Do you dream spaceflight dreams? But are you unwilling (or unable) to shell out $250,000 for a ride on Virgin Galactic’s future commercial spaceship?
Well, there’s another way to get on that ship.
NBC announced on Thursday that it is partnering with billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and TV producer Mark Burnett, creator of “Survivor” and “The Voice,” to produce “Space Race,” a space-themed reality show. The winner will enjoy a supersonic, suborbital ride on Virgin Galactic’s forthcoming commercial spaceship, SpaceShipTwo.
“The scope of this endeavor is so staggering, that it took these two titans to even imagine it,” said NBC's Paul Telegdy, President of Alternative and Late Night Programming, in a statement.
“The term ‘trip of a lifetime’ has for once been delivered on,” he said. “This will be a remarkable experience for anyone who has looked at the night’s sky and dared to dream of Space Flight.”
NBC describes “Space Race” as an “elimination competition series where everyday people compete for the ultimate prize – a trip for the winner into space on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.” The network did not give a date for when the series will air.
The announcement comes amidst a three-way commercial space race between Virgin Galactic, Space X, and Orbital Sciences. Last week, billionaire Elon Musk’s Space X debuted an updated version of its Falcon 9, a forerunner to what it hopes will be the world’s most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy. The company, which has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA as a cargo carrier, has said that its ultimate goal is to colonize Mars. Orbital Sciences launched its first unmanned supply mission last month to the International Space Station.
Virgin Galactic, vying less for NASA’s bucks and more for control of the space tourism market, says that it will be taking people on brief – but intense – rides into space within about one year, though its launch date has been pushed back before. The company reports that about 580 people have booked seats for what could be called the ultimate theme park ride on SpaceShipTwo.
Last month, SpaceShipTwo made its second rocket-powered test flight from the Mojave Desert, rocketing to 69,000 feet at a maximum speed of Mach 1.43. But 69,000 feet isn’t high enough. That altitude is in the Earth’s stratosphere, some 260,000 feet below what is called the Kármán line, where the World Air Sports Federation defines as the beginning of space.
So, before SpaceShipTwo is prime-time ready, it will have to reproduce the success of the Virgin Galactic’s previous prototype craft, SpaceShipOne. That ship reached 367,442 feet (69.6 miles) in 2004, but was too small to hit the market, with room for just two passengers and one pilot.
The show's collaborators have not said how contestants will be selected, but if Mars One’s success in recruiting participants for its reality show-styled trip to Mars is an “Space Race” is well poised to get recruits.
Mars One, the startup that plans to put a settlement on Mars in 2023, announced last month that it had received some 202,586 applications from hopefuls eager to travel to the Red Planet – and stay there. The group, which calls funding its “biggest problem,” says that it hopes it can depend on viewer contributions to get its project literally off the (Earthly) ground and on Martian soil.
“People are interested in a manned mission to Mars; Mars One uses this interest to finance the mission,” the company writes on its website.