Teaching Science | June 2016
Wilson da Silva is not an astronaut or even a scientist; just an ordinary bloke with a seat book on a flight into space.
“When I was 10, I’d lie on the lawn, look at the stars and dream of being in space. It was magical, inspiring and an unlikely dream. But soon it will come true.
“More than 10 years ago, I signed up to fly with Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, almost as soon as they began offering tickets for a three-hour flight into space and back. My seat’s paid for and I’m guaranteed to be in the first 100 to fly.
“Officially, the start to outer space is beyond an altitude of 100km--just above the ozone layer and the region where meteors burn up as they hurtle towards our atmosphere. That’s where we’re headed; probably no higher than 120km.
“Inside an eight-passenger winged rocket strapped to the belly of a jumbo-sized carrier plane, we will be flown to an altitude of 17km--then dropped. That’s when the fun will begin: the rocket engines will ignite, we’ll feel an almighty kick and shoot straight into space at three times the speed of sound.
“About three hours later we’ll land like a plane back on Earth. But for 15 minutes or so, we’ll float inside the spacecraft, looking down on the blue orb that’s home to our species: where everyone we’ve ever known lives and all the history we’ve ever read took place. I think it will be even more magical and inspiring than my 10-year-old self could have ever imagined. My bag’s packed and I’m waiting for the call telling me when our countdown is due to start.”