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As hype videos go, here's one that's out of this world. Virgin Galactic is teasing what space tourism will feel like aboard its VSS Unity Space Ship, and the peek at a short-but-sweet ride to the edge of space is enough to get even the most timid would-be passenger amped for the future of recreational liftoff.
Counting down to the planned 2022 debut of private charters of the six-seater craft, Virgin shared a sneak peek at a VSS Unity round trip using a mix of CGI and real-life footage taken from inside the sleek vessel. Check out the dramatic bird’s-eye view of the approaching era of leisure space flight in Virgin Galactic’s new clip:
From takeoff to touchdown, the video serves up a cinematic walkthrough of the ride that space tourists are in for. The crowning moment of each flight comes when the Unity’s hybrid rocket motor completely shuts down at a suborbital altitude of 80 km (about 50 miles) above Earth, leaving the vessel momentarily silent and adrift.
While they’re hanging out in the twilight realm where space nears the atmosphere, passengers will get to lose their helmets, unstrap their seatbelts, and “float effortlessly around the cabin, enjoying the childlike freedom of zero gravity,” as VG’s exuberant narrator teases. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Unity can prepare for the return trip home.
“Whilst enjoying weightlessness and the life-changing view, the vehicle is preparing itself for re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere” by means of the Unity’s “Feather” technology, says Virgin. The Feather system allows the craft’s wings to pivot vertically for a direct atmospheric descent, before spreading out once more to achieve a conventional aircraft landing at Virgin’s Spaceport America complex in New Mexico.
Seats on VSS Unity pre-sold at $250,000 in Virgin’s early offering (which had 600 well-funded takers), but will climb to an eye-popping $450,000 per passenger once the high-altitude craft makes future slots available, according to Digital Trends.
Sure, it’s a lot of moolah for an hour-long voyage. But for anyone fortunate enough to soon be peering back at Earth from one of VSS Unity’s 17 porthole-style windows, money will likely be the last thing on anyone's mind as humanity's first generation of space tourists takes in the priceless, once-in-a-lifteime view.