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March 27, 2008

Enter the Lynx

Posted: 04:07 PM ET

Prospects for blasting off on a suborbital "vacation" to space got a bit brighter this week when XCOR Aerospace debuted designs for the "Lynx."

Source: XCOR Aerospace

The two seat space plane is designed to carry a paying tourist just past the edge of space - where you would be able to see the stars against the blackness of space and the "blue marble" of the Earth below. About the size of a private airplane, the Lynx would fly to an altitude of about 200,000 feet. The "tourist" could expect to experience about 90 seconds of weightlessness, though he or she would remain strapped into the passenger seat the whole time.

XCOR plan to begin flights in 2010, and tickets will run about $100,000 dollars.

If all goes as planned, the Lynx will go head to head for passengers with Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which is being designed and built by aviation guru and Ansari X Prize winner Burt Rutan. That space plane is designed to carry up to six people, and is supposed to start test flights this year. That ticket will set you back about $200,000, but during those precious few seconds of microgravity you would get to unstrap and float around in the back.

Entrepreneurs have been touting space tourism as the "next big thing" for some time now, estimating the market to be in the half-billion dollar range. And while a $100,000 or $200,000 thousand dollar ticket is hopelessly out of the ballpark for the masses, it could be workable for a sizable number of rich folks who view it as a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip - comparable to climbing Mt. Everest.

So far the Lynx is still on the drawing board. We'll keep you posted on the progress.

–Kate Tobin, Senior Producer, CNN Science & Technology

Filed under: Space • Space Tourism

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John   March 27th, 2008 5:36 pm ET

I have vowed to stay away from all civilian space flights in the future, because of a bad dream that I had ten years ago, in which the space ship that I was vacationing on veered off-course and was sent spiraling endlessly into deep space, away from Earth's orbit.

Keep this in mind before booking a flight on the Lynx.

Mr. Spock   March 28th, 2008 3:21 am ET

The Lynx is even more of a waste of money than the Iraq war! What does this accomplish? 90 bloody seconds in orbital space! How about a 12 month trip to Venus, or 18 months to Mars? I'm up for it! I would even enjoy a 2 week camping trip on the moon, We have the technology right now to do all these things. $100 K for an orbital dip into space is a complete waste of money!

Patrick Anthony Drake   March 28th, 2008 8:59 am ET


Rich   March 28th, 2008 9:28 am ET

Not a waste of money. These different orbital ships made by civilians will bring down the price of travel. This will also bring about new technology and innovation in the field of space flight. If we want an 18 month trip to mars we have to start with a 90 second trip to space.

Craig   March 28th, 2008 10:20 am ET

Lynx is NOT offering space flight! International recogized 'boundary' of space is 100km. The Lynx AIRcraft cannot reach that altitude. They are just offering a high altitude flight.

Frank   March 29th, 2008 12:18 pm ET

Craig is right to say that the Lynx will NOT be offering flights into space. On the first Spaceship One test flight, Mike Melville climbed to 328,491 feet, barely exceeding the officially recognized "space" boundary. Then, Brian Bennie won the X Prize with two additional flights... the first to 367,442 ft and then 337,500 ft. A flight in the Lynx to only 200,000 ft would not qualify as a space flight and I personally would consider it a waste of money... if, in fact, you expected to really fly into space. Oh, and don't forget the extra pollution spewed out with all those flights. At least Spaceship Two will carry more than one person, REALLY fly into space and will have a safe and unique propulsion system.

Solar John   March 30th, 2008 10:19 pm ET

I wouldn't take that flight even if I could get a free ride. How would I explain this pointless waste of natural resources, and my lack of concern for the pollution it causes, to my grandchildren?

We all need to think ahead. We are at or near peak oil, and peak coal is not far behind. Our grandchildren will see our generation as incredibly selfish, and the generation most responsible for trashing the planet and the atmosphere.

We are at a point in history where running your air-conditioner, just so you can have a fire in the fireplace, is no longer "cool". Anything you can do to reduce your carbon footprint IS a good thing. But then, there will always be those who don't care about anyone or anything but their own selfish needs.

Xian   March 31st, 2008 12:45 pm ET

I'm torn. I WANT to do it, and I WOULD do it. But its just not ethical, mostly for environmental reasons. If there was clean burning feul that could get us there, I would go in a heartbeat. I can't imagine what it would be like to be that high up. Breathtaking to say the very least. But I"m not selfish, so I may just have to do without. (not that I'll ever be able to afford it anyway)

Ben   April 1st, 2008 5:35 am ET

The Lynx is even more of a waste of money than the Iraq war! What does this accomplish? 90 bloody seconds in orbital space! How about a 12 month trip to Venus, or 18 months to Mars? I’m up for it! I would even enjoy a 2 week camping trip on the moon, We have the technology right now to do all these things. $100 K for an orbital dip into space is a complete waste of money!

Uh huh, you've been watching too much TV. Sure, its possible, but certainly not on a space tourist scale. Hell, even just sending one round trip to Mars is likely to cost as much or more than the Iraq War (With a moonbase costing even more than a trip to Mars if you can't somehow extract water from the planet). Oh, and just try getting insurance to cover that radiation that peppers your body for the 18 months or so your in open space (Which would be a record, considering the longest any one person has been in space is a year, and that was in relative safety from the harsh elements of space).

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but space tourism as your wishing for is a long long long way off. So yeah, trips to low earth orbit are a start so stop complaining.

Ben   April 1st, 2008 5:41 am ET

So yeah, we've got a long way to go yet.

Mr. Spock   April 3rd, 2008 1:16 am ET

Ben, how about if space tourism was scaled back to just orbiting Earth or the Moon? Both are reasonably protected within Earth's magnetic field.

ed   April 3rd, 2008 6:03 pm ET

There's a huge technical difference between these ballistic "up and down" tourist flights and an actual "orbital" flight. The amount of firepower to get into orbit is an order of magnitude more then just going up and coming down. Better up that $100,000 ticket to a $1,000,000 if you want to go into orbit.

Oh, and don't worry about getting lost in deep space on one of these space tourist flights. Not enough firepower to escape earth's gravity. You're coming back down, one way or another.

Still, its a first step. Gotta start somewhere...

Vin   April 3rd, 2008 10:58 pm ET

Solar John and Xian

Think about this. More than 13 billion gallons of jet fuel are used every year just by US major airlines (74 billion gallons of gasoline by US drivers every year – see US DOT). You are frustrated by maybe 50 space flights a year using a microscopic fraction? Seems like you are focusing on the fly buzzing around your head instead of the Mack truck coming down the highway.

That is not to say I am not concerned about the environment. These space flights (or any flights for that matter) could be neutralized by purchasing carbon offsets. So if you really want to take that flight (and can cough up the cash) then by all means go ahead, and buy the offset. If you want to make all flights require carbon offsets, that makes much more sense that holding back the innovative entrepreneurs and technology.

Vin   April 3rd, 2008 11:02 pm ET

Even if Lynx doesn't reach Space, at least Virgin has some competition.

If you want new technology and innovation, what better way than competition. NASA made huge space tech leaps during the space race because it had Russia breathing down its neck. After the Cold War, seems like space tech has been stagnant.

Sure, funding is always an issue too, but think about it, isn't it better for customer (price) and society (tech) with more than one space tourism company on the map?

Capten Kirk   April 7th, 2008 6:00 am ET

The space journy like any other journy of that mgnitude has to start somewhere... like a wise man once said, "the Journy of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

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