Space Travel

Space Travel

Prepared by Harold Stephens
Travel Correspondent for Thai Airways International

I might be a little too presumptuous but there is nothing like preparing far in advance for a coming event. And this event might be sooner that we think, and that’s when ROH will assign one of its staff to write a travel brochure for space travel. Believe me, it’s coming.

Only a few weeks ago it was announced that billionaire Richard Branson’s space shuttle ‘SpaceShipTwo’ will take tourists into space. Branson’s Virgin Galactic has chosen two space ports, from where tourists will be send-off into space. One port is located in New Mexico, United States, the other is Sweden Spaceport, in Kiruna, northern Sweden. Virgin Galactic has its home port in the U.S and will launch its first flights from there. Branson made the bold statement that Virgin will launch space tourism in 18 months.

For our readers I tired to find out if Virgin Galactic joined Star Alliance, of which Thai Airways is a member, would Royl Orchid Holidays be allowed to give discounts on their programme. The price for a flight in brochure, as it now stands, is pretty hefty. Branson told a business conference in Kuala Lumpur that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars. That, of course, and I hope, is for round trips.

Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world's first commercial company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million dollars in deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft. And there is Branson’s visions of establishing hotels in space, which well-heeled tourists can use as a base for shuttle flights over to the moon.

Branson said he loves the moon, as many of us do, judging by all the songs composers write about the moon, and he was also interested in launching "small satellites into space" for the benefit of schools and universities.

Under Branson's scheme, the SpaceshipTwo craft is to be launched into space with the help of mothership White Knight Two (WK2). WK2 will carry SpaceshipTwo to an altitude of around 16 kilometres (50,000 feet) before dropping the smaller spaceship and allowing it to fire up its rocket motor to blast up to the brink of space.

Once it has reached suborbital space, SpaceShipTwo passengers will be able to view the Earth from portholes next to their seats, or unbuckle their seatbelts and float in zero gravity.

Branson’s tours in space is more than a dream of simply drawing board stuff. The maiden flight of the world's first commercial spacecraft took place over California's Mojave Desert in which the VSS Enterprise had successfully completed what it called a captive carry flight attached to a carrier plane.

"The captive carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program," said Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites, which built the spacecraft.

Sir Richard Branson has unveiled the rocket plane he will use to take fare-paying passengers into space. SpaceShipTwo was presented to the world in Mojave, California.
The vehicle will undergo testing over the next 18 months before being allowed to take ticketed individuals on short-hop trips just above the atmosphere. Sir Richard, who heads the Virgin Group, intends to run the first flights out of New Mexico before extending operations around the globe.

Built from lightweight carbon composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor, SS2 is based on the X-Prize-winning SpaceShipOne concept - a rocket plane that is lifted initially by a carrier vehicle before blasting skywards.
"I know there are literally thousands of people who would love to go to space, to be able to look out the window, to marvel at the beautiful Earth," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
"Through Virgin Galactic we will make it possible."

Two-hours flights SS1 became the world's first private spaceship with a series of high-altitude flights in 2004. Its successor, however, is twice as large, measuring 18m (60ft) in length. And whereas SpaceShipOne only had a single pilot (and the ballast equivalent of two passengers), SS2 will have a crew of two and room for six passengers.

"It's incredible to think only 450 people have ever been into space; that's including all the Russians, all the Chinese and all the Americans put together," Sir Richard told BBC News.
"We should be able to enable with our new commercial spaceship company, Virgin Galactic, to take maybe 1,000 people and make them into 'astronauts' in the 12 months once we start."

The New Mexico authorities are investing almost $200m (£121m) in a purpose-built facility in Upham. It will have a 3,000m (10,000ft) runway and a suitably space-age terminal and hangar building designed by Foster and Partners.
Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic enterprise will have competitors but he is almost certain to be the first to market, barring any problems arising in the test campaign.

SpaceShipTwo's carrier plane is called WhiteKnightTwo (WK2). It was finished last year and has already begun its own trials.
Future of Space Tourism Summit
Harold Stephens
E-mail: ROH Weekly Travel

Note: The article is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the view of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.


"With the launch of space stations, also known as space hotels, and suborbital flights, to take you to your space hotel, the dream of space vacations is not only within our lifetime, it is in the not so distant future," said John Hazlewood CEO of – the company that will be among the first travel agencies in Europe selling space travel. The “Future of Space Tourism Summit” is sponsored by and is part of the international conference "Trends & Innovation Travel Distribution & Investment Summit" between March 15-17, 2011.

"A 9-minute trip into space on a suborbital flight will cost as low as 100 thousand dollars," said John Hazlewood. He added that now more investments are made in space travel such as space hotels, and NASA has developed a strategy for long-term missions for lunar settlements with goals to explore and colonize space. A private company that has sent all of the space tourists to space so far who have paid over US$20 million is now planning a lunar mission which will cost US$100 million. With advances in technology and a price for a trip to space at US$100,000, that opens a significant market of people who would love the experience and can afford it.

"The ‘Future of Space Tourism Summit,’ is a unique event and nothing like it has ever been created in this format. Story Musgrave is a NASA astronaut and a special guest and speaker at this summit. Story himself is unique, and with his inspiring presentation of ‘Earth from Space’ and his personal collection of photographs, integrated with experts discussing the future of space travel, sex in space and off-earth reproduction, space travel solutions coming to market, eco and our planet, and innovation, this summit will be unique in its format and extremely inspiring!" said John Hazlewood, CEO of at a press conference in Sofia. He added: "I have been fortunate to have seen Story go up in space several times, I have heard his presentations, and it really makes you think of things you have never thought about; it’s an inspiring experience that you will never forget. This is a perfect event for companies to bring their employees and important customers and can serve as a team building and corporate PR activity."

Story Musgrave flew on all the US space shuttles, and he is a professional photographer with a collection of his work and photos from space; he is inspiring millions of people worldwide. He will show participants incredible photos of our beautiful Earth, which he took from space while on his missions, and share what the future space tourist will see and experience: "Our Beautiful Earth – The view from above."

The first two days of the "Trends & Innovation Travel Distribution & Investment Summit," will host a competition of preselected companies which have innovative offerings that are travel related. Although most companies will be Internet-related, there will be companies such as that are launching space travel solutions. In addition to the Innovation Travel Awards, there will be panel discussions and workshops on trends in online travel; Internet marketing; social media including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by experts in the field. The conference agenda can be found at and the conference video is located at .

Registration for the mega event is already running on the site!



Story Musgrave is a NASA astronaut for over 30 years! He performed the first shuttle spacewalk on Challenger's first flight. Story was born in 1935 on a dairy farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He rode combines at 5, drove trucks and tractors at 10, and repaired them by 13. By the age of 65, Story already flew on six spaceflights and five shuttles.

Story never finished school, and in 1953 ran off to Korea with the US Marines where he was an aircraft electrician and an engine mechanic. He started flying with the Marines and over the next 55 years accumulated 18,000 hours in over 160 aircraft.

Now Story has 7 graduate degrees in math, computers, chemistry, medicine, physiology, literature, and psychology. He has been awarded 20 honorary doctorates.

Story was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA in August 1967. He completed astronaut academic training and then worked on the design and development of the Skylab Program. Meanwhile, he was assigned as a test and verification pilot in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. Story was a mission specialist on the space shuttlesSep 30, 2010
Russian firm has announced it will have a space hotel in orbit possibly by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016.

Pravda reports that the Moscow-based Orbital Technologies has sky-high hopes that its planned Commercial Space Station can serve as a tourism hub for well-heeled travellers and offer overspill accommodation for the International Space Station and workspace for science projects.

According to the Associated Press, the firm plans to launch a seven-room station by 2016 but may decrease or increase that capacity based on customer demand.

A cosy fit, the first module will measure just 20 cubic metres (706 cubic feet) and have four cabins, designed for up to seven passengers, who would go into orbit using the Soyuz shuttle, chief executive Kostenko said.



Harold Stephens
E-mail: ROH Weekly Travel (

Note: The article is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the view of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited.

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