Virgin Galactic are working hard on completing their goal of space travel for the general public, but it nearly had a big set-back in the flash of a heart-stopping second.
The Anglian name-sake, WhiteKnightTwo mothership, was set to carry the SpaceShipTwo from Virgin Galactic’s spaceport in New Mexico into suborbital heights on the 29th September.
All was going smoothly until WhiteKnightTwo got to the required height and released SpaceShipTwo as normal. However, SpaceShipTwo’s nose dipped and it plummeted towards the ground, with 2 pilots and an engineer on board, they had to think quickly.
The crew reacted instinctively using the ships ‘feather re-entry system’ to slow the ship down and regained control of the spaceship to land it safely on the ground. I think I would have been absolutely petrified if I was onboard the shuttle, and probably would have panicked, so great work from the crew!
During a normal flight it takes 11 minutes to land, but SpaceShipTwo was falling so quickly, that it landed in just 7 minutes. That means it was travelling at a phenomenal speed, but the brilliant feather safety system worked well, as it relies on aerodynamic to control the speed and altitude, much like a shuttlecock in badminton.
Luckily, nobody was hurt, and Scaled Composites, the creators of the spaceship said the flight was a success and demonstrated brilliantly the feather system.
Sir Richard Branson hopes that he can get all testing done by 2012 and start commercial flights from the New Mexico Spaceport soon after. This once in a lifetime chance will cost a huge $200,000 per return trip with Virgin Galactic and a staggering 450 people have already purchased theirs! I like how they are offering a return ticket, where would they drop you off if you opted for a single?
The total duration of your expedition into space will last two and a half hours, and you even get to experience what we thought only astronauts would…weightlessness. You can float around the cabin for about 5 minutes, swimming through the air and getting some incredible views of earth.