOR Aerospace’s ‘Lynx’.
“What we want to do is open up space flight to humanity. And so what that means is making the wondrous experience of spaceflight available to you and me,” says Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.
Jeff Greason, co-founder of XCOR Aerospace, agrees. “We could enter a phase of human history like what happened before with the opening of the New World.”
Although there is no official launch date, both companies believe that they’re close to taking off. Test flights are expected to start in late 2013 and commercial flights in 2014. Each company offers a different experience.
Virgin Galactic’s ‘SpaceShip 2’ is described by Whitesides as looking like “a fighter jet and a rocket ship married together”. It seats 6 passengers and two pilots and takes off horizontally, like an airplane. SpaceShip 2 soars 100 kilometers above Earth to the official limits of space. At that point, passengers can unbuckle their seatbelts to experience weightlessness for a few minutes. The flight, from take off to landing, lasts about two hours.