Opinion: Space travel with The Bookless Club

To infinity and beyond … !

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To infinity and beyond…!


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Travel, especially space travel, is on everyone’s mind right now. If the billionaires are to be believed, intergalactic travel is just around the corner.

A week ago, billionaire Sir Richard Branson became billionaire-astronaut Sir Richard Branson when he rocketed into space aboard his very own spacecraft. Branson’s spaceship was hoisted aloft by two companion aircraft named Eve, after Branson’s mother. The spaceship itself is named Unity, a moniker suggested by Stephen Hawking. Once Unity was released from the mothership, it did something called a gamma turn and headed upward, achieving an altitude of about 50 miles (80 kilometres) and four minutes of zero gravity for the six jubilant people on board.

As far as the passengers were concerned, they were in space.


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Well, close, but no cigar, said space-rival and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos. They were at the edge of space.

Bezos is scheduled to boldly go where only one other billionaire has gone before. On July 20 at 8 a.m., he is aiming to go 66 miles (106 kilometres) into what most of the world recognizes as the lower limit of outer space. Bezos’ Blue Origin rocket will launch vertically, from a launchpad using a reusable launch vehicle, and conclude with a parachute landing. Bezos has named his vessel the New Shepard, after the first American to go into space, Alan Shepard. His other spacecraft is named after John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

If the final frontier interests you, you might want to enter your name in the contest Branson is running. The prize is two seats on one of the first Virgin Galactic flights into space. The contest closes around Sept. 1, and the draw will take place around Sept. 29. As for when the flight takes place, well, that’s still up in the air — no pun intended. Branson is a bit fuzzy about all these dates, but perhaps that’s the consequence of the famous “overview effect,” the profound impact of viewing the Earth from space.


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The handful of billionaires in this modern space race believe that, soon, viewing the Earth from afar won’t be a rarity. For the foreseeable future, however, it will be beyond the reach of all but the richest of us. The price to duplicate Branson’s experience on a Virgin Galactic space flight is set at $250,000. So far, about 600 people have made a reservation. Book a ticket and you might find yourself seated alongside Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga or Tom Hanks. The flight, by the way, is over in one hour. To infinity and back … in just one, expensive hour.

You can’t book your New Shepard flight yet, but no worries — every seat is a window seat. Six passengers will travel in a “spacious and pressurized crew capsule,” and the vehicle is fully autonomous. There won’t be flight attendants as every person on board is a passenger and there are no pilots. It’s just you and the great beyond.


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If you’re happy with your Tesla, you might prefer the commercial flights that Elon Musk’s SpaceX is offering to both Earth and lunar orbit.

I’m sure all these flights will have their own, unique qualities. It would be hard to decide which to choose, although I’m kind of leaning towards Blue Origin as I really liked their gift shop. Yes, all of these space enterprises have gift shops. T-shirts, hoodies, posters, travel mugs, key chains — all the predictable wares.

Frankly, space tourism isn’t something I’m dying to do, even if I get to sit next to Tom Hanks. Blue Origin’s motto is “Graditum ferociter”, a Latin phrase meaning, “Step by step, ferociously”. When it comes to intergalactic travel, my personal motto is, “Graditum timide”.


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Jane Macdougall is a freelance writer and former National Post columnist who lives in Vancouver. She will be writing on The Bookless Club every Saturday online and in The Vancouver Sun. For more of what Jane’s up to, check out her website, janemacdougall.com

This week’s question for readers:

How ready are you for space travel? Would you take the flight if you won the tickets?

Send your answers by email text, not an attachment, in 100 words or less, along with your full name to Jane at thebooklessclub@gmail.com. We will print some next week in this space.

Responses to last week’s question for readers:

What would you grab in a fire?

My wife is a scrapbooker. She has our lives all documented in photo albums since the kids were born. There are so many they bend any shelf that is less than 3/4-inch. She would be devastated if she lost them. She has a cousin who had five minutes to get out of her house with her four-year-old daughter in the fire that ravaged Lytton.


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Matthew Jordan

• What would I grab in a fire? Why, a fire extinguisher, of course!

S. Dexter

• I would ensure all the people and pets — my two dogs and two cats — were safe. While there are photos and sentimental family heirlooms that I would want to save, I hope I would be selfless enough to ensure my neighbours were safe first. So many people were saved in the Lytton fire because of the selfless actions of people like Jordan Spinks, who had just arrived home and went back to work to help seniors get to safety.

Gayle Stoodley

• The phone rang shortly after lunch. Matt said, “Gramma, the house is on fire. Mom said to call you.” “We’ll be right there, Matt.”

All things ran through my mind as we raced toward my daughter’s house. The driveway was closed off by the firetrucks. We could see our family up the road waiting.


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My daughter and her husband have five children. Three, including my youngest grandson, were home at the time of the fire. Thankfully, he was able to take his two younger sisters outside, even though they were in their stocking feet.

What would I take? Only those babies were important. Everything else could be replaced.

My grandson is now a fireman.

Bonnie Hamilton

• Although I resisted for many, many years, and only have an iPhone as a result of a generous gift, I’d grab my iPhone. Because it is with me everywhere, it will undoubtedly be within reach. Everything about me has been purposely scanned or is available with an online presence — photographs, contact listings, and copies of important documents (will and estate planning, government documentation, financial and insurance information, medical and vaccination history, 50-plus years of journals, two self-published books, mementos and certificates of achievement). In the event of a dire situation, this remarkable device also provides the ability to reach-out for help and resources when required.

Debra Dolan

• My two precious dogs Finlay and Henry, and the urns of my precious now departed pups Robbie and Tommy. Not much else matters.

Patricia Gray



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