So Close, But Yet, So Far - Virgin Galactic Might Not Quite Reach Space
The lucky passengers on Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spacecraft have been getting some pretty disappointing news lately. First, their out-of-this-world trip was delayed until at least 2015. Now, a report has been released claiming that the small print on the contracts travelers signed has them agree that they aren't guaranteed to reach outer space during their trip.
The clause is said to state that the passengers are guaranteed to get an elevation of "at least 50 miles", which Virgin claims counts as reaching space according to NASA's 50 mile boundary definition, which was used in the 1960's as a way for pilots who flew in the rocket-powered X-15 aircraft to be declared astronauts. At this height, passengers will experience weightlessness, and it will undoubtedly be a wild ride. However, since the Karman Line, the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space is actually 62 miles high, they will still not technically have reached outer space.
Currently, more than 400 people have signed up to venture into space (or, at least, close to it) on SpaceShipTwo. A ticket on this trip of a lifetime will set you back $240,000, but who would possibly shell out that much cash for a trip that doesn't even get them into space? Unsurprisingly, Hollywood A-Listers make up a significant chunk of the early passenger list. Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have all booked their seats, while the now-divorced Katy Perry and Russell Brand are also on the list. Justin Bieber is another notable celebrity ticket-holder, although many would rather that particular flight include a drop off somewhere along the line.
Virgin Galactic states that they are working to reach the 62 mile barrier for galactic flights. Since the World Air Sports Federation, the organization that governs astronautical world records, recognizes the Karman line as the official border between Earth's atmosphere and space, Virgin Galactic and their passengers look likely to remain space....ahem, Virgins.