Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004 with the express aim of making commercial spaceflight a reality, has revealed a prototype cabin designed to turn paying punters into planetary pioneers.
The suitably sci-fi-looking cabin boasts six size-adjustable seats, cantilevered from the walls and covered with foam to ensure safety in varying gravity. During boost and re-entry, the seats recline to pre-set angles to minimise G-force and can recline all the way to maximise space while passengers are floating.
Passengers can learn about their voyage from seat-back information screens, while 16 on-board cameras will capture souvenir photos and video, not unlike a roller-coaster at a theme park.
The walls and ceiling are peppered with 17 circular portholes, alongside soft surfaces and handholds for easy and safe zero-G navigation. Although phrases like ‘upside down’ lose their meaning in space, the craft will tilt away from Earth, resulting in perspective-altering views of our planet through the windows overhead.
There’s even a large, circular mirror at the rear of the craft, so customers can see themselves suspended in mid-air as they drift around the cabin.
The announcement is a major landmark in the development of space tourism – long an area of interest for some of the world’s richest, most powerful people.
Technically the world’s first space tourist blasted off in 2001, when US businessman Dennis Tito paid $20 million to spend eight days aboard the International Space Station in the company of Russian cosmonauts, but the prospect of bookable spaceflight has looked increasingly real in recent years.
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have both emerged as competitors in this new commercial space race, but Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has at very least won the race for interstellar interior design.
“When we created Virgin Galactic,” said Sir Richard, “we started with what we believed would be an optimal customer experience and then built the spaceship around it. This cabin has been designed specifically to allow thousands of people like me and you to achieve the dream of spaceflight safely – and that is incredibly exciting.”
There’s still a long way to go before we can casually hop online and book a weekend cruise through the cosmos, but the cabin marks a major milestone in the quest for plausible and comfortable space tourism.
Would you ever take a trip into space? How much do you think it will cost?
– With PA
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