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The Race To Space

The start of the year is always a good time to plan for the future (which is why the next issue of AFM magazine is all about forecasting and planning). Of course, some predictions don’t pan out – the Delorean and hoverboards are just two of my personal favourites. But looking ahead can be fun, especially when the stuff of science fiction becomes the stuff of fact. Take for example, the ability to go into space. Since the birth of man we’ve marvelled at the mysteries of space and finally, those childhood ambitions of being an astronaut are on the cusp of being achieved. Commercial space travel is becoming a reality.

The start of the year is always a good time to plan for the future (which is why the next issue of AFM magazine is all about forecasting and planning).

Of course, some predictions don’t pan out – the Delorean and hoverboards are just two of my personal favourites. But looking ahead can be fun, especially when the stuff of science fiction becomes the stuff of fact.

Take for example, the ability to go into space. Since the birth of man we’ve marvelled at the mysteries of space and finally, those childhood ambitions of being an astronaut are on the cusp of being achieved. Commercial space travel is becoming a reality.

When Virgin Galatic’s SpaceShipTwo disintegrated during its test flight on 31 October, it seemed our hopes of commercial space travel were crushed.

Yet Branson remained firm on his commitment to safety and to the project.

While Branson is still bullish, it’s important that we don’t pin our hopes on him alone. In fact, there is somewhat of a commercial space race with sub-orbital trips being offered by a number of companies and airports – or “spaceports”– doing much by way of preparation.

XCOR Aerospace is also close to launching long-awaited flights. The company will charge from $95,000 ticket for a one-to-one pilot flight aboard its two-seater Lynx shuttle (pictured).

In 2016, a $100,000 ticket will take the passenger 98km up, beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, where tourists will spend up to six minutes.

Also available from 2016 is The World View Experience. Costing $70,000, it will give passengers the opportunity to fly 100,000ft – almost 32km above Earth.

As lift-off draws closer, there has been a groundswell of support to build commercial spaceports, and the US now has nine licensed spaceports with a 10th set to follow.

Europe has Spaceport Sweden in Lapland, (sounds farcical, but it's true. Santa will be pleased!) and the UK has announced plans for a spaceport in Scotland by 2018.

There’s also the Caribbean Spaceport on the Netherlands Antilles island of Curacao, and Asia has the Spaceport Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan has the Baikonur Spaceport and Dubai has the $265m Ras Al Khaimah Spaceport an hour from the city.

So fear not intrepid space explorers, the race to space is most certainly still on.

You can read more about commercial space travel in the next issue of AFM, out soon!

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