Wow! Did you watch the longest-running space flight commercial message in history? You might know it as the Internet event showcasing the first passenger-carrying flight by Virgin Galactic. Sir Richard Branson created Virgin Galactic to take people to the edge of space. The spaceship company joins his other established companies starting with the word Virgin.
The broadcast was interesting, but sometimes it was more like an elaborate commercial for Virgin Galactic Airlines. At times Technical glitches did not allow us to see the action so the well-rehearsed talking heads turned the proceedings into a giant commercial message. Maybe that was the plan all along? That would not be surprising because Virgin Galactic is a COMMERCIAL space venture, and blowing one’s horn about one’s product is a smart move. The flight might have fallen short of the altitude goal, but it was a true milestone in human history and worthy of all the pomp and ceremony.
Virgin Galactic is currently taking very wealthy folks on Disneyland style “E” Ticket Rides while looking to the future in developing an exotic airline that will whisk people from the USA to Australia in two or three hours. I hope that they succeed.
Some folks labeled the flight as the beginnings of humankind reaching for the stars. Give me a break. A spacecraft as slow as Unity would take several generations to travel to the nearest star. The flight did not even reach the planned altitude, so stop with the grandiose superlatives.
Space ship Unity does have the capability to attain the necessary altitude to qualify as a space flight, but the additional weight of the passengers will require the engine burn to be longer. I suspect that the pilot shut down the engine based on previous flights with less weight. Simple physics tells us that could have been a factor. I will wait and see what they report was the official reason.
No matter what the reason for falling a bit short of the planned altitude, there is still an open question and an interesting “give-and-take” between Sir Richard and Jeff Bezos as to how high one must fly to enter “space.” Bezos says Branson didn’t make it. NASA has assigned the official altitude of space as 54 nautical miles. That is 62 statute miles, or 330,000 feet above mean sea level. Then there is also the accepted standard called the Kármán line. Click Here to read about that.
The pomp and circumstance of the launch and the flight was quite an extravaganza, but parts of it left me wanting. It should have used a split-screen concept. Spaceship Unity and the mother ship renamed Eve after Sir Richard’s recently deceased mother should have always been in view on the screen. (We have the technology!) Every SpaceX launch uses multiple or split screens. One can see every aspect of the flight happening in real-time. That makes the experience more exciting and educational. Right on Elon!
As lacking as the coverage issue was, the thing that frustrated me the most was when the coverage devolved into a rock concert that seemed to go on longer than the space flight. I tuned in to watch a space flight only to find out that I had to endure what seemed like a forever stage presentation by a Grammy Award Winning artist no less. Well, excuse me! I never even heard of him. I understand that musical tastes vary. Realistically the full implementation of the Virgin Galactic Airline commercial venture will probably mature after I have sprouted wings and I am floating around the clouds playing the harp. (Great visual eh?) The stage presentation was more a case of too long a duration and not necessarily the musical selection. No matter, for me, it detracted from the flight. Whew, I had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening.
Several positive offerings made the presentation a special event. One bright spot that stood out was the participation of a real astronaut by the name of Chris Hatfield. His achievements in space have made him a legend. He is larger than life but seemingly as down to earth as anyone can be. Having him as part of the broadcast team was brilliant. Canada should be proud of one of its own. I would welcome the chance to meet him in person.
Speaking of meeting someone in person, I have on two occasions met Sir Richard. Yes, I am a name-dropper, so get used to it, but seriously I want to give credit where credit is due. In both encounters, Sir Richard was courteous and congenial to me and my business partner. This charm combined with his business acumen leaves little doubt why he is so successful, but his journey was not always roses and lollypops. Along the way to making his space company a success, he faced several challenges. One of them was a sad occurrence. He had a major setback when a test flight resulted in the death of one pilot and serious injuries to the other one. However, even despite the accident, Richard persevered. The historic passenger-carrying flight is a testament to his courage and determination. Click Here for the crash story.
As always, the mainstream press dutifully regurgitated the details of what took place. Thank God for press kits. Some news outlets did make it interesting, but others were boring as hell. I think I will vomit if I hear one more broadcaster announce that they would willingly go on a future mission if only their wife would let them. Please, let’s get real, shall we? Some of those talking heads would NOT go even if their wife paid for them to go. Then there are the wives who would pay for a one-way trip. I prefer not to address that issue here.
During my research, I discovered a YouTube presentation that explains the details of the Unity spacecraft flight. It also compares Sir Richard’s project with Jeff Bezos’s approach to suborbital flight. Interestingly, the two billionaires have a very different approach to suborbital space flight. This is showcased in a video produced by Tim Dodd, known on the internet as The Everyday Astronaut. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand everything relating to the current state of the civilian space program in greater depth. He shows how everything works. A link to this fine video is at the end of this article.
My personal belief is that Virgin Galactic has the better approach toward developing rapid near-earth sub-orbital travel. However, the approach taken by Jeff Bezos is better suited to transition into orbital offerings. I bet that is where his ultimate focus lies. The third member of the Billionaire Space Club, Elon Musk, is concentrating on leaving the planet. He has his sights firmly fixed on Mars. That mission excites me the most but taken together, this triad of very wealthy men is creating a desirable future for the dwellers of planet earth. Once the Disneyland aspect of these flights settles down, there will follow an evolution toward the day when the various offerings could serve the whole of humanity.
Here is the link to The Everyday Astronaut video: https://everydayastronaut.com/new-shepard-vs-spaceshiptwo/ if you want to know the whole story of the civilian space efforts then watch this well-done video. Click Here to read about Tim Dodd.
If you want to own a piece of history my Mojave Magic DVD shows the genesis of the civilian space effort and the very beginning of Richard Branson’s Project. It is a personal look at how it all began. I still have some DVDs in stock, so for a limited time, you could own a piece of history. Watch online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05fiRTI0CEE
To own a historic Mojave Magic DVD, leave me a message in the LEAVE A REPLY field below.
Read more about my experience with the space program HERE.
I leave you with this bit of humor: https://imgur.com/gallery/3SK9yUz
Be sure to click the speaker icon in the upper right corner of the video.