It always gets me into a lift so high it takes days to come down to earth, the idea of spaceflight, getting off the ground and into space!
As a young girl, I was glued to the TV for every Apollo lift-off and if not, I was down at Cape Canaveral where we had on site passes from my NASA employed uncle to watch lift-offs close-up. While my buddies were outside riding bikes and lamenting my absence at the local creek where we usually played, I was seriously camped out on the floor for nearly a week in front of our TV for the Apollo 11 moon flight. It was the spark that gifted me as well as millions of other young people over the globe to become scientists. Even if we had only dreamed of ourselves as future space travelers.
So, here’s a post about the Virgin Galactic ships that have been test flying for the last few years. The video below is Virgin Galactic’s SS2 First Feather Flight which took place at their Mojave test site in May 2011.
An aside: The concept of ‘feather flight’ is based on Burt Rutan’s idea of entering the atmosphere in a safer mode as opposed to the NASA shuttles. The concept includes a light weight structured ship made of newer composites which allow for the aerodynamic motions that birds often use when gliding downwards. What this means is that the ship’s wings are tilted forwards allowing for an aerodynamically stable high-drag”feathered” shape. The shuttle experienced strong aerodynamic loading on re-entry and gliding, severely stressing it’s outer structures. Lessons were well learned by space craft pioneer Burt Rutan who developed the concept, applying it to his Space Ship One design which made the first commercial space flight on June 21st, 2004. It won the $10 million Ansari X Prize, on October 4th by flying to an altitude of 100 kilometers twice in a two-week period. A total of three people flew and it used slightly less than ten percent of the spacecraft’s weight in fuel replacement between flights. Paul Allen funded the project at an estimated $25 million dollars.