COSMOS Founders to Be Australia’s First Space Tourists

Luna Media Press Release | 13 October 2005


Alan Finkel, Wilson da Silva, Richard Branson and Brett Godfrey at a Virgin Galactic press conference

SUCCESSFUL MELBOURNE scientist and entrepreneur, Dr Alan Finkel, has become the first Australian to secure a berth aboard Richard Branson’s fledgling Virgin Galactic service, due to begin ferrying passengers into space in 2008.


Finkel, co-founder of Australia’s new popular science magazine, COSMOS, will be joined by the magazine’s Sydney-based editor, Wilson da Silva. The two men are the first Australians to join Virgin Galactic’s Founder’s Club, which guarantees them a place among the first 20 suborbital flights when the space airline begins operations in three years.

“One day, space travel will be as common and as safe as today’s air travel. But it will take private industry to make this happen, and committing to early ventures – such as the suborbital flights now being offered – brings this day closer to reality.”

“I’ve dreamed of flying in space ever since I was a child inspired by the first U.S. space missions,” said Finkel, the Chairman of Luna Media Pty Ltd, publishers of COSMOS magazine and the company he established with da Silva and publishing executive Kylie Ahern.


“One day, space travel will be as common and as safe as today’s air travel. But it will take private industry to make this happen, and committing to early ventures – such as the suborbital flights now being offered – brings this day closer to reality,” Finkel said.


Space flights are the new high frontier of tourism, and are explored in detail in the October 2005 issue of COSMOS, on sale in newsagents now.


Astronauts-in-waiting: Brett Godfrey, Alan Finkel, Richard Branson and Wilson da Silva

“It’s an exciting prospect, the idea of blasting off into space and looking back down on the Earth,” said da Silva, a veteran science journalist and a former ABC TV Quantum reporter.


“It’s the kind of thing that the editor of a popular science magazine like COSMOS should be doing! I’m hoping to be the first Australian journalist in space – and possibly, the first magazine editor,” said da Silva. “I wonder if I’ll be able to accrue frequent flyer miles?”

“It’s an exciting prospect, the idea of blasting off into space and looking back down on the Earth. It’s the kind of thing that the editor of a popular science magazine like COSMOS should be doing!”

Virgin Galactic will be using a new, larger class of spacecraft based on SpaceShipOne, the prototype spaceplane that in June last year made the first private spaceflight. Strapped to the belly of a specially-designed plane, White Knight, the spaceplane is hoisted to an altitude of 17 km, at which point it is released, the spaceplane’s rocket engines fire, and the spaceplane blasts off into space.


Travelling at three times the speed of sound, the spaceplane will reach an altitude of 112 km – several miles above the Earth’s atmosphere – where it will coast as its passengers experience the delights of weightlessness and the spectacular views of planet Earth below.


After six to eight minutes in zero gravity, the six-passenger spaceplane will begin the descent through the atmosphere to land back on the runway at California’s Mojave Desert, where it will land like a plane.

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