Views from space can change the world, Virgin Galactic says

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unit spaceliner captured this view of Earth during the vehicle’s first trip to space on Dec. 13, 2018.
(Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic wants to make the world a better place by giving many more people the much-needed perspective.

Representatives of the company have expressed a strong belief in the “overview effect.” That is the idea that seeing the Earth as it truly is, a magnificent but lonely outpost of life bobbing around in a seemingly endless void, fundamentally changes the way people think about their home world.

Many NASA astronauts have noted over the years, this view can be used both for the promotion of a greater concern for the planet’s ecological well-being and a unifying force of humanity, to remind people that the border lines that divide them are random constructions. [Classic View of Earth from Space (Photos)]

“The more people that see the Earth from above, the change that you can make on Earth,” Virgin Galactic President Mike Moses said Thursday (Nov. 8) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D. C.

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“You bring the space back to house with you, and be able to give people that perspective in a much wider strip than ever before — I think that the future is,” Moses added.

He spoke during a ceremony celebrating the donation to the National Air and Space Museum of RocketMotorTwo, which powered Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo is the latest vehicle, VSS Unit, on its first trip to suborbital space last December.

That Dec. 13 test flight, which was piloted by Mark “Forger” Stucky, and Frederick “CJ” Sturckow, was the first manned mission to launch to space from AMERICAN soil since retired NASA space shuttle fleet in July 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration granted Stucky and Sturckow commercial astronaut wings for the performance on Thursday, during another ceremony held in the Department of Transportation in Washington.

(NASA currently relies on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to get AMERICAN astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but that should change relatively quickly. SpaceX, Boeing are scheduled to fly crew test missions to orbit lab with their own vehicles this summer.)

The six-passenger SpaceShipTwo is designed to take paying customers and scientific cargo on short trips to suborbital space. The winged vehicle is carried aloft by a modified aircraft named WhiteKnightTwo and was at an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). SpaceShipTwo’s on board of the rocket engine kicks on, powering the vessel to the last frontier.

A ride aboard SpaceShipTwo are currently selling for $250,000. More than 600 people have already put deposits down for a seat, Virgin Galactic representatives have said. But the company wants to reach many more people than that, and the Dec. 13 milestone suggests that such bold ambitions are not far-fetched, said Moses, who served as the launch integration manager of the Space Shuttle program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center from 2008 to 2011.

“I think from a future perspective, we’re right at that inflection point, kind of where we’re going to start with a test flight suddenly five or six or 10. And than commercial flights, and they go from the one to the five to six-to 5.000, – up to hundreds of thousands,” he said. “Our future here is to open space for everyone and give everyone a chance to go experience in the space, the Earth from above.”

We could get the first look at that future soon. Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson has said that he expects SpaceShipTwo commercial operations to start in the middle of this year. Branson has repeatedly said that he will be on board the vehicle is the first commercial flight.

Virgin Galactic is not the only major player in the suborbital-tourism firm. Blue Origin, which is carried out by founder Jeff Bezos, is developing a rocket-capsule combo, the so-called New Shepard to get people and payloads to suborbital space and back. New Shepard commercial flights can begin as early as this year if all goes well, company representatives have said.

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