Thursday, July 06, 2006

Shuttle Foam and Space Haggis

There were several delays, but the shuttle Discovery finally lifted off on July 4th, the traditional day for Americans to launch rockets. Apparently it's a new tradition in North Korea as well, as Kim Jong Il sent a few missiles flying himself. While the shuttle wound up docking with the International Space Station, KJI's (as I like to call him) birds took an early swim in the Sea of Japan. Just goes to prove that there's a yin to every yang.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson wants to launch commercial space journeys from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray, starting as early as 2010.
From the BBC:

The company made the announcement on the day its test pilot, Brian Binnie, received an honorary degree from Aberdeen University.

Two years ago, he became the first Scot to fly into space.

And last year the rocket plane SpaceShipOne shot to an altitude of more than 100km for the second time inside a week to claim the $10m Ansari X-Prize.

The vehicle raced straight up into the sky over the Mojave Desert in California, US, with Mr Binnie at the controls.

President of Virgin Galactic Will Whitehorn told BBC Scotland there was a system in development based on the prototype flown by Mr Binnie.

"We are designing it so that we will be able to tour it around the world. So we will have a main base in New Mexico and we are looking at three bases outside there to be able to operate from," Mr Whitehorn said.

"As far as the UK is concerned the only area that we have found that has all the right conditions is the north of Scotland.

"It has relatively little overflying by aircraft, there are not people on the ground who could get injured and RAF Lossiemouth is an ideal location."

He said that test flying of SpaceShipTwo would begin next year and be completed in 2008.

Mr Whitehorn added that commercial operations could begin in 2009, with flights from a Scottish base such as Lossiemouth or Machrahanish the following year.

The Golden Age of Commercial Space Travel is very close.
There's an enormous profit to be made for all mankind in exploration and colonization of the Solar System. It's good to see some actual movement in this direction by people with the courage and the financial means to make it happen.
Let's just hope they leave the Haggis on the ground.