My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Start saving for that flight to space

Suddenly there is a scramble for space travel. The US has revived plans to conduct manned space flights to moon and Mars. Last month, China successfully conducted a space walk while India followed by launching a lunar probe. Japan had launched its own lunar probe last year. Even the British Government is reconsidering its policy of not funding manned space flight. Outside such state sponsored efforts, private firms such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and Space Adventures are making efforts to make spaceflight also something which MasterCard can buy.

It is well accepted that manned space flights have one of the least returns among the various branches of science. So what can explain such a revival of the space race? One may argue that it is part of a grand scheme by the fat people to establish a world of their own; after all in space, they can eat as much as they want and still be weightless. But on second thoughts, it appears to be rather linked to the housing market bubble in most countries before the present financial crisis. Prior to 2008, when land prices in earth went skyrocketing, the prospect of buying an acre of land in moon for only $29.99 (offered by Lunar Embassy) must have seemed irresistible to the space scientists and politicians who financed these programs. But those were the days when “credit crunch” sounded more like a breakfast cereal.

This increased momentum with space travel also brings about many unusual challenges. Last year, when the first Malaysian went to space, Muslim religious leaders had to come with special provisions to overcome challenges like kneeling while praying in a weightless environment, facing towards Mecca or praying five times a day when the spaceship would be circling earth 16 times in 24 hours. All the same the astronaut was really fortunate to fly in these “war against terror” times when it is getting increasingly difficult for Muslims to fly. Also as and when India plans to have a manned lunar mission, it would be hard to find astronauts as the majority Hindus believe that the moon is periodically eaten by the demon Rahu during lunar eclipse.This despite the fact the Moon is one of the few places outside India where Indians can travel without a VISA.

Nevertheless, despite popular perception, cost of basic space travel remains far below other luxuries in life. A sub-orbital trip costs only $102,100; much cheaper than Patek Philippe’s Calibre 89 watch that costs over $6 million or the bejeweled Clive Christian perfume costing $200,000 (includes home delivery in a Bentley). No wonder then that all their flights till 2009 are booked. So if you are willing to settle for much less, for around $22,000, STA Travel offers a 5 day package tour to Moscow with a day of flying to “fringe of outer-space” in a Mig-31. With airport transfers, 5 breakfasts and 1 lunch included, which millionaire can deny this offer? Well, I am not sure if Mig-31s have in-flight entertainment though.

No comments: