[Editor's Note: Silicon Valley Comic Con's 2017 theme was “The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?" Our partners at Outer Places attended the event, and shared what everyone from Virgin Galactic to the team behind Arrival has to say about the future of our species.]
This post originally appeared on Outer Places.
One of the first things we heard from the Virgin Galactic rep at this event was "Our goal is to put everyone in space." No, that's not meant to be a threat—it's meant to be a promise. Right now, the image of commercial spaceflight is essentially a space-limo for the super-rich. That's still probably going to be the case for the next few years, but in the meantime, here's what a Virgin Galactic spaceflight would look like.
Getting Ready to Fly
The way the Virgin Galactic rep described it, commercial spaceflight is going to be pretty much the same thing as getting on a regular flight, but with a few more steps. A few days before the flight departs, you'll come to a Virgin Galactic facility to do some basic training and get ready for the rigors of space—including 4 G's of acceleration and safety procedures.
On the day of the flight, you'll wake up early, go to the flight facility, and put on your spacesuit, hopefully culminating in a moment when you walk down a hallway with the rest of the passengers in slow motion, like Armageddon.
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Each flight will have five passenger astronauts and a crew (no word yet on legroom or meals). Passengers will be riding in Spaceship 2, that iconic swept-back spacecraft you've probably seen before, which is carried by a plane called the White Knight 2, which looks like two planes attached at the wing:
As the video shows, the flight will start off like a regular airplane flight: the White Knight will take the Spaceship 2 vessel to 55,000 feet, where it detaches. At that point, the rocket motor will kick in and the Spaceship will accelerate to three and a half times the speed of sound (Mach 3.5) and exit the atmosphere.
At that point, passengers will experience weightlessness for about 5 minutes before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. Spaceship 2 will then transform its wings and change their orientation to help get rid of excess heat and speed, then change them again in the atmosphere to glide back down to Earth, where it will land like a normal aircraft.
Right now, Virgin expects that the total cost to send Spaceship 2 into space for one of these flights will be between $8-10 million dollars.
Now, the question on our mind is "Why would anyone spend a large sum of money to get five minutes of weightlessness?" Movie studios have employed aircraft, like the famous Vomit Comet, to simulate weightlessness for space movies for years by ascending and descending very quickly. Why not just stick LCD screens on the windows of a plane and pretend you're in space?
The answer is the 'overview effect.' As the Virgin Galactic rep described, when you look down on the Earth from space and see how thin the atmosphere is, how vast the oceans are, and how small the Earth is compared to the vastness of space, you get a new perspective on humanity and what it means to be a resident on the planet. It's no coincidence, Virgin Galactic believes, that most astronauts go on to become humanitarians and activists.
Virgin Galactic wants to put everyone in space, not just the super-rich. Unfortunately, the time actually spent in space is very short now. But according to Virgin Galactic, it's not about how much time you spend in space, it's what you do once you're there.
You can check out Virgin Galactic's website here.
Brought to you by our partners at Outer Places.
Featured photo via Virgin Galactic