By Mika Rekai - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 0 Comments
Quebec tourism agency Uniktour preparing to compete with Virgin Galactic for would-be astronauts
Canadians who dream of going to the final frontier will soon be able to find cheaper flights. Last week, Quebec tourism agency Uniktour announced it will be collaborating with Space Expedition Corp. and XCOR Aerospace to offer private space travel by 2014. Uniktour will be selling two different space packages, for $95,000 and $100,000, which includes hotel stays and astronaut training. That’s about half the price of the flights offered by main rival Virgin Galactic.
Trips booked via Uniktour will blast off from California’s Mojave desert and the Caribbean island of Curaçao. Unlike Virgin, which plans to take six tourists into space once a day, Space Expedition will be taking one tourist into space four times a day. Because the shuttle is so small, the tourist will be seated like a co-pilot. The flights will last about an hour, with several minutes spent at the edge of space, 100 km up: just long enough for passengers to experience weightlessness while admiring the blackness of space and the curvature of the Earth.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 6:26 AM - 6 Comments
I continue to be awestruck at Sir Richard Branson’s gift for hype. On Monday he rolled out Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShipTwo”, dutifully described by Wired magazine as “the first commercial spacecraft” and “the first commercial spaceship”. This must be galling for the folks at the spaceflight research firm SpaceX. In July of this year, to little fanfare, they successfully put a Malaysian satellite into low earth orbit using a privately designed and built unmanned rocket, the Falcon 1. This is definitely commerce, and RazakSat is definitely up there in space, bleeping away in Malay. Surely everything else is Bransonian semantics?
SpaceShipTwo, despite the name, is an airplane–a very sophisticated and impressive airplane, designed to make brief suborbital hops after being carried aloft by another airplane. Branson’s hundreds of more-money-than-they-know-what-to-do-with customers are buying the aviation experience of a lifetime, one that nobody returns from unmoved. But it will be an aviation experience. “Space” is defined in custom, international law, and Virgin marketing literature as “high enough that airplanes mostly don’t work anymore”. To get there as an airplane passenger, by virtue of a few seconds of rocket boost tacked onto a conventional flight, seems a little like a technical cheat—the equivalent of trying to join the Mile High Club by oneself in the john.
Branson likes to crack wise about the old-fashionedness and inelegance of efforts to commercialize space by means of brute, old-fashioned multi-stage rocketry. In fact, the seventh American in “space” was a civilian badass named Joe Walker, who got there more or less by the method Branson is using. Like Walker, Branson’s passengers will experience “weightlessness” only for a few seconds at the top of their journey, for exactly the same physical reason that a bungee jumper experiences it at the apex of his rebound. Virgin Galactic continues to suggest that its research program will one day progress beyond flirtations with the Kármán line to earth orbit, where the real commercial, defence, and scientific applications are. But those plans are vague, and, perhaps tellingly, SpaceShipThree is no longer scheduled to be an orbital craft.
Meanwhile, SpaceX may be just days—hours, even—from testing its Falcon 9 launch platform, which is capable of carrying a manned capsule all the way into orbit and supporting International Space Station resupply missions. They’ve got their “spacecraft” built already, and will be testing its orbital capacities in the new year. Branson has a stirring line of blarney that obviously appeals to adventurers weaned on the sonorous, mercifully equation-free poetry of Carl Sagan. But we hardcore nerds know where the action really is.
By Steve Maich - Friday, August 7, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 3 Comments
A weekly scorecard on the state of the economy in North America and beyond
Ladies and gentlemen, the recession is over. Or at least it seems to be winding down. Unless it isn’t. The past few weeks have been a little dizzying for those not accustomed to the wildly contradictory messages common in the world of economics.
What is a poor citizen supposed to think when Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney comes out one day and says the recession is all but over, and then Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (backed by a passel of big bank analysts) emerges a day later to throw cold water on the idea.
Is the recession over or what? As is so often the case in the world of economics, the answer is “yes and no.”
Carney and Flaherty were speaking honestly and accurately about two separate but related realities. Carney was referring to the technical definition of a recession, and the news there is encouraging. All signs suggest that Canada’s economy is growing again, and will likely grow more toward the end of the year. Commodity prices have rebounded, housing has stabilized and job losses are slowing. That means that the pressure will soon be on for Carney to squeeze off the easy money tap, to keep inflationary pressures at bay. Continue…