x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Out-of-the-world experience for space tourists willing to part with US$100,000

Space Expedition Corporation is offering an hour-long flight on Lynx Mark 1 as early as next year on a genuine out-of-this-world experience – at just Dh367,000 per person.

Michiel Mol of SXC said there is enormous interest in space travel in the region. Jake Badger for The National
Michiel Mol of SXC said there is enormous interest in space travel in the region. Jake Badger for The National

DUBAI // Only 560 people in the history of mankind have had a chance to see the Earth from outer space, but that number is about to increase dramatically.

And one of those future astronauts will be from Dubai.

Every day technological advancements are bringing the final frontier closer and closer within reach. This time next year, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) will be blasting off to outer space four times a day. Commercial space travel is only months away.

Those who can afford the Dh367,000 ticket can sign up now for a chance at being in space next year. You can be the co-pilot of a spacecraft for one hour as you blast off into outer space. SXC, unlike many other commercial space travel companies, plans to have just you sitting next to the pilot on their craft.

“I have found that there is an enormous amount of interest in space travel in this region,” said Michiel Mol, chief executive of SXC.

Mr Mol is travelling to many parts of the world promoting the project. “We have already sold 250 tickets, about 25 per cent of the customers are women,” he said.

SXC has sold one ticket in Dubai, but the buyer wished to remain anonymous. “I would be very disappointed if we don’t sell at least 50 tickets here [in Dubai] by next year.”

The Dutch company is building their first spacecraft, the Lynx Mark 1. Unlike every other spacecraft previously developed, including the space shuttle, the Lynx is equipped with an independent take-off and landing system. SXC has had former Nasa scientists working on the project for more than 13 years.

“You will take-off from the runway at an almost vertical angle [80 degrees], by three minutes you will be going at 4,000kph,” said Mr Mol. “It takes just four minutes to reach space. You then have five to six minutes in outer space (103km altitude) where you will experience weightlessness and get a chance to see the Earth like you’ve never seen it before.

“After that you will begin to descend to Earth. The Lynx will perform a pull-out manoeuvre to reduce speed which will exert 4Gs of force on you for about 10 to 20 seconds, something only jetfighter pilots experience. Then it will glide back to the space port you took off from.”

The Lynx Mark 1 will take off from California’s Mojave air and space port. “Mojave is to commercial space travel what Silicon Valley is to technology companies.”

In 2015, SXC plans to open a second space port in the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. “From this port passengers will experience breathtaking views of Florida and rainforests in Brazil.”

The project has already attracted celebrities from DJ Armin van Buuren to singer Bob Geldof. They have also signed legendary astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon.

“We’ve spoken to many astronauts about their experiences and they all say they came back completely changed. Our pilot has been in space three times and he still has a twinkle in his eyes when he talks about it,” said Mr Mol.

Mr Mol said they are trying not to limit anyone from experiencing space, “Our youngest customer is 18 and that is our minimum age, but our oldest is an 84-year-old man from Australia who passed all the medical tests required. Someone over two metres tall might not fit in the cabin, and those who weigh over 125kilograms we cannot guarantee will reach the 103km altitude. But other than that, unless you have a serious heart condition or are pregnant, you should be able to go.”

SXC plans to use this project as a test phase for their long-term goals of commercial travel around the world via space. “Our aim is to be able to get you to anywhere in the world in two hours. But this is still 10 to 15 years away.”

malkhan@thenational.ae