The exploration of outer space has been a fascination of the human race for many generations. Science-fiction has been perennially centred around life on other planets and, given that it is the most habitable planet for human-beings in our solar system, Mars has been involved in much of this canon of literature.
Virgin Galactic testing
However, the notion of visiting Mars will soon no longer be merely the reserve of fiction. Virgin Galactic is currently testing commercial flights outside of the atmosphere of the Earth in order to provide passengers with a zero-gravity experience in the future. But in the meantime, NASA is offering a unique promotion which will allow consumers to flight to Mars in December, 2014.
Well, don't get too excited! NASA isn't quite ready to operate commercial flights to Mars, but registering with a NASA website will enable people to at least send their name to the iconic red planet. Users that log onto the NASA website will be able to provide a name, postcode and country, and receive a ticket which will act as proof that they will ‘travel’ to Mars. The closing date for registration is 31st October.
This has proved to be an extremely popular initiative, with over 960,000 names having been submitted worldwide. It is interesting to break down the participants demographically, which reveals that the three top space travelling nations are the United States, United Kingdom and India.
UK and India space hubs
The prominence of Britain in the signing up process for this NASA promotion will not come as a huge surprise to people who are familiar with the culture of the nation. As the Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported previously, the UK is becoming a hub for space travel, and in fact interest and participation in outer space has been a fundamental part of recent British history. The famous Jodrell Bank site has been involved in some of the most infamous space missions, and the British space programme dates back to 1959.
Some may be surprised to see India at the head of the list, but this is actually quite logical. Not only is the Asian subcontinental nation one of the most populated on the planet, but the Indian government has recently been investigating and exploring space with its own independent missions. In November 2013, the Indian Space Research Organisation successfully launched a Mars Orbiter Mission which was heralded as pioneering a new era of low-cost space exploration.
The NASA campaign is effectively an interesting and innovative way to attract attention for NASA's new spacecraft “Orion”. This vessel will be launched into space for the first time in December, 2014, and will consequently include on board the names of all the people who have registered for this particular promotional campaign.
Of course, sending 960,000 pieces of paper into space would be rather impractical, and some might suggest that it would be somewhat irresponsible! The names will in fact be contained on a dime-sized microchip when NASA’s Orion spacecraft launches; the flight being dubbed “Exploration Flight Test-1” by the agency.
Once the flight has taken off, it will engage in a four and a half four, two-orbit mission around earth, which will test all of the internal systems fitted in Orion. Once this is complete, the spacecraft will then travel back towards Earth at speeds approaching 20,000 mph, reaching temperatures around 4000°F when the Earth's atmosphere is penetrated. Ultimately, Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, thus ending its journey.
But this will not be the solitary trip for the names that are to be shot into space. Once Orion has returned to Earth, the names will later embark on forthcoming NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. Effectively, people who participate in this promotion will be continually clocking up intergalactic air miles!
An era in which it is possible for holidaymakers to regularly travel to intergalactic destinations is now imaginable. The Digital Tourism Think Tank has reported on this notion previously, documenting the fact that Virgin Galactic has even been granted an ICAO (international civil aviation organisation) tag “VGX”, which its commercial airliners are utilising. Additionally, such nations as Sweden and Switzerland are investing heavily in the development of commercial space travel.
While the technology required to achieve this is still developing, and the prices involved may be rather prohibitive for most people at present, in time it is perfectly feasible that a whole new generation of space travelling tourists will emerge. By promoting its Orion craft in this innovative way, NASA is almost testing the water for a time when tourists are as likely to seek a journey to Mars as Marbella.
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