There are two key stories out regarding space travel today. In the first one, it appears that the free market is moving rapidly closer to the final frontier:
Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said Monday that Virgin Galactic is on track to offer commercial space travel within 18 months, and that space hotels are next on the drawing board.
The project’s SpaceshipTwo, an aircraft built by aviation engineer Burt Rutan and designed to carry paying customers into suborbital space, had its maiden flight in the California desert in March.
“We just finished building SpaceShipTwo. We are 18 months away from taking people into space,” Branson told a business conference in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars.
Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world’s first commercial company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million dollars in deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft.
Perhaps afraid to lose too much ground to their enemies in the free market, the United Nations has decided to name an ambassador to space aliens:
Just when you thought the United Nations could not possibly become any more inane, out comes a story in London’s Sunday Times that the UN is about to appoint a special envoy for alien life forms. The idea, apparently, is that if aliens contact or land on earth, demanding “Take me to your leader,” the UN will have a designated official ready to step in as chief mouthpiece for the human race.
My first guess is that this close encounter of a UN kind would end swiftly, and not well. Imagine, for a moment, that you are an alien arriving on earth, curious about the ways of homo sapiens — and your first real sitdown is with a member of the UN bureaucracy. Either you’d speed back into space, howling: “The horror! The horror!” Or, if you’re an alien of strong stomach and advanced weaponry, you’d listen just long enough to conclude that earthlings have arrived at some endpoint of blithering and irredeemable decay, and zap them wholesale off the planet. Either way, there’s really no need for a UN-alien interface. The question we ought to be asking is how many U.S. tax dollars the UN plans to lavish on this new arrangement.
Congrats to Rutan and Branson.
With regards to the United Nations, it seems presumptuous to me that space aliens would even be interested in speaking with the UN, or any government entity for that matter.