The ten-year wait seems to be over soon. The Swedish adventurer Renata Chlumska, one of about 600 people with a Virgin Galactic ticket to space, hopes to get going soon.
– It feels unreal, she says to TT.
Just over ten years ago, she borrowed 1.5 million from the bank and bought a ticket to space. When billionaire Richard Branson reached the outer limits of the atmosphere on Sunday, it meant that Renata Chlumska’s departure was finally within reach.
– Soon there will be a call so I will hear when it happens, she says.
– It feels incredibly exciting, both cool and a little unreal. It’s hard to accept that it’s actually happening.
Branson’s journey is predicted to be the start of a new era of commercial space tourism. His company Virgin Galactic is one of the companies that will offer regular trips to those who can afford it.
See the earth from above
Chlumska, including the first Swedish woman to climb the world’s seven highest mountain peaks, has ticket number 192 of the approximately 600 sold to Virgin Galactic’s space travel. For the past ten years, she has devoted herself to preparations – testing flight simulators, flying jets, exposing herself to g-forces.
– These years have been absolutely fantastic: everything I have been through, all the training, all the people I have met, she says.
When asked what it is that attracts with space, she answers with a laugh.
– Everything. To experience what I have only read and heard astronauts talk about – everything from weightlessness to seeing the earth from above. I have seen the world from the top of Mount Everest and I know how it changed my life, so I see in front of me that this will be very revolutionary, says Chlumska.
– I sometimes think that we forget how small we are and how fragile the planet is. Seeing things from other perspectives is both instructive and very important.
It’s not just Virgin Galactic that is aiming for space. Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s companies Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space X are also vying to establish themselves in space tourism – an industry whose annual market value investment bank UBS estimates will be three billion dollars (over 25 billion Swedish kronor) in 2030.
It is a market that many players want to take part in – even in Sweden. The space investment Spaceport Sweden is now waiting for the green light from the government to be able to offer Sweden as a departure alternative for the world’s space entrepreneurs, says CEO Karin Nilsdotter.
– We are in the starting blocks and are just waiting for the investigation that will come with a proposal this autumn. It is a great business opportunity for Sweden, she says.
Karin Nilsdotter, also a proud holder of a Virgin Galactic ticket, believes that commercial travel opens up a world of possibilities – not least for research and development. She looks forward with anxious anticipation to what she believes will be the adventure of her life.
– The biggest thing that can happen is to give birth to a child, but space will probably come in second place.
Controversial space boundary
Richard Branson’s flight has been preceded by years of preparation, test flights and tests. The safety aspect ended up not least in the spotlight in 2014, when a Virgin Galactic pilot died when the craft exploded during a test flight. Karin Nilsdotter is not worried about herself.
– It is clear that there is a risk, but I feel very safe with the test program that has been carried out.
However, space enthusiasts are discussing whether the space tourists of the future will actually be able to call themselves astronauts. Where the boundary to space goes is disputed – according to Nasa it is at 80.5 kilometers, while the international Fédération Aéronautique Internationale believes that the so-called Karman line around 100 kilometers above the earth constitutes the boundary.
Branson and crew reached an altitude of about 86 kilometers before returning to Earth after a few minutes of weightlessness. Earlier in July, Bezos Blue Origin sent a pass to Virgin Galactic on Twitter:
“New Shepard (the company’s spacecraft) was designed to fly above the Karman Line, so that none of our astronauts will have an asterisk to their title.”
Facts: Three billionaires aiming for space
1. Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Galactic. The British billionaire entered the space industry in 2004, when he started Virgin Galactic with the ambition of being the first to send a tourist into space.
The spaceflight on July 11 was the 22nd test flight for the spacecraft VSS Unity and Virgin Galactic’s fourth manned spaceflight. But it was the first time with a full crew. Two more test flights are planned before the company expects to begin its commercial space travel in 2022.
2. Jeff Bezos, founder of the internet giant Amazon and the richest man in the world. The American was the first to venture into the commercial space industry when he started the company Blue Origin in 2000 in the hope of being able to offer tourists travel in weightlessness.
More than a dozen unmanned test flights have been made, but July 20 is the first time that the New Shepard spacecraft is expected to leave the atmosphere with people on board. The trip will be for around eleven minutes.
3. Elon Musk, co-founder of the payment service Paypal and CEO of Tesla. Started the company SpaceX in 2002 and has managed to reach far into space. His company has launched large numbers of rockets and became the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station ISS – and has also transported astronauts there.
Musk has set its sights on sending tourists into orbit, a trip that would cost several million dollars. SpaceX is also aiming for manned travel to the moon and Mars in just a few years. Musk has described it as a dream to establish a human colony on Mars.
Source: Nyteknik – Senaste nytt by www.nyteknik.se.
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