Trade frequent flyer miles for space travel

frequent flyer milesBanking frequent flyer miles, business travelers save for travel gear, clothing, sports and recreation equipment, personal vacations and more. Now, Virgin Galactic is allowing their frequent flyers to trade miles for a ride in space.

Virgin Galactic plans to send its first spacecraft, SpaceShip Two, on a suborbital space flight later this year. In a lottery, Virgin Galactic is allowing their Atlantic Flying Club members to redeem miles for a chance to win a trip on a the spaceflight.

According to the terms and conditions of the drawing, “Once Virgin Galactic launches it’s first flight to space, Flying Club will draw a winner from all the entries received.” You don’t need to have two million miles to register for the drawing, but you will need to have the miles in your account if your entry is selected as the winner.

The price tag: two million miles.Short on miles?

Virgin Galactic will allow members to buy up to 30,000 miles for $27. At that rate, a ride in space has a value of $54,000, not a bad price compared to the $63 million that the Russian space agency charges NASA for a ride to the international Space Station.

Top 10 Coolest Movie Spaceships

Flickr photo by Deanster1983

Video of the Day: Making tacos in space

Preparing your own meals while on the road can be tough. You don’t always have a proper kitchen stocked with all of the tools and appliances that you need. Ingredients can be difficult to find. Still, at least we always have gravity to help us out. Not so for astronauts. When it’s dinner time, they have to assemble their tacos in zero gravity. The last thing that anybody wants is refried beans in the ventilation system. Think of this guy and his space taco the next time you want to complain that the kitchen in your RV is too cramped.

Space tourism celebrates tenth anniversary

space tourism, Dennis Tito
Space tourism
is ten years old this week. On 28 April 2001 millionaire Dennis Tito became the first person to go into space as a tourist and not an astronaut or scientist.

In an interview with BBC today he talked about how thrilled he was and called his eight days being in orbit “paradise.”

While space tourism is the ultimate in high-cost adventure travel–only seven people have done it so far and Tito is said to have paid $20 million for the privilege–private companies are hoping to make it more widely available. They also want to make it more comfortable. Tito was crammed “elbow to elbow” in a Russian capsule after NASA refused to put him on one of the Space Shuttles. Not that he cared at the time. Check out this video of Dennis Tito’s arrival at the International Space Station. The guy’s euphoric!

A number of private companies are looking into commercial space travel. The most serious contender is Virgin Galactic, which has already built a spaceport and put their spaceship Enterprise through a test flight. The company hopes to push an orbital trip down to $200,000, just one percent of what Tito paid. Who knows? Maybe good old free-market competition will push the price even lower than that.

Even more ambitious is Excalibur Almaz, a company based in the Isle of Man that has bought some Russian space capsules that they’re refurbishing. They boast that they’ll offer trips around the Moon by 2015.

Best of luck folks, but I won’t be looking for a Lonely Planet Outer Space in the bookstores anytime soon.

[Photo courtesy NASA]


First space hotel to open in 2012

Adventurous travelers hoping to one day go into space received good news yesterday when the Barcelona based company behind the Galactic Suite Space Resort announced that their orbiting hotel will open for business in 2012, ushering in a new era in travel.

The world’s first space hotel will begin operations with just a single pod that can hold up to four guests and two pilots. Other pods will be added over time, increasing capacity as needed. The zero-g resort will orbit the Earth at 30,000 mph, completely circling the planet once every 80 minutes, while offering visitors 15 sunrises per day. The cost of a 3-day stay starts at $4.4 million, which includes an eight week training course on a tropical island that will prepare would-be astronauts for life without gravity. Travel time to the hotel will be another day and a half aboard a shuttle craft.

The Galactic Suite project got quite a boost recently when an anonymous billionaire, who is described as a “space enthusiast”, invested $3 billion to the project. With their coffers over flowing, at least for now, the company is able to move ahead with their time table, despite warnings from critics that feel the time frame is too ambitious and dangerous.

Galactic Suites claim that more than 200 people have already inquired about staying at the hotel, with 43 of them actually putting in their reservations. Someone should probably warn these future guests that there is no concierge and room service will likely be awful, but the view is going to be unmatched for sure.

Watch the shuttle launch!

Space Shuttle Discovery will leave the Earth behind on February 12, 2009. If you want to be there to witness it, pick some tickets for the launch. Guests will be able to watch the commencement of mission STS-119 from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which is as close as you can get.

This mission will take the shuttle from Florida (and you, if you’re at the visitor complex) to the International Space Station, where it will drop off a set of large solar arrays, which will provide additional power for up to six crew members this spring, instead of the usual three. Making this mission unique, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will be on board. Upon arrival at the International Space Station, he’ll be the first crew member from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Back at Kennedy, there will be plenty to do before and after the launch. Video presentations, astronaut appearances and launch briefings will help you make sense of what happens out on the pad. And at $38 for adults ($28 for kids ages three to 11), this is a fantastic deal even in today’s tough economy.

Learn more about watching a launch >>