Space

Ready to book a space flight?

Courtesy NASA

(This is a slightly different version of a story we prepared for NBC News)

A trip to space has rocketed to the top of travel bucket lists for those who can afford it, after successful suborbital jaunts by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX’s recent launch of four civilians into orbit.

The well-publicized trips are bringing space travel up a notch on an extreme — and pricey — travel menu that already includes adventures such as climbing Mount Everest, skiing in Antarctica, and a wilderness safari in Africa.

“For many extreme adventure travelers, we are there now where space is as accessible as Mount Everest and other places,” said Joshua Bush, CEO of luxury travel agency Avenue Two Travel and an accredited space agent for Virgin Galactic. “It will take a sizeable budget and a lot of planning — but the successful launches this past summer indicate all systems go.”

While many people inquiring about booking space travel are aviation and space enthusiasts, others see this as “the next great adventure to a place fewer than 1,000 people have been to before,” Bush said. “Others see this as the dawn of a new industry and how they, too, can be pioneers.”

“These future astronauts all have unique and personal reasons for going. Their common thread is a passion just to go,” he said.

There are more ways for people to get to space now than ever before, said Geoff Nunn, adjunct curator for Space History at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

“Space is definitely opening up. There are other options for those who might want something more ambitious,” Nunn said, including space tourism company Space Adventures, which books flights to the International Space Station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

For suborbital flight tickets, “Virgin Galactic already has a waiting list of about 600 customers who reserved flights for $250,000. However, the company recently raised its prices to $450,000 a seat, and increased the deposit to $149,000,” Nunn said.

Blue Origin has not yet made its prices public, but the company auctioned off a seat on its first spaceflight for $28 million.

There are some lower-cost options to get a seat on a space flight.

Later this month, Virgin Galactic and charity fundraising platform Omaze will announce the winner of a contest held over the summer to give away a pair of seats on an upcoming commercial spaceflight.

But even with a ticket, the wait time to get on a commercial suborbital flight may be long.

For suborbital there will be very limited opportunities over the next few years,” said Tom Shelley, president of Space Adventures. “Virgin and Blue Origin have demonstrated their long-talked-about capability. But now they need to go from showing it can be done once to doing these safely and regularly.”

That could take years, Shelley said. “But this is the beginning of that transition from being a dream and a possibility, to becoming a regular scheduled flight reality.”

While waiting and saving up for their space flights, citizen astronauts have other issues to consider.

“Leaving the atmosphere is hard, and you want to make sure you understand the danger and the safety precautions in place before agreeing to go,” Nunn said. “Regulations around space tourism are still being worked out and participants fly under informed consent requirements for the time being.”

Missed opportunity?

Back in 2012, Gregory Schneider won a ticket for a suborbital space trip, presented to him by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in a contest sponsored by Seattle’s Space Needle and Space Adventures. Contestants had to complete a series of challenges, including a tethered outdoor walk on the top of the 520-foot-tall Space Needle.

“The prize was for a flight that was going to be on a rocket being built by Armadillo Aerospace, which went out of business a few years later,” Schneider said. “Then, one of the Virgin Galactic spaceships exploded, and it seemed like this space trip wasn’t going to be happening any time soon.”

Schneider asked for the $110,00 cash value of the prize and paid off his law school student loans.

Now that suborbital flights are a reality, Schneider says he is “a little nostalgic and a little disappointed” that he no longer has a ticket.

“But I’m optimistic that the technology will improve, and the price will come down,” he said.

You can go to space too! For free. Or with a donation.

That was pretty darn exciting to see Virgin Galactic take Richard Branson on a trip to space.

Want to take that trip too? An estimated 600 people are ahead of you, having put down $250,000 for tickets over the years Virgin Galactic has been working out the technology. Many others have deposits banked for when more tickets go on sale.

However, those of us short on discretionary space travel cash but big on the idea of a trip to space have another shot at being shot into space.

Virgin Galactic and fundraising company Omaze are running sweepstakes with a grand prize of two seats on a future commercial spaceflight.

You can enter for free. But you get additional entires, plus a chance to help make spaceflight more accessible for everyone, by making a donation of as little as $2 to Space for Humanity.

Here’s what they’re promising:

You and your guest will board a Virgin Galactic spaceship where you’ll take off smoothly, just like an airplane, and watch as the colors outside your window change from blue to indigo to midnight black…

Hovering above Earth, nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking views of our bright planet and surrounding galaxy. Or hearing “you are now free to float about the cabin.” 

Cameras throughout the cabin will record every moment in HD. With 17 circular windows for viewing, every seat is a window seat. And there’s even a mirror to watch yourself floating through space. 

Following a smooth glide descent, you’ll return back to Earth safely, but forever transformed. You’re an astronaut now.

Sound like something you’d like to do someday?

Here’s the link to enter the Virgin Galactic sweepstake for a flight to space. Start thinking about who you’d take along.

(Photos above courtesy Virgin Galactic)

Space Travel for us? Looking possible.

What can we say? Space Travel for mortals, well, rich mortals, is now much more of a reality. Thanks, Richard Branson, and your enthusiasm, for kicking it off.

OH, the places we’d go

We’re so close to getting on the vaccination list that we’re making lists of places we’d go if we could somewhere now.

Out for Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Here’s a great reason to vaccinated and head out for a snack.

Krispy Kreme is offering anyone who shows their COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card a free Original Glazed doughnut every day this year.

Not getting vaccinated? You should. But Krispy Kreme says you can still get some free doughnuts if you stop by Mondays, 3/29/21 – 5/24/21. On those days they’ll be handing a free Original Glazed® doughnut and a medium brewed coffee.

To Paisely Park to see Prince’s Ashes

Prince has been gone just about five years now.

Paisley Park, Prince’s former estate and production complex in suburban Minneapolis, is now a museum and a recording studio. And on the fifth anniversary of this death – April 21 – Paisley Park will be opening the Paisley Park Atrium for free so that a limited number of fans can pay tribute to Prince and see the urn that holds his ashes. For those unable to visit in person, an online memorial will be available.

While at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), we’d stop in at the Prince store too.

The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center

Among the many great attractions at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Rocket Garden is said to be the most photographed.

This week the garden got it first new ‘planting’ since the early 2000s: The United Launch Alliance’s Delta Rocket II.

How does it land a spot here alongside rockets and space vehicles from NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs?

Delta II rockets were industry workhorses, launching 155 times from 1989-2018. They carried satellites for the Global Positioning System (GPS) and put NASA’s rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Phoenix Mars Lander into space.

Stuck at The Airport: Mars edition

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover is set to touch down on the Red Planet on Thursday, February 18th.

Earthlings are pretty darn excited.

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the famous LAX pylons are glowing red in anticipation of the landing.

Many other sites and landmarks around the world, including Cleveland’s historic Terminal Tower, are also glowing red in anticipation of the landing.

Krispy Kreme is celebrating the landing too with a special Mars doughnut. This chocolate cream-filled doughnut is dipped in caramel icing with a red planet swirl and sprinkled with chocolate cookie crumbs. The limited-edition doughnut is available in shops and online for one day only – Thursday, February 18.

And of course, you’ll want to tune in to watch NASA’s live coverage of the Perseverance Rover Landing, starting at 11:15 am PST and 2:15 EST.