The commercial space travel industry experienced a devastating setback last week, when Virgin Galactic's ShaceShipTwo broke apart over the Mohave desert, killing the pilot and injuring the co-pilot. The company had originally planned to finish the project by next year, but this latest incident could cripple the already dubious commercial space program.
Founded by world-renowned businessman and tech mogul Richard Branson in 2004, Virgin Galactic is the world's first commercial space tourism service. It will take adrenaline junkies above the Earth's atmosphere to experience an authentic zero-gravity environment, and you can now for it using Bitcoin. This isn't your typical commercial airliner, but instead Virgin Galactic employs an high-tech mothership, referred to as the White Knight Two, to carry a smaller passenger plane just above the atmosphere. Once the two ships reach an altitude of approximately 360,000 feet, the smaller ship is disconnected and passengers on board are given four-to-five minutes of zero-gravity.
During a recent test, however, SpaceShipTwo broke apart in midair shortly after firing its rockets. The co-pilot parachuted to safety, but pilot Michael Alsbury was killed. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials immediately launched an investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
"It may be helped by the rich data sources that we have; we may be able to move a little more rapidly. But we would anticipate taking as a much as 12 months to complete the analysis that would end up with a probable cause determination, as well as recommendations… in order not to have an incident like this again." US NTSB acting chairman Christopher Hart
Of course, there are other hurdles faced by Virgin Galactic and other space-bound tourism programs, one of which is the battle with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The United States currently requires companies and organizations to obtain approval before they can legally launch their ships into space. To handle this issue, the FAA even launched a separate division strictly for regulating the commercial space travel industry.
Even in the wake of this recent setback, Virgin Galactic continues to accept reservations for a cool $250,000, either in dollars or Bitcoin. If you choose the latter, you can expect to cough up about 714 Bitcoin (assuming the value of Bitcoin is $350).
Some people may turn their heads at the thought of dropping a quarter of a million dollars for a brief ride into space, but others are eagerly signing up. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber and Leonardo Dicaprio have all reserved their spot. In November 2013, a Hawaiian flight attendant became the first person to reserve a spot on Virgin Galactic using Bitcoin.
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