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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Virgin, Blonde, Spaceship

On Monday, maverick American aircraft designer Burt Rutan and British über-business king Richard Branson unveiled their shiny new White Knight Two mothership.

This is the vehicle which will carry the first ever commercial passenger spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, under its central wing section. The mothership is designed to lift SpaceShipTwo to its launch altitude of 50,000 feet.

The spacecraft will then be released, firing its own rocket engines and climbing to the height of 100 km - just above the internationally recognized boundary of space.

Some news agencies have reported that SpaceShipTwo will reach "low-Earth orbit" - which is not technically correct because the vehicle can only attain sub-orbital speeds of about 4,200 kilometres per hour.

In order to hit low Earth orbit at 100 km, a vehicle needs to reach speeds of about 28,000 km/h. Otherwise, the vehicle cannot make one complete orbit around the Earth.

Geeky details aside, I think that White Knight Two is an interesting design, though it has a more conventional appearance than the original White Knight.

I should also mention that White Knight Two is a marvel in its own right - the 43-metre wingspan four-turbofan vehicle is currently the largest all-carbon-composite aircraft in the world.

However, what really caught my eye is this spanking new Virgin Galactic logo emblazoned on its nose ...

Designed to be reminiscent of the art-deco era, the spacegirl looks very... blonde.

And she doesn't seem to be wearing much.

Totally unlike an old-timer's vision of what a spacegirl ought to look like...

Who looks far more... brunette.

Virgin Galactic has such a sexy logo (contrast it with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Blue) that it makes me really suspicious.

As you know, Singapore Airlines has officially banned passengers from engaging in "inappropriate activity" aboard their spacious new A380 superjumbos.

Luckily, that's not the end of the world.

Perhaps Richard Branson - a notable member of the Mile High Club himself - is contemplating a wee bit more than the amazing scenery and the thrill of weightlessness in his spaceships?

A new avenue for a truly out-of-this-world experience?

And a new club? The "62-Mile High Club" or maybe the "Zero-G Club"?

I think that an exciting era of space tourism has come.