SPACESHIPS AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS

 

“…All my life I’ve wanted to see the day when men would conquer space and explore the planets—and I wanted to take part in it. I don’t have to tell you how that feels…”

From Robert Heinlein’s “Rocketship Galileo” p.23

 

 

Escaping from earth will not always be automatically expensive; contrary to the impression created by a Saturn launch, the energy needed to reach space is remarkably small…..Commercial space flight is now beginning to be technologically feasible and will soon become economically viable.”

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

From the Foreword to Dan Linehan’s “SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History”

 

 

“Tourism is the first market for the new spaceflight industry, as thousands of people with the dream to see the earth from space for themselves sign up for rides on suborbital spaceships, which will become increasingly affordable.”

From the book “Rocketeers” by Michael Belfiore

 

 

Space travel was exciting to any kid growing up in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen was no exception. Like millions of American kids, Allen followed the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, and recalled the excitement he felt when the television cart was wheeled into his classroom so that he and fellow students could view the historic events on a black and white TV. Science fiction books fascinated him, like Robert Heinlein’s “Rocketship Galileo” which told the story of a group of kids who built their own spaceship; and a visit to the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair offered a simulated rocket journey into space in the world’s first “Spacearium.” 

As a kid, Allen built dozens of model rockets and even tried his hand at building a homemade rocket of his own out of an old lawn chair (it melted:-).  And he was awed by science fiction stories that made the big screen, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey, which he saw at Seattle’s local Cinerama theater.

 

So when brilliant inventor Burt Rutan introduced the idea of a low cost suborbital spacecraft, Paul Allen was very, very interested.

 

The relationship between the billionaire and the inventor began with a different business venture, but by the Spring of 2000, when Burt Rutan felt that his idea was ready for funding, he asked for a meeting with Paul Allen and told him about the spaceship he was designing. Allen responded with a handshake and an enthusiastic—“Let’s do it.”

 

 

“”I always had in the back of my mind, would I ever have the opportunity to do something in a space-related initiative? Allen recalled. “And so when the SpaceShipOne opportunity came up, I was very excited to pursue it.”

From Dan Linehan’s “SpaceShipOne: An Illustrated History”(p. 19)

 

 

And the rest is history. The Allen-funded SpaceShipOne soared into space, and on October 4th, 2004, it became the first privately funded spaceship to make it into suborbital space twice in two weeks with an equivalent weight of 3 people, thereby winning the Ansari X-prize. It also thereby effectively jumpstarted the commercial space travel industry, something which had previously been thought so impossible that it had a “giggle factor.”

 

On that October 4th date, back in mission control, as SpaceShipOne was still floating in space, Paul Allen shook another hand—the hand of billionaire Richard Branson—who purchased the rights to Allen’s spaceship development program for his own commercial “spaceline,” Virgin Galactic.  The handshake symbolized the next great step in the commercial space travel industry—as “Rocketeers” author Michael Belfiore commented, “That moment marked the end of the beginning of the commercial space age.”

 

And on July 28, 2008, just a couple of weeks ago, the reality of private space travel—of ordinary people becoming astronauts and sailing off into space—just got closer with the unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s mothership, Eve, otherwise known as WhiteKnightTwo.  The WhiteKnightTwo, a beautifully designed carrier aircraft, will be launching rocket SpaceShipTwo and thousands of private astronauts into suborbital space in the near future.

 

In fact, if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars (or A LOT of Virgin Atlantic frequent flier miles)*, and a dream to be an astronaut, you can sign up to be a passenger on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight right now:

 

See…

 

http://www.galacticjourneys.com/?gclid=CKPJ5qi6gpUCFQWxsgodxjGWrQ

 

OR

 

http://www.virgingalactic.com/flash.html?language=english

and for “Virgin Atlantic Frequent Fliers”*

http://promomagazine.com/incentives/virgin_atlantic_miles_011106/index.html

 

Apparently, a large number of people have already signed up.

 

See..

 

http://www.space.com/news/070703_virgingalactic_sales.html

 

 

 

It’s all pretty exciting when you think about it, and it had me wondering what space travel might look like, say, 50 years from now.  So just for fun, I thought I’d write a story about an astronaut from the year 2058, who is also, since spaceships are so common at that time, basically just an ordinary businessman on his way home from work.

 

Just one more thought…..in case you hadn’t guessed, this story is NOT real. And one more thing—if you see Microsoft Co-founder,  Paul Allen’s name (and related stuff) pop up in the story, remember that this IS the Six Degrees of Paul Allen site…….. 🙂

 

 

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Businessman Bo Nunez stepped inside the gleaming spaceship and trudged wearily down the narrow aisle leading to the first class section of the 8 pm Virgin Galactic Transport Shuttle. It had been a long day.

 

He looked forward to getting home. Although the commute to his condo on the Rutan Community Moon Colony was a long one—roughly an hour’s journey—he did not regret the purchase of his new dream home there last year in 2057.  The price was admittedly astronomical, but it was a nice little community—the amenities were unparalleled, and the views—well, the views were literally out of this world.

 

He sank down into his plush leather seat, buckled his seat belt and settled in for the ride home. Donning headphones, he began to listen to a song he designed last night on his computer with the help of the latest Drumcore software. He had become a pro at mixing tracks—and by blending a little U2, Blues and drum solos from his favorite artists, he had come up with a pretty decent song. In fact, the recording would have been perfect were it not for the vocalist. He chuckled as he heard his own voice. “OK, so I guess I won’t quit my day job,” he laughed.

 

He pulled his Kiha* out of his shirt pocket and gently set it down on the pull-down table in front of him. Immediately the surface of the table began to shimmer and ripple as if it were made of water. Multicolored tropical fish appeared to swim deep into the surface of the table and across the screen in 3D, as the scene reflected the underwater beauty of Bo’s favorite dive spot in Palau. This was clearly his favorite screen saver, this underwater video that Bo took last summer, and it always put him in a good mood after a hard day’s work.

 

“Hello, Bo” said a soft, pleasant voice coming from the table. “Where do you want to go today?”

 

“To the moon, Alice!” he thought, remembering the ancient Jackie Gleason reruns that were so popular in the 2040’s. But instead he smiled and said:

 

“How about checking today’s headlines?”

 

Immediately the surface of the table changed to reveal the top stories and photos of the day. One headline in particular caught his eye:

 

“The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Changes Its Name.”

AP Seattle, Washington

 

“The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has announced that it is changing its name and its focus due to the recent development of the Cancer/HIV vaccine.  Since the vaccine was discovered a few years ago, these diseases have been effectively made obsolete in the civilized world.

 

The newly renamed Fred Hutchinson Research Center will now merge with neighboring charitable organizations; The Allen Institute for Brain Science, founded by Microsoft Co-founder, Paul Allen and the Gates Foundation, founded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, to refocus its efforts and collaborate its resources in order to bring the vaccine, along with other recent Allen Institute cures for MS, MD and Alzheimer’s Disease, and the latest spinal cord regeneration treatment, to underdeveloped countries.

 

“We are extremely pleased and honored to be a part of this wonderful project,” stated Jo Allen Patton, chairman of the Allen Family Foundation. “We are grateful to the remarkable men and women who have developed breakthrough medicines that are now capable of defeating these devastating diseases, and we hope to continue to provide the funding necessary to bring these cures to every person who needs them in every corner of the world.”

 

Nunez paused for a moment to absorb the information. “Another scientific breakthrough from the Allen District of Seattle! What a place it must be!

 

“And Paul Allen—I’ve heard of that guy,” he thought. “I wonder what he’s doing now?”

                   

Curious, Nunez did an EVRI  search and discovered that at 105 years old the Microsoft Co-founder had just cut his 4th best-selling rock album.

 

“So he finally broke down and released another set of songs,” Nunez thought. He remembered what terrific hits the first three albums had become nearly 20 years ago, but he had heard that Allen hesitated to issue another album.  It was important to him that people remembered him for more than just his music.

 

Right under that headline was an article about Allen and Gates:

 

“Dynamic Duo Strikes Again

 

People Weekly

 

‘Holy smokes, Batman!’  The Dynamic Duo is at it again, battling the forces of evil.

 

No, we’re not talking about ancient comic book superheroes, but about an unbeatable team of philanthropists named Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Not quite a century ago, when the pair was barely out of their teens, they wrote a language that changed the world, and founded a company that is still one of the most successful organizations in the history of business.

 

And now they’ve joined forces again to take on a new villain—-disease.

 

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have been in the disease vanquishing business since the turn of the century. Through their efforts with the Gates Foundation, the disease Malaria, a horrible scourge that plagued millions of people many years ago has long gone the way of Microsoft’s early competitors. But Gates has begun to tackle other dark forces and has taken on a new partner to do it—his old Microsoft partner, Paul Allen.

 

Allen has been on a disease fighting mission of his own for many years. The Allen Institute for Brain Science, a charitable organization that he founded in 2003, has made major breakthroughs recently in combating a number of debilitating illnesses that have plagued the world. The Allen Institute has historically ventured into a number of research projects such as the brain map and spinal cord map, and has published its findings for free, assisting researchers to find cures for diseases in their particular fields. Recognizing that this kind of information-sharing leads to scientific breakthroughs that benefit everyone, other researchers have followed suit, and the speed of progress in fighting these infirmities has taken off like lightning in recent years, most recently leading to cures.

 

The Gates’ will now join The Allen Family Foundation and the recently renamed Fred Hutchinson Research Center in bringing these cures for a number of diseases, among them Alzheimer’s, MD, Multiple Sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as the recently discovered Cancer/HIV Vaccine and Spinal Regeneration and Regrowth treatments, to countries that currently do not have access to this kind of medicine.

 

May their battle against disease take them to the ends of the earth and to the farthest reaches of space; or, in the words of another Superhero,

 

‘To Infinity and Beyond!’ “

 

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This was great news. Bo remembered a friend of his from years ago, a good friend whom he’d lost…….”I wish those cures had been around earlier,” he thought to himself.

 

He was deep in thought when the seat belt light clicked off and nudged him out of his reverie. Bo looked up from the screen on the table in front of him and gazed out the window. What a view! He could never get used to how beautiful the earth looked from up here.

 

Some of the passengers had taken off their seat belts and were floating around the room, laughing and doing somersaults, and noisily calling each other over to the many windows of the spacecraft to check out the spectacular scenery. When the cabin was full, this was considered bad manners—-this bouncing around the room, sometimes bumping into people who just wanted to get home. But tonight, perhaps because of the late flight, the cabin was nearly empty, and there was plenty of room to move around.

 

As many times as he had made this trip, Bo could not resist feeling completely thrilled by this part of the ride. The feeling of weightlessness made him feel, well, even a little giddy, like a kid riding on a roller coaster for the first time.

 

But today for some reason, he was overwhelmed by the feeling.  Maybe it was the stress of the day or the good news he’d just read. Or maybe he had just taken it all for granted for too long. Whatever the reason, today he couldn’t resist taking off his seat belt and joining the floaters.  As he released the latch of his seat belt and floated away from the restraint, suddenly Bo Nunez forgot the seriousness of the day he had just had. He forgot his age, his business, his life back on earth. For this moment, none of those things mattered. He was 10 years old again—free—and if he wanted to jump off of his first class leather seat and bounce around the walls of this luxury craft in his business suit, he could care less how it looked to anyone else.

 

The seat belt sign came on again, much too soon it seemed, and he belted himself in once more for the lightening-fast ride home. He was breathless, elated from his venture climbing around the cabin and he felt a little like a school kid who had misbehaved in class and had gotten away with it.  By the time the Virgin Galactic Shuttle descended upon the Lunar Spaceport and touched down on the surface of the moon, Bo Nunez was in a very, very good mood.

 

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Just for fun…so that means that none of this is real. But impossible? Maybe not …… J

 

 

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Check out these links…….

Dan Linehan’s SpaceShipOne: an Illustrated History: 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d.html/ref=ms_b_p_1_p1/102-4832936-3742544?ie=UTF8&a=076033188X

Michael Belfiore’s “Rocketeers”

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d.html/ref=ms_a_2_p1/102-4832936-3742544?ie=UTF8&a=0061149039

 

“Rocketship Galileo” Robert Heinlein

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_Ship_Galileo

Other References:

www.paulallen.com 

http://www.paulallen.com/Template2.aspx?contentId=49
Remarks upon winning the Robert J. Collier Trophy from Allen’s website

Other Links:

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Ready for Trips into Space::

 

http://www.virgingalactic.com/

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25849434/from/ET/

Upcoming conference on what’s next in the tourism industry:

http://www.asiatraveltips.com/news08/128-TourismCongress.shtml

 

Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne:

 

http://www.space.com/missionlaunches/SS1_ALLEN_040620.html

http://www.desertturtle.com/

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6487-spaceshipone-wins-x-prize-for-spaceflight.html

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/SpaceShipOne.html

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6167761/

 

Condos on the moon in 50 years?

 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/07/24/2312706.htm?section=justin

 http://savannahnow.com//node/529223

(What about 15?)

 

Institutes mentioned as they are in 2008: 

The Allen Institute for Brain Science:

 

http://www.brain-map.org/

 

Allen Institute Spinal Cord Map:

 

http://www.healthnews.com/medical-updates/new-spinal-cord-map-charts-gene-mysteries-1470.html

 

http://www.prnewswire.com/mnr/alleninstitute/33951/

 

Allen Institute Brain Atlas:

 

http://mouse.brain-map.org/images/logo_AIBS.gif

 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:

 

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm

 

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center:

 

http://www.fhcrc.org/wrapper/img-header/tn_research_o.gif

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 Other Stuff Mentioned:

 

 

 

EVRI:

 

www.EVRI.com

 

http://blog.evri.com/

 

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/art/spacer.gif

 

Drumcore:

 

http://www.submersiblemusic.com/NewsDetail.aspx?id=12

 

 

The Paul Allen Band:

 

http://2008.thecableshow.com/Popups/ContentPopup.aspx?ID=427

 

Kiha:

 

http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2008/02/18/story4.html

 

*(BTW, I have no idea what they’re up to—just took a guess….:-)

 

Microsoft’s “Surface”

 

http://blogs.msdn.com/surface/archive/tags/Microsoft+Surface/default.aspx 

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SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo Videos and more:

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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vnSihCwTEY

 Inside SpaceShipTwo

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z_cUOYwV3E

 From the Discovery Channel and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions “Black Sky”   (Mike Melville)

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APvW1OELo-k

 SpaceShipTwo Demo

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkO040690Wk

SpaceShipOne winning the X-Prize (Brian Binnie)

 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9615023/

 Space Travel future

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HffKW2Z0DPY

 Virgin Galactic SpacePort

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4h247PPOrY

 Virgin Galactic video narrated by Richard Branson

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBo8t0B5NhM

 Animation of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo from a year ago

 http://news.cnet.com/Private-industry-moves-to-take-over-space-race/2009-11397_3-6210833.html

 Private industry moves to take over space race

 http://www.universetoday.com/2008/01/23/virgin-galactic-unveils-spaceshiptwo/

Honeymoon in Space, Anyone? 🙂 

http://honeymoons.about.com/od/flying/qt/VirginGalactic.htm

 

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