Virgin Galactic will soon come back to Earth with a very big bump

Ideas

Virgin Galactic will soon come back to Earth with a very big bump

Why investors should shun shares in Richard Branson’s space tourism venture

Lewis Page

“Millions of people are deeply inspired by human spaceflight,” Sir Richard Branson wrote recently. “By taking Virgin Galactic public ... we can open space to thousands of new astronauts.”

To be an astronaut today is to be in a select group – just 536 people have been in space by its internationally recognised definition: travelling beyond the Karman line 100km above Earth. Astronauts are normally selected from elite communities such as scientists and test pilots. They train for years. They have the right stuff. Their achievements have inspired millions.

Almost all astronauts so far have not merely travelled beyond the Karman boundary, they have also been accelerated to the enormous velocities required for orbit, so as to stay in space for a useful period. Pretty much all worthwhile space activity is in orbit...

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