Space tourism
Lesson Date : 2019-01-07


  • Space tourism
  • The Mojave Air and Space Port is in California, in the U.S.
  • On December 13, an unusual looking large double-cabin aircraft took off from the spaceport's desert runway.
  • Called WhiteKnightTwo, it was carrying a smaller passenger spaceplane called VSS Unity.
  • High in the air, the spaceplane detached from the larger aircraft.
  • It then traveled upwards at a speed of 4,000 kilometers per hour for about 60 seconds.
  • This is 2.9 times the speed of sound.
  • The spaceplane reached a height of 82.7 kilometers, after which the engine cut out, or switched off.
  • Two test pilots flew the spaceplane.
  • A dummy passenger accompanied them.
  • NASA, the American space agency, and the American air force give people a badge if they travel higher than 80 kilometers above the Earth's surface.
  • The badge is called "astronaut's wings".
  • After "earning" their badge, the VSS Unity's pilots guided the spaceplane back to the spaceport.
  • The Virgin Galactic Company designed and built WhiteKnightTwo and the VSS Unity (VSS stands for Virgin Space Ship).
  • Sir Richard Branson founded the company 14 years ago.
  • He is a wealthy businessman from Britain.
  • Virgin Galactic is often described as a "space tourism" company.
  • Sir Richard's plan is to take tourists into space.
  • However, in recent years, the company has experienced several difficulties and delays.
  • The spaceplane's design has had to be altered.
  • Four years ago, a previous spaceplane crashed on a test flight.
  • One pilot died.
  • The other was badly injured.
  • He managed to get out of the plan and open his parachute.
  • Virgin Galactic spaceplanes have completed several test flights during the last two years.
  • They are designed to carry six passengers.
  • The latest test was the first flight to reach a height of 80 kilometers.
  • Soon afterwards, Sir Richard announced that he hoped to start space tourism flights in 2019.
  • When these trips begin, the spaceplanes will fly to a height of 110 kilometers.
  • Here, passengers will be above what's known as the Kármán line.
  • The Kármán line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881 – 1963).
  • He was a Hungarian-born American scientist.
  • As the distance above the Earth's surface gets greater, the atmosphere or air becomes thinner and thinner.
  • Kármán was the first person to work out the height at which the air is too thin to support a jet aircraft.
  • Kármán's calculations produced a height of 83.6 kilometers.
  • He proposed that the "edge of space" should be 100 kilometers as this figure was easy to remember.
  • Nowadays, many international organizations use the Kármán line as the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and space.
  • When above the Kármán line, passengers on board the Virgin Galactic's spaceplanes will be able to float in zero gravity.
  • This period of weightlessness will last for about five minutes.
  • Then, the spaceplane will begin its descent.
  • At this height, passengers will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and the dark color of outer space.
  • The trip, from take off to landing, will last for one and a half hours.
  • Blue Origin and SpaceX are other American companies that are planning to take tourists into space.
  • Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin 18 years ago.
  • He is the boss of the Amazon Company.
  • Mr. Bezos is one the world's richest people.
  • Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002.
  • He is a well-known American businessman.
  • Mr. Musk also owns Tesla, a company that makes electric cars and trucks.
  • Blue Origin has developed a rocket called New Shepard.
  • The company named it after Alan Shepard (1923 – 1998).
  • In 1961, he became the first American to travel in space.
  • The New Shepard rocket will take a space capsule above the Kármán line.
  • There, the rocket and capsule will separate.
  • The rocket lands back on the Earth, so it can be re-used.
  • The capsule has room for six passengers.
  • During a test flight five months ago, the passenger capsule reached a height of 119 kilometers.
  • Blue Origin is expected to start its passenger flights next year.
  • SpaceX has already developed several powerful rockets.
  • It has a contract with NASA to take supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • SpaceX plans to take paying passengers on a trip around the far side of the Moon.
  • These flights are not expected to take place until 2023.
  • Virgin Galactic claims that 600 people have already booked a seat on its spaceplanes.
  • A single ticket costs $250,000.
  • Blue Origin is yet to announce its fares or if it has any bookings.
  • SpaceX's pricing plans have not been decided.
  • However, the company has announced that Yusaku Maezawa would be its first passenger.
  • He is a billionaire from Japan.