When I was a child, I saw space travel through the eyes of Captain Kirk and Han Solo – a universe populated by blue women with red eyes living in future-ancient-Rome whom you could save by dodging asteroids in a metal cow-pat. Space exploration was tantalising and exciting and I dreamed daily of donning NASA’s hi-tek fat-suit and roaring into the great beyond.
These days, perhaps because I’ve discovered girls, the encroaching era of consumer-level space travel seems about as exciting and useful as five-legged pants.
Still, I read with interest the web site of Richard Branson’s new so-crazy-it-just-might-work-you-arrogant-bastard-by-the-way-stop-stealing-our-women-and-pacific-atolls company, Virgin Galactic. The web site is great for one simple reason: it is the most awesome example ever of unfettered blue-sky dreaming bogged down in an endless stinking black mire of legal sidestepping.
(italics in the following paragraph added by me – words are unedited from the Virgin Galactic web site)
Now, let’s just imagine…
COUNTDOWN BEGINS. SIX DAYS TO LAUNCH
You may well fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class into the nearest major city. Possibly we will pick you up in the Virgin Galactic executive jet and shuttle you to the Virgin Galactic space resort, where you will be guided to your luxury accommodation. This will be home during your stay.
Every morning you could be ferried by helicopter to the training base and spaceport where you might undergo six days of medical preparation, G-Tolerance training, talking to space experts about how to get the most from your experience, fly the simulator and in the evenings dine with astronauts and guest speakers.
You could possibly have the opportunity to ride in fast jets, to experience negative gravity in our executive jet and then watch as one of the other launches leaves earth for the near reaches of space; possibly you may even ride in the mother ship. That in itself will be phenomenal, as you watch the ship rise vertically to Mach 1 (around 600 mph) in less than 10 seconds and eventually disappear into space at over 3 times the speed of sound.
Yes! Let’s just imagine a magical future world in which you, as a company, cannot publish even the most obvious speculation without shrouding it in litigation-defending iffiness!
Stardate 1539-ish. These may be the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission in the case of favourable stock market conditions, exchange rates and weather, except where affected by war, mechanical failure, death, pilot error, electical surges, parts shortages, or acts of God: To explore new worlds except where contractual obligations with old worlds or other trading partners legally obligates GALACTIC FEDERATION HOLDINGS PTY LTD to honour pre-existing contracts; to seek out new life and new civilisations – or, for tax or other financial purposes, destroy them without prior warning; to boldly or meekly go or not go where no one or someone has or hasn’t gone or avoided before or since.
Not a guarantee.