Space tourism suffered a big hit in the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceshipTwo in the Mojave desert in the US last week. Meant to float back to Earth like a shuttlecock, the spaceship broke apart in mid-air because its main safety feature, which comprises rotating feathers in its tail boom, opened up too early.
The pilots are being blamed for the fiasco even as the unconventional, high-flying entrepreneur Richard Branson tots up the cost and the damage to his much-vaunted fledgling space adventure for which around 800 people had signed up. Critics have been smirking with schadenfreude, avoidable, of course, but then the programme seems designed to cater to the egos of the super rich just to show them what the Earth looks like from some 62 miles above sea level.
Branson and his son were to be on the first flight up, but the schedule has been so dogged by engineering problems and catastrophes there is no knowing when the spaceship will take off. With the likes of the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie couple signing up, there would have been much stardust and hype, although the scientifically inclined, like Stephen Hawking and a former Nasa head honcho, would possibly have brought in the genuine curiosity urge too.
The antagonists are pointing to the fact that not many people would have a tidy Rs 1.5 crore available to take in the view. The “experience consumerism” of the modern age simply stresses what a chasm exists between the haves and the have nots.