Calling Singapore space travellers

Calling Singapore space travellers

SINGAPORE - Looking for an out-of-the-world travel experience? If you have US$100,000 (S$125,000) to spare, lots of guts and a healthy heart, and are looking to get away from bustling Singapore, you could find yourself out in space within three minutes.

Singaporeans meeting these criteria could well be adding the tag "Pioneering space traveller" to their social media profiles by the end of next year.

US-based XCOR Space Expeditions is close to making commercial space travel a reality for private individuals through its space shuttle, the XCOR Lynx Mark II, which is slated to whisk passengers out to space by the fourth quarter of 2015.

The spacecraft is to take up to four daily flights, with each round-trip taking under an hour.

The spacecraft, at 8.5 m long, 7.3 m wide and 2.2 m tall, seats only two - including the pilot, which leaves all of one seat for aspiring space travellers on each flight, so being a pioneering space traveller could be a lonely business.

There will, however, be little time for loneliness. The adventure begins with a horizontal take-off from the XCOR spaceport in the southern Caribbean island of Curacao, with the spacecraft being propelled across the boundary into space - 103 km above sea level - within three minutes, accelerating at the speed of sound.

Plonking down that US$100,000 would have just bought you the seat, but here is why you need some daring and a strong ticker: The pilot will switch off the engine of the space shuttle once it reaches space to go into a glide and to eventually allow for a smoother journey back.

The spacecraft will hover in space for about six minutes. This is when you experience weightlessness and can view Earth from up high.

On the descent following, the pilot will perform a "pullout manoeuvre", creating the thrill of 4G gravity forces for 10 to 20 seconds. After this, the glide back home will be at a more sedate speed for about 40 minutes.

The pilot can even customise the descent for you, by steering the aircraft during the return trip towards a particular spot that you want to see from Out There - be it the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall of China.

The adventure element is heightened by your on-board "duties": Yes, even at the price of that ticket, you are not to just sit there. You will be co-pilot, perform navigational tasks such as reading instruments and ensuring that the dials are holding steady.

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