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Some dreams are not individual, but universal. Among the universal dreams of the human race, is the dream to experience outer space. From the earliest stages of our history, humanity has been intrigued with the cosmos. How big is it? What does it mean? Are we alone?
Slowly, SpaceShipTwo (see short video) – a project funded by billionaire Sir Richard Branson and designed by American aerospace engineer Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composities LLC – is emerging from the top secret shadows of its development stage. This spacecraft is part of a growing worldwide race to commercialize space travel.
47 years ago Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the Earth. He piloted his Vostok 1 in one orbit of our planet in 108 minutes. Fueled by this event, President Kennedy set a goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s. Kennedy’s vision culminated on July 20, 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission, commanded by Neil Armstrong, successfully landed two American astronauts on the moon.
Since those days the promise of space has been squandered by governments who were only interested in advancing their national interests; not the interests of humanity. We have returned to the more mundane drama of our petty squabbles over land, religion, and political systems. We have been distracted by the latest about Britney Spears, the cost of gasoline, and the latest pennant race.
Does the space dream still live within us? Can we muster our resources and our efforts to accomplish the greatest challenge in history – the challenge of space?
For now, this form of privatized space travel is open only to the wealthy and elite. About 200 people have put up $250,000 a piece to go weightless for five minutes some time in the next few years. There is no immediate possibility of mass space travel.
Who knows if this latest round of space enthusiasm will lead to the broader human dream of space travel and exploration. It may become just a high-priced thrill ride for jet-setters looking for new adrenaline rushes.
Nonetheless, it renews our hope that one day the beautiful night sky we stand awe-inspired in our driveways observing may be accessible to us all.