29 July 2008

Virgin Galactic is NOT a travel story

Virgin's mastery of PR, packaging and presentation have, as usual, overwhelmed the media. So you cannot get away from the news today that Sir Richard and Bert Rutan have unveiled their 'mothership' Eve - which is the first part of their spaceship combo.

I've written about this before. I'm uncomfortable about the repetitive use of "space tourism" and "space tourists". This has nothing, conceptually, to do with tourism. This is not a journey with a 'destination' where you can get out and meet the locals or take a weekend break. I think broadcast channels, newspapers and websites tend to file this story under 'travel' because of Sir Richard's associations with the travel industry, but this is at best a 'transport' story. To my mind it is actually a 'science' story.

And that is the project's most intriguing and inspiring aspect. Forget taking thrill riders into space. That's the job of Alton Towers, Disneyland, et al. This project should be concentrating on freight - delivering small packages into space.

If we are going to develop our capabilities and expand our knowledge in space we need to be sending lots of probes off to explore our local planets, and preparing for permanent or semi-permanent manned colonies...on the moon first and then Mars. To do that we need a cheap, quick and easy way of delivering stuff into orbit.

We should be mass-producing small semi-automated freight pods for Sir Richard to put into space. Hundreds of little boxes than can carry building materials, food, equipment and other supplies to a point on the Moon and Mars so they are already there when manned expeditions arrive.

That's the role for Virgin Galaxy.

So Virgin, stop sending me press releases as a travel editor and distributing them through Travmedia.co.uk - this has nothing to do with travel!

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