Let’s face it: by any rational measure so-called space tourism is a preposterously frivolous idea. Nonetheless, hundreds of thrill-seekers were willing to pay around $2,300 a minute for the ride as soon as Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic venture was launched in 2005. The first passenger-carrying flight was supposed to happen 10 years ago, in 2007. It slipped to 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013…now…maybe… next year.
But if once it seemed like an idea whose time would never come (leaving aside for the moment the issue of whether it ever should) Jeff Bezos and his Blue Origin team—not Branson—now seems more than ever likely to be the first to deliver. The two projects could not be more different. One, Galactic, is a hybrid of rocket and flying machine, the other, Bezos’s New Shepard, is purely ballistic, a rocket ride followed by descent in a six-passenger capsule under three parachutes.
Bezos has been testing his system in the remote tundra of west Texas, with five virtually flawless flights between November 2015 and October 2016.. Moreover, he has so much confidence in his approach that after several years of under-the-radar development he has become uncharacteristically boosterish. Whereas Branson over the years staged numerous junkets for the media in which success was claimed to be imminent, but warning that, “It’s a mistake to race to a deadline when you’re talking about a flying vehicle, especially one that you’re going to put people on. Read more here
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