Saturday, April 20, 2013

Le Voyage dans la Lune

Virgin Galactic took another step toward private spaceflight this past week. Their SpaceShipTwo took a "cold flow" voyage over the Mojave Desert, running oxidizer through the rocket's propulsion system and out the back nozzle of the ship, though the vehicle's rocket engine was not turned on. This gives one more indication that the vehicle is flight-ready, and also left a pretty keen contrail across the sky. The next step is actually lighting the rocket engine. So far, tests have been run primarily to see how this space ship would perform if dropped from a very great height.
Suddenly I am reminded of the discussion of all the dimwits who, under the influence of this or that substance, climbed to the top of some very tall building and jumped off believing that they could fly. If you could fly, why not start out with something just a tad simpler, like taking off from the ground floor. This might eliminate some of the trauma of sudden deceleration.
Which brings us back to Virgin Galactic. With all the money that Richard Branson is pouring into this project, maybe he knows something that we don't. Perhaps there is some rush to purchase one of the two hundred thousand dollar tickets on that first trip out of the atmosphere. Is this really a chance to be a space tourist, or is it a cleverly concealed attempt to ferry the one percent off the planet before it becomes a burned-out cinder? Who is to say that Mister Branson, who can afford it, isn't preparing a lunar base of his own, after having used Newt Gingrich during this past year to throw up a bombastic smoke screen to make it appear as though it was some conservative nut-job's dream.
Or maybe it's just another fanciful enterprise from a man who has lived his life pursuing fanciful enterprises. At least he seems to start those trips from the ground.

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