Another Canadian hopes to become space tourist
Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, December 7, 2009 12:09PM EST
MONTREAL - MONTREAL _ After studying space physics and learning how to fly, John Criswick's childhood dream of becoming an astronaut was shattered in 1992 when he did not get selected by the Canadian Space Agency.
But the CEO of Magmic Games should finally get his chance to go into space within the next two years _ although it will cost him US$200,000.
The Canadian businessman has booked a space flight with Virgin Galactic, one of many companies belonging to tycoon Richard Branson.
In fact, Criswick was the first Canadian among the 300 astronauts who have already made reservations for a trip into sub-orbital space on board SpaceShipTwo.
"It's going to be in my lifetime,'' Criswick, 46, told The Canadian Press, adding he had "a lot of confidence in what Virgin Galactic was doing.''
"I'll be ready to go in 2011, 2012.''
Criswick is one of 14 Canadians, including at least one woman, who have booked the two-hour space flight, which features several minutes of weightlessness.
The Canadians include people from Montreal, Toronto and Calgary.
Criswick will be in Mojave, Calif., on Monday for the official unveiling of SpaceShipTwo, which has two pilots and can carry six passengers.
When it finally goes into operation, the spaceship will be launched from WhiteKnightTwo, a carrier plane, after being flown 50,000 feet into the air.
The passenger vessel and its space tourists will eventually reach a height of 110 kilometres above the Earth.
Criswick, who grew up in Victoria, B.C., predicts the current $200,000 price tag for a commercial space flight will eventually come down.
"It's just the start, (and) it'll be a few years before it's in the $20,000 to $50,000 range,'' he said.
"We're just establishing the frontier now.''
Earlier this year, Guy Laliberte paid $35 million to travel to the International Space station as Canada's first space tourist.
Criswick studied space physics at Toronto's York University and spent a summer at the International Space University in France.
He worked in the space industry in Ottawa and also has a pilot's licence.
Criswick figures he made it into the top 200 after more than 5,000 people applied for the six Canadian astronaut positions which were filled in 1992.
He got over his disappointment and went on to co-found Magmic Games, the Ottawa-based company which makes games for smartphones.
Carolyn Wincer, who books Virgin Galactic's passengers, says the future space tourists are mainly adventurers and entrepreneurs.
"We've got lots of people who have already been to the North Pole, have already climbed Mount Everest,'' she said in an interview from New Zealand.
Wincer adds that about 40 per cent of them also have a pilot's licence and have their own aircraft.
The timing of the first passenger flight of SpaceShipTwo depends on testing to be carried out over the next year.
"There will be a space flight in 12 months or a space flight in 24 months, it just depends how well it goes,'' she said.
Wincer expects about 50 test flights before Branson and his family get on the inaugural flight.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only company dreaming of space travel.
Brian Feeney of Toronto and his 20-member team are continuing to develop his XF-1 passenger space plane.
The CEO and chairman of DreamSpace Group, who has worked in the aerospace sector all his life, wants to offer a sub-orbital space flight that would cost less than $100,000.
The industrial engineer says he hopes to show off the XF-1A, a prototype of his space plane, next spring.
"By the end of the year, or prior to the end of the year, we'll unveil the full-scale XF-1B model which is the one which will actually carry passengers into space,'' he said in an interview.
The final version of Feeney's spaceship will take passengers as high as 140 kilometres over the Earth.
It would measure about 14 metres long with a 10-metre wing span.
The pilot sits in the rear of the cabin, elevated behind the passengers, with the control panel on his left and right sides.
Feeney's space plane would be launched from a carrier plane, at an altitude of 40,000 feet.
"It's beneath the carrier aircraft, so it drops, the engines fire and away it goes,'' he said.
Feeney's timetable has the XF-1 starting out with scientific payload flights in 2011 and then "flying people sometime in 2012.''
"We'll begin to put our seats up for sale sometime in 2010, not any sooner than that,'' he added.
Feeney says flight testing of the XF-1 will take place at the airport in North Bay in northern Ontario.
"In the North Bay area, there are huge areas the size of Toronto that are designated for flight-testing operations,'' he said.
But Feeney's space plane will not be as large as the six-seater SpaceShipTwo.
The XF-1B will only carry a pilot and one or two paying passengers.