Accredited Space Agent

 
 
FAQ:
 
  HOW IS THIS SAFE?
  ARE YOU READY?
  WHO IS VIRGIN GALACTIC?
  WHEN CAN I GO?
  WHO IS MCLACHLAN?
  WHERE WILL I FLY FROM?
  WHAT TRAINING IS INVOLVED?
  WHO IS INVOLVED?
  WHAT WILL THE EXPERIENCE BE LIKE?
  WHY VIRGIN? WHY SPACE?

HOW IS THIS SAFE?
Due to the unique technology, developed by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and now exclusively licensed to Virgin, the spacecraft design overcomes many of the safety and cost issues that had previously made space travel the preserve of the privileged few.

Safety is at the heart of the design and will be at the core of the Virgin Galactic operation. Agreed designs for SpaceShipTwo have multiple levels of redundancy on all key systems in order to achieve an extremely robust system in every phase of flight. Commercial operations will only start once a full testing programme has been completed.

Virgin's experience in aviation, adventure, luxury travel and cutting edge design will be vital in contributing to the design of the spaceship, the smooth operation of the spaceline and to creating the experience of a lifetime.

Work on the SpaceShipTwo design and construction is well advanced and SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo will be unveiled in 2008, with 12-18 months of test flights before we commence our commercial flights.
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WHO IS VIRGIN GALACTIC?
Virgin Galactic is a company owned and established by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of making private space travel available to everyone and by creating the world's first commercial spaceline.

Virgin will own and operate privately built spaceships, based on the history making SpaceShipOne . These spaceships, which are currently under construction, will allow affordable private sub-orbital space travel for the first time in history and give you the opportunity of being amongst the very first private astronauts.back to top

WHO IS MCLACHLAN?
McLachlan Travel Group is a leading Australian travel and tourism company, which has spent more than 30 years sending Australians on holiday. The company owns and also publishes the prestigious travel magazine Travel & Living. The company's operations include three offices in the Harvey World Travel chain (Manly, Mosman and Wagga Wagga), regional airport management for Qantas, online travel companies including www.holidayshop.com.au, in-flight and consumer magazines including the prestigious Travel & Living magazine www.travelandliving.com.au, and tour operations including Australia's leading battlefield tour company www.battlefields.com.au

WHAT TRAINING IS INVOLVED?
Virgin Galactic's goal is to end the exclusivity attached to manned space travel which means designing a vehicle which can fly almost anyone to space safely without the need for special expertise or exhaustive, time consuming training.

There will be 3 days of pre-flight preparation, bonding and training onsite at the spaceport .

Our goal is to provide you with the most incredible experience of your life. The trip will be intense, approaching sensory overload and the more that can be simulated beforehand, the better the real thing will be!

Learning how to make the most of your time in zero gravity and tips on how to be most comfortable in macro gravity will form an integral part of your preparation. We expect to use the WhiteKnight carrier aircraft which will feature a duplicate SpaceShipTwo cabin, as an integral part of the preparation experience.

We will ensure that all our passengers can fly safely. This will involve some pre-flight medical checks. Early indicators show that the required medical assessment will be simple and unrestrictive and that the vast majority of people who want to fly, will not be prevented from doing so by health or fitness considerations.back to top

WHAT WILL THE EXPERIENCE BE LIKE?
The journey starts from the moment you make a firm reservation and book your place amongst the first to go.
In the lead up to the start of Virgin Galactic commercial operations and to your flight itself, we will keep you fully involved and informed. There will be opportunities to contribute ideas and participate in pre flight events.

Astronauts tell us that nothing can really prepare you for your first experience of space, but we will ensure that you are fully equipped to savour every second of an experience which will be intense, wonderful and truly unforgettable. And, as you would expect from a Virgin company, your comfort and enjoyment will be our primary aim right up until you leave the spaceport, complete with a fully documented record of the whole experience and of course, with your astronaut wings!


ARE YOU READY?
Your journey to space will be one of incredible contrast and sensory overload.

From the spaceport to 50,000ft, you will be in the spacecraft attached to the mother ship, a specially designed jet carrier aircraft. It will be a time of anticipation and perhaps contemplation of what's ahead. You will know the rest of your crew and enjoy the confidence that has come from preparing with them and the highly trained pilots for the trip you are about to take together.

Then the countdown to release, a brief moment of quiet before a wave of unimaginable but controlled power, surges through the craft. You are instantly pinned back into your seat, overwhelmed but enthralled by the howl of the rocket motor and the eye-watering acceleration which, as you watch the read-out, has you travelling in a matter of seconds, at almost 2500mph, over 3 times the speed of sound.

As you hurtle through the edges of the atmosphere, the large windows show the cobalt blue sky turning to mauve and indigo and finally to black. You're on a high, this is really happening, you're loving it and coping well. You start to relax; but in an instant your senses are back on full alert, the world contained in your spaceship has completely transformed.

The rocket motor has been switched off and it is quiet. But it's not just quiet, it's QUIET. The silence of space is as awe inspiring as was the noise of the rocket just moments earlier. What's really getting your senses screaming now though, is that the gravity which has dominated every movement you've made since the day you were born is not there any more. There is no up and no down and you're out of your seat experiencing the freedom that even your dreams underestimated. After a graceful mid-space summersault you find yourself at a large window and what you see would make your hair stand on end if the zero gravity hadn't already achieved that effect. Below you (or is it above you?) is a view that you've seen in countless images but the reality is so much more beautiful, so much more vivid and produces emotions that are strong but hard to define. The blue map, curving into the black distance is familiar but has none of the usual marked boundaries. The incredibly narrow ribbon of atmosphere looks worryingly fragile. What you are looking at is the source of everything it means to be human, and it is home. You see that your fellow astronauts are equally spellbound, all lost in their own thoughts and storing away the memories.

Then the pilots are asking you to return to your now reclined seats. Gravity is starting to return as you knew it had to. The deceleration produces strong g forces, but you're lying down and deal with them just as you've been taught. You can hear and feel the feathered wings of the spacecraft producing a powerful drag as the thickness of the atmosphere increases, although out of the windows it still looks like space. The g forces quickly ease off and you hear the pilot announce that she is about to re-feather the craft for the graceful glide home.

Later that evening, after the celebrations and wings ceremony, you are finally alone and know that life will never quite be the same again. You also know you need to sleep, although maybe just time to read about Virgin Galactic's plans to fly through the Aurora Borealis - now that would be something.back to top

WHEN CAN I GO?
Virgin Galactic expects to be the first company to provide sub-orbital flights to the general public (and certainly the best!) but does not regard itself as being in a race . We have no absolute or forced deadlines for launch, made possible by the fact that we are fully and independently funded by Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin Group. We will launch as soon as possible, but only when we are happy with the results of the exhaustive WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo test flight programme. That test flight programme is scheduled to begin following the unveiling of the prototypes and all being well commercial operations should start little over a year later.

Importantly Virgin Galactic is the only company with the rights to Burt Rutan's design and technology, proven by SpaceShipOne, which is unrivalled in its potential to give passenger astronauts a fabulous experience, safely.

WHERE WILL I FLY FROM?
Virgin Galactic's space flights will initially operate from the Mojave Spaceport, a stunning location in the Californian desert which will afford spectacular views of the Pacific Coast. It is also the home of Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites, the birth place of SpaceShipOne and where SpaceShipTwo is now being built. It will provide a fitting launch site for this amazing venture.


Virgin Galactic will then establish its headquarters and operate its space flights from the world's first purpose built commercial spaceport, 'Spaceport America' in New Mexico. Funded by the New Mexico state government and now in course of design and construction, it will provide cutting edge facilities and a wonderful location for fledgling astronauts to realise their dreams. Virgin Galactic is also already looking seriously at other potential spaceport locations around the world, with a view to expanding the enterprise and making the wonder of space travel as accessible to as many people as possible.back to top

WHO IS INVOLVED?
Richard Branson
Born in 1950, Richard Branson showed promising entrepreneurial skills from an early age. Virgin was founded from a small mail order record company which quickly flourished into Virgin Records. In 1992 the equity of the Virgin Music Group was sold to THORN EMI in a US$1 billion deal.

Virgin, as an aviation industry was born in 1984, when Richard Branson got a phone call out of the blue, suggesting a jumbo jet passenger service between London and New York. Virgin Atlantic Airways began operating 3 months later and has since become the second largest long haul international airline operating services out of Gatwick and Heathrow. 1999 saw Virgin form a unique global partnership when Richard sold a 49% stake of Virgin Atlantic to Singapore airlines.

In 1997 Virgin took over two of Britain's most run-down rail franchises, creating Virgin Trains and over the past two decades the Virgin network has extended throughout the entertainment industry and further beyond profit making business activities. Richard Branson is the trustee of several charities, including the Virgin Healthcare Foundation and is putting significant focus into Virgin Unite which focuses on entrepreneurial approaches to social and environmental issues.

In September 2006, Richard declared that all future proceeds from the Virgin Group's transportation companies will be invested into renewable energy initiatives. He further announced a $25 million prize to encourage a viable technology which will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases.

In July 2007, on his and Nelson Mandela's birthday, Richard joined Nelson Mandela, Grace Machel, and Desmond Tutu to help announce the formation of the Elders, a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world's toughest problems.

Aside from work, Richard Branson keeps adrenaline levels high, setting himself various personal and world breaking challenges and continues to break records crossing both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean in epic hot air balloon missions and has been involved in round-the-world-attempts.

Sir Richard Branson was knighted in the Queen's Millennium New Year's Honour's list for "services to entrepreneurship".back to top

Burt Rutan
Burt has been described as a visionary and as the single most influential designer of aircraft and airframes in the last half of the twentieth century. He is the genius behind SpaceShipOne and now SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic's passenger carrying spacecraft, currently under construction at Scaled Composites in Mojave.

Burt was born near Portland, Oregon but grew up in Dinuba, California. He showed a passionate interest in aviation from an early age, designing and building his own models. He majored in aeronautical engineering from California Polytechnic University, graduating third in his class in 1965. He worked as an engineer at Edwards Air Force Base in California for seven years before moving on to Newton, Kansas where he was director of Bede's Test Center.

In 1974 Burt returned to California where he formed the Rutan Aircraft Factory (RAF), for the next 10 years he shaped the landscape of the homebuilt aircraft with VariViggin, VariEze, Quickie, Defiant, Long-EZ, Grizzly, Solitaire and Catbird. The crowning achievement of RAF was the 1986 Voyager around-the-world flight piloted by Burt's brother Dick.

In 1982, Burt founded Scaled Composites to develop research aircraft. Since then it has been the world's most productive aerospace prototype development company and has been the birthplace of many of the most exciting aircraft of recent decades, including Global Flyer and of course SpaceShipOne.

Global Flyer, an aircraft similar to the Voyager, completed the first solo non-stop non-refuelled flight around the world on March 2, 2005, piloted by Steve Fossett. Fossett set a further record for the longest flight in history, 26,389.3 miles, between February 7, 2006 - February 11, 2006.

The remarkable and history-making SpaceShipOne and its mothership, WhiteKnight are now the prototypes for SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo which are currently under production at Scaled. Once the craft are complete, there will be 12-18 months of test flights and Virgin Galactic will start to fly passengers shortly afterwards.back to top

Gil McLachlan
Gil McLachlan is a travel industry pioneer and innovator with 30 years experience in the operation of retail travel companies and travel-related media.

Gil's team is recognised as one of the most dynamic in the Australian travel industry, holding numerous awards for excellence. They operate three very successful travel offices: Harvey World Travel Manly (NSW), Mosman (NSW) and Wagga Wagga (NSW). Gil is also the Publisher of the well-respected Travel & Living magazine.

Gil had this to say about "flying" in the Nastar Virgin Galactic simulator: "If I can do it, anyone can! From the moment you are strapped into the space simulator, you know you have just GOT to do the Virgin Galactic flight, no matter what. It's an experience that can't be adequately described but it's one that will change your life for ever."back to top

WHY VIRGIN? WHY SPACE?
Even with Burt Rutan's ground breaking technology, to which Virgin Galactic has the excusive rights, getting thousands of people to space and back safely is a significant challenge. Virgin brings essential operational experience to its new venture which comes from years of safe airline and rail operations; it has also committed the resources required to ensure proper funding.

We recognise the need to optimise the experience of space for each one of our future astronauts. SpaceShipTwo is the first space craft in history to be designed around the safety, comfort and enjoyment of the passenger. Virgin's well deserved reputation for adding that little extra will also be brought to bear, we aim to create the world's number one spaceline in all respects!

Developing the capability to escape the boundaries of our home planet is one of mankind's most spectacular achievements and has enormous potential significance to the future of the human race. Already, our limited exploration of space has changed the way we live and think, from instant global communications to a better understanding of climate change. Space travel to date though has come at enormous expense, not just in financial terms but in its environmental impact and the personal safety of those involved.

At Virgin, we believe that private sector innovation is often the key to radical improvement. We have a long history of promoting and investing in breakthrough technologies, from alternative energy to highly fuel-efficient aircraft and trains.

We also believe that it is in mankind's interest to develop our knowledge and understanding as well as our access to space; for this reason we have undertaken to develop and commercialise the completely new approach to manned space travel made possible by Burt Rutan and SpaceShipOne. In doing so, we will enable many thousands of people across the world to experience space for themselves and help to unlock the potential benefits that will come from safe and affordable manned space access.back to top



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