Now, I’ll admit that the headline is a little tricky. You probably think by reading it that Southwest Airlines has hooked up with XCor to provide budget suborbital space travel. At least that is what I had thought when I first skimmed the headlines.
But, no, it’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) than has penned a deal with XCor. You see SwRI wants to do actual scientific research on their flights into low earth orbit (LEO).
According to XCor, “Each of the six flights will include a SwRI trained principal investigator / payload specialist. This group of talented individuals includes Dr. Alan Stern, former NASA Associate Administrator for Science, Dr. Dan Durda who has flown research missions in NASA f-18s and Dr. Cathy Olkin, an experienced SwRI researcher and former NASA astronaut candidate. On these flights, the SwRI payload specialists will perform research using biomedical, microgravity, and astronomy imaging experiments conceived and prepared for flight at SwRI. SwRI has an option to purchase three additional flights at any time, providing more value significant flexibility for experimental research.”
This is some pretty cool stuff and I wish SwRI and XCor all the best. But, seriously I am waiting for the time when Southwest Airlines pens a deal with XCor or some other space tourism company to send people like you and me into LEO so we can get a peek at the curvature of the Earth and that sense of a deep, spiritual experience that many astronauts have talked about.
One of these days, Alice straight to the moon! But, before then I’d settle for a nice economy class reasonably faired ticket to ride to LEO. I just hope I live long enough to experience this. If not, perhaps my family will by me a funeral ticket and my deceased body will be ejected into LEO and burn up during re-entry. I’ll go out as a shooting star, so to speak. Not a bad way to go.