Image Credit: Interstellar
In what has at times appeared to be a headlong rush to write off the future of space tourism as a response to the Virgin Galactic accident, a surprising (or perhaps not so) number of media sources have completely overlooked the fact that there are two other U.S. based companies, XCOR Aerospace and Blue Origin which are also in the process of developing vehicles intended to take passengers to the boundaries of space.
While Blue Origin remains characteristically silent regarding its vehicle, its plans, and of course its timeline, perhaps a suddenly more understandable approach given the criticism now being heaped on its very high profile competitor, it is XCOR Aerospace which now appears to be in the vanguard of an industry under fire.
XCOR, which recently announced that all the major components of its Lynx Mark I rocket plane were delivered and in the process of assembly, has long taken a middle of the road approach regarding publicity, (after all how could anyone actually exceed Virgin Galactic in that department?) but the timing of its most recent announcement, a free “ticket to space” promotion with Fandango tied to the movie Interstellar, is as unfortunate as it was completely unpreventable.
The current promotion, which offers either a flight aboard the second generation Lynx MK II in 2017 and a cash prize of $50,000 or alternatively no flight and a check for $75,00 officially began at 10:00 AM PT on Friday, October 31st, only ten minutes before SpaceShipTwo dropped away from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft.
While obviously a matter of sheer coincidence, the odd quirk and unfortunate timing is also a reminder that space tourism is much more than just Virgin Galactic, and quite literally, the show will go on, even as some question the “must.”
It is also important to note that XCOR, while still building a rocket powered space plane, is taking a different path from Virgin, as is Blue Origin, which by all accounts (and there aren’t many) is still focused on a vertical takeoff, vertical landing, all propulsive system which offers an alternate route to the same goal.
XCOR released the above image as part of the Interstellar campaign.
One curious note regarding the promotion which is not so much about Interstellar as it is promotions in general. A close reading of the fine print advises the potential winner that transportation and lodging related to the event will be in “economy” class. This was also the case with the Virgin Galactic Land Rover promotion, which is maybe even worse given the fact that it was promoting a luxury brand to begin with. Perhaps it is common in all such promotions even when there is no spacecraft involved.
But really? Have any of these people ridden in economy class lately? At least the winning entry could come with a pair of those anti-seat back wedges.