Friday, September 30, 2005

Tourist. A bad word in space?

Once again, a non-astronaut is making the trip to the space station. The word tourist seems to have been applied to these non-astronauts but even that is a bit misleading. Astronaut has always been associated with anyone who has reached 62 miles up. And the wings associated with space flight awarded to those folks.

But this is not a teacher in space type program or a fantasy Pan Am flight from the movie 2001. It is instead the program which the russians have been touting for 20 million USD per trip over the past few years. Not bad if you are a multi-millionaire with nothing but time and money on your side.

There have been two before him but Gregory Olsen is not letting that stop his enthusiasm. According to Olsen, "Someday everyone will be going into space just like they are flying in planes today."

He will be spending approximately 10 days in the zero gravity of the space station and coming home with the current crew on board the station. These change over flights always only take a total of 2 astronauts and the Russians have been using the selling of the third seat to inject their space program with much needed cash.

While this is a good way to get into space, it would be easier if companies like Scaled Composites suddenly started making a ship which would go all the way into orbit rather than just into sub-orbital flight. Then you would see people lining up for flights, especially if it was as safe as flying in a plane.