Zip into space from 2012 for just 11 million
Friday, 28 September 2007, 07:00 Hrs
Hyderabad: Rich and spirited Indians can look forward to fly into space and orbit the earth from 2012 for about 11 million onboard a Euro shuttle. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) Astrium will launch space tourism packages for global customers with a fleet of space shuttle in the next five years. "Customers willing to cough up Euro 200,000 (about 11.2 million) can take the ride for a space picnic in lower orbits lasting a few hours and return with all the thrills of celestial excitement," Astrium chief engineer and space tourism project manager Christophe Chavagnac said here Friday. Addressing the 58th International Astronautical Congress (IAC 2007) here, Chavagnac told delegates the once-a-week trip will be in a space plane that would take off like an aeroplane and get into hypersonic mode to zip like a rocket into outer space to about 100 km above earth. "Space tourists will be able to experience what has been a privilege of about 450 astronauts and cosmonauts who flew into outer space and beyond over the past five decades on scientific and exploratory missions," Chavagnac pointed out. The company plans to begin the space tourist project from 2009 when the initial $1-billion funding is expected. Presenting a mock-up of the passenger cabin of the spaceship being planned for tourist flights, Chavagnac said the sub-orbital space plane had been designed and developed over the past 12-18 months to send four passengers in one trip, where they will be able to experience weightlessness (zero gravity). Till date, only the Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) has been taking a few individuals to the International Space Station (ISS) on its Soyuz spacecraft for about $30 million. As flights into space or to the ISS are limited and expensive, the lucky ones have been booked till 2009. "We plan to offer short trips to ensure customers get a feel of conditions in space and return on the same day without staying back onboard an operational spacecraft like the ISS or even a defunct one," Chavagnac said. With a few individuals ready to pay up, space tourism has began to create interest amongst the discerning for new kinds of adventures. "The attractions of space tourism are the uniqueness of such an experience, the thrill and awe of looking at earth from space, which is described by astronauts as intense and mind-boggling, the notion of achieving a status symbol and the kick of weightlessness," he noted. Set up in 2000, EADS is an aerospace corporation formed by the merger of Aerospatiale-Matra of France, Construcciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) of Spain and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG (DASA) of Germany. The Paris-based global aerospace firm develops and markets civil and military aircraft, space rockets satellites and related systems.