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One Giant Step for Mag Editor

The West Australian | 27 April 2006

By Torrance Mendez

IS IT A BIRD? Is it a plane? No. It's spaceman Wilson da Silva.

The lucky Sydneysider and editor of Cosmos science magazine has fluked a $200,000 trip that will boldly take him into space in 2008.

Magazine co-founder Alan Finkel booked the flights with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and asked da Silva if he'd like to come along for the ride.

"I said, 'I can't afford it'," da Silva said in Perth yesterday. "And he said: 'What if I picked up the tab?'"

Da Silva is looking forward to 14 minutes of weightlessness in a new craft being developed by American Burt Rutan.

He feels as safe as houses.

"Climbing Mt Everest has a 4.7 per cent non-return chance," da Silva said. "Space has 3 per cent."

Incredibly, he will need a passport for the trip, though no one knows who will stamp it at the destination. Equally mind-blowing, the spacecraft does not require an airworthiness certificate.

Da Silva is in town for a free science forum at the University of WA tonight, discussing why it is so hard to get an answer from a scientist. He says one thing is certain: sub-orbital trips like his could make three-hour passenger flights between Perth and Europe commonplace.


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