For the vast majority of earthmen, the closest they will ever get to exploring the galaxy is a five minute ride on Disneyland’s Space Mountain.
The privileged few who have successfully ventured out into the solar system often dedicate decades of their lives to preparing for a single space mission, submitting themselves to endless gruelling physical and academic tests.
But this hasn’t stopped Jared Oberhaus, a 40-year-old software engineer and space enthusiast from Palo Alto, California, from applying to NASA’s highly competitive astronaut selection programme. He uses his blog to document the ten month long application process.
“I believe that humanity’s future lies in the exploration and expansion into our solar system and beyond,” says Jared. “I want to be part of that.”
With competition at its highest since 1978 with a total of 6,400 applicants including military pilots and accomplished scientists, Jared is not especially optimistic.
“I realise I’m competing against many other applicants that are more qualified than I am,” he says. “But I believe I am an accomplished professional in my field, capable of achieving what astronauts need to achieve, and in fairly good physical health.”
At the very least Jared hopes to be considered a “highly qualified applicant.”
With companies such as Virgin well on the way to developing commercial spaceflights, however, there may be another alternative. Although, with a $200,000 price tag and a financial crisis on the cards, this is not likely to happen for many ordinary people any time soon.
It was with this injustice in mind that 25-year-old New Zealander Reuben Metcalfe co-founded ‘I Dream of Space’ in April during a “start-up weekend,” a kind of spaceflight lottery which proposes to sell 25,000 posters at $10 each, the proceeds of which will cover either a $200,000 ride on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two or a $95,000 seat on XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx, with some profit left over for the founders.
“The only people who’ve been able to participate in the past are either super-humans who work their entire lives to (maybe) get chosen to go just once in their careers through a government space programme, or be the very select few that can afford an otherwise prohibitively expensive ticket prices we’re starting to see come through into the private sector. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
As far as the founders are aware, ‘I Dream of Space’ is the only company marketing spaceflight this cheaply and with such odds.
“Since I started the project,” adds Reuben, “I found out there’s been at least two others – the difference with this one is now we have the internet to communicate the idea cheaply across the world. The most recent attempt at this kind of business was with a Russian flight which at the time costed 12 million dollars.”
‘I Dream of Space’ has already sold hundreds of posters to spaceflight hopefuls and the founders hope to close the first round by December.
Reuben, who is in the process of negotiating contracts with Virgin and XCOR, claims that both companies are aiming to complete the testing process by the end of this year and to launch their first commercial spaceflights in around 18 months time.
According to the Virgin Galactic website, the spaceflight company is in the process of constructing its first “spaceport” in New Mexico in the USA. Last month, the company announced that it would begin rocket-powered suborbital test flights.
“Given the kind of progress we’re seeing with these companies and the customers lining up, it’s going to happen soon. It has to happen,” Reuben told Wired. “If companies continue building the way they are building, and we build a robust community, it’s going to pan out.”
However, he insisted that people must be patient: “People need to be aware that when they enter, they should be comfortable with the fact that it will be years before they can go.”
the Experience Network