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EADS To Offer Tourist Spacecraft By 2012

EADS hopes to take 15,000 passengers a year to space by 2020.
by Dominique Beaujouin
Paris (AFP) June 13, 2007
Getting a closer look at the stars may soon stop being the privilege of a few select billionaires, with the space arm of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company saying Wednesday it plans to have a space tourist plane in operation by 2012. The vessel, which EADS plans to start developing next year, would provide tourists with a 90-minute suborbital flight, including three minutes of weightlessness at an altitude of more than 100 kilometres (62 miles), Francois Auque, the president of EADS Astrium, told reporters.

The fare could be "around 150,000 to 200,000 euros (199,000-265,000 dollars) for this suborbital flight, while it costs 25 million dollars for the few space tourists flying in the narrow capsule of the Russian rocket Soyuz," Auque said.

"We are offering a profitable system and have given ourselves until early 2008 to find industrial partners to share the risk, private investment of around one billion euros and an operator for the journey. We will not do it without that," he said.

EADS was to unveil a blueprint of the aircraft's cabin, in which four passengers would sit on hammocks, late on Wednesday to 2,500 guests in the French capital.

EADS hopes to take 15,000 passengers a year to space by 2020.

"We have ruled out the idea of a simple rocket, which can not be used again, or of a small vessel attached to a large plane, the idea chosen by Virgin Galactic of Richard Branson, but which seems to us less safe", said Robert Laine, the technical director of EADS Astrium.

Branson has said his Virgin Galactic spacecraft should be prepared to shoot tourists into suborbital orbit by 2009 at 200,000 dollars a ticket.

EADS said it was not concerned about entering the space race later than Virgin given "the qualities of the solution proposed by Astrium which can take off and land on any runway, and the possibilities of the market".

The European company said it was the first to propose space flights for ordinary people with less than a week of preparation, who would take off and return in the same vessel controlled by a single pilot.

Once the plane hits an altitude of 12,000 metres it will transform into a rocket, Laine said

In just 80 seconds the plane will climb to an altitude of 60 kilometres at a maximum speed of 3G, or three times the force of gravity, before continuing towards its 100-kilometre-high destination, where passenger will be able to admire the earth globe against a cobalt sky with the sun and the moon side-by side in the background.

EADS said it would use hammock seats created to automatically turn to keep the acceleration behind the passengers at all times in order to avoid discomfort caused by a blood-rush to their heads.

After spending three minutes at zero gravity, floating around the cabin and observing the world from above, the passengers will begin their descent through the dense atmospheric layers, before the pilot hits the brakes at 4.5 G for 10 seconds.

That is "two times less than what a fighter pilot has to endure," the company said.

One minute after the braking begins, the vessel will again transform into a plane before landing at a space airport coupled with a luxury tourist complex.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Star Trek Fans Beam Into Canadian Wild West
Vulcan (AFP) Canada, June 10, 2007
A Klingon is an unexpected sight in Canada's vast western plains, among the lonely oil wells, cow pastures and wheat fields. But hundreds of the ferocious warriors from Gene Roddenberry's fictional Star Trek universe gathered here this weekend for the town's annual Spock Days and Galaxyfest -- a three-day space festival and Star Trek convention. "It's escapism," said Canada's head Klingon QelIv Satir, also known as Paul Carreau of Calgary, wearing a studded leather uniform and frightening makeup that takes up to two hours to put on.

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