Imagine boarding a flight, settling into your seat, and blasting off at well over the speed of sound. As you're hurtled toward the far reaches of the atmosphere, you feel yourself start to float in your seat; however, a shoulder and lap harness keep you secure as a flight attendant walks down an aisle wearing Velcro sneakers and treading down a Velcro aisle serves up drinks in Capri Sun-like pouch containers. Before you can get through a old rerun of Parks and Recreation and the season premiere of the 17th season of Arrested Development, the pilot comes on the intercom and says, "Excuse me ladies and gentleman, please prepare for reentry."
Private spacecraft may close travel distances — Photo courtesy of Rokits XPrize gallery
Sure, this scenario steals from a few different science fiction films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, but commercial spaceflight is closer than people think. And according to a recent article in the Telegraph, one tycoon who primarily works in Formula One racing believes that he has the resources to send people into space on preliminary tests. Along with the Dutch airline KLM, Michiel Mol has created Space Expedition Curaçao. He hopes to unseat the current leaders in commercial spaceflight, Virgin Galactic, with a vehicle that reaches 14,000 miles per hour.
Such a vehicle would reduce the distances between any two cities to two hours, meaning you could take off from London Heathrow and land in Sydney Kingsford-Smith before finishing a Hollywood film. Of course, spaceflight still isn't cheap, with tickets on Mr Mol's craft expected to run close to £60,000 (or over $90K.) However, that's half as much as Virgin Galactic currently charges for their pre-order tickets, and it's a bargain compared to the price that the Russian Space Agency charges to hitch a ride on their Soyuz spacecraft. While you probably won't see any Groupon deals for Space Expedition Curaçao (not yet, at least) the company's ambitious plans include taking 35 passengers up within the next decade.