Launch Day And Your Space Flight
Following a special breakfast, you and your fellow astronauts will board SpaceShipTwo
(SS2), already fuelled and secured to WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) the mother ship, affectionately
known as Eve, (named after Richard Branson’s mother) and prepare for take-off. From
powering up to departing the runway, WhiteKnightTwo will take approximately forty-five
minutes to climb to 50,000 feet.
During the countdown to release from the mother
ship, you will experience a brief moment of quiet, before a wave of unimaginable,
but controlled power surges through the craft, pinning you back into your seat as
you listen to the howl of the rocket motor and endure the eye- watering acceleration
which, according to the read-out, is propelling you into space at almost 2500mph,
over three times the speed of sound. As you hurtle through the edges of the atmosphere,
the large windows will perfectly reveal the cobalt blue sky as it turns from mauve
to indigo and finally to black.
At this point you should be coping well even starting
to relax, that is until the world contained in the spaceship is completely transformed
putting all your senses back on full alert. The rocket motor has been switched off
and all has become eerily quiet; the deep silence of space as awe inspiring as the
noise of the rocket just moments earlier.
More significantly, gravity, which has
dominated your every movement since the day you were born, is no longer there. There
is no up and no down allowing you to experience a freedom that even the most realistic
of your pre-flight dreams will have underestimated. Take a mid-space summersault
over to the large window to see an image you’ve seen countless times before, but
which now will undoubtedly provoke some strong emotions. The blue map, curving into
the black distance is familiar but with none of the usual marked boundaries. The
incredibly narrow ribbon of atmosphere looks worryingly fragile. It is the final
reward for all your training and efforts; it is Earth and it is home.
to your reclined seat, you will feel gravity starting to return. The deceleration
produces strong G forces, but the fact that you’re lying down, eases the intensity.
The feathered wings of the spacecraft produce a powerful drag as the thickness of
the atmosphere increases, although out of the windows it still looks like space.
The G forces quickly ease off and the pilot announces the start of the glide home.
Later that evening, having received your astronaut wings, take a moment to catch
your breath; from this point onwards, life will never quite be the same again.