Jet off to space as a tourist from US, virtually of course

Sarwat Nasir
Filed on November 18, 2019 | Last updated on November 18, 2019 at 11.37 pm

KT takes a VR tour of the Virgin Galactic's spaceport.

Inside a futuristic-themed lounge, a massive glass wall in front of me separates the room from a giant runway. It's holding what appears to be a regular aircraft, warming up its engines. It feels like an airport of some sort, but the destination I'm being taken to is, quite literally, out of this world.

It's not an eight-hour flight to London or seven-hour one to China, nor is it your usual aircraft. I am about to board a Virgin Galactic spacecraft that'll jet off from New Mexico's spaceport to the sub-orbit of our planet. I am a space tourist and with the ticket costing $250,000 per person, I'm hoping it's worth the hefty price tag.

The flight on SpaceShipTwo will be 90-minutes long and we - two pilots and five other passengers - will experience six minutes of weightlessness. Travelling up to a speed of 3,000mph, I feel both nervous and enthusiastic about seeing the Earth's curvature.

Back to reality

While the thought of flying into Earth's sub-orbit sounds exciting, I'm not going through with it. Not because I've chickened out, but because these visuals were possible thanks to a virtual reality (VR) tour of the spaceport on offer by Virgin Galactic at this year's Dubai Airshow.

The firm recently launched its 'Gateway to Space' spaceport in New Mexico and the futuristic design compliments the landscape of the American state. The wavy roof of the building blends in smoothly with the backdrop of the mountains.

The VR also showed the spaceport during different times of the day, morning, late afternoon and night. Even though New Mexico sounds like a faraway desert from our own desert in the UAE, Virgin Galactic has signed an agreement with authorities here to build a spaceport in Al Ain.

The design of the UAE spaceport could be very different from the one in New Mexico. The creative director at Virgin Galactic, Jeremy Brown, said the designs of each spaceport will probably differ from country to country.

Being well-known for its futuristic architecture, the UAE could very well be making international headlines once the spaceport is completed.

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