Virgin Galactic Ticket To Space Promised In New Reality Show Deal

Call it Space Survivor. Thirteen years after that now-classic desert island nightmare premiered on NBC, the executive producer behind Survivor is planning to host another reality competition that will land the winner a rocket trip to space.

We don’t know yet what feats of strength, endurance, intelligence or teamwork (or is that backstabbing?) will be needed to score a trip with Virgin Galactic. A press release simply promises a “groundbreaking, elimination competition series where everyday people compete for the ultimate prize”, but we sure hope a lot of the individual contests are space-related.

“For the past 10 years I have relentlessly pursued my dream of using a TV show to give an everyday person the chance to experience the black sky of space and look down upon mother Earth,” stated executive producer Mark Burnett, who heads One Three Media. Burnett seems to have chosen the Richard Branson-backed SpaceShipTwo (now doing powered flight tests) as the best chance of getting competitors into space in the near future.

Sir Richard Branson hugs designer Burt Rutan as they are surrounded by employees of Virgin Galactic, The SpaceShip Company and Scaled Composites watch as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip2 streaks across the sky under rocket power, its first ever since the program began in 2005. Burt's wife Tonya Rutan is at right taking their photo. The spacecraft was dropped from its "mothership", WhiteKnight2 over the Mojave, CA area, April 29, 2013 at high altitude before firing its hybrid power motor. Virgin Galactic hopes to become the first commercial space venture to bring multiple passengers into space on a regular basis.
Sir Richard Branson hugs designer Burt Rutan as they are surrounded by employees of Virgin Galactic, The SpaceShip Company and Scaled Composites watch as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip2 streaks across the sky under rocket power, its first ever since the program began in 2005. Burt’s wife Tonya Rutan is at right taking their photo. The spacecraft was dropped from its “mothership”, WhiteKnight2 over the Mojave, CA area, April 29, 2013 at high altitude before firing its hybrid power motor. Virgin Galactic hopes to become the first commercial space venture to bring multiple passengers into space on a regular basis.

“Last year, I spent time in New Mexico at the state-of-the-art facility and last week [I] spent time in the Mojave desert with Sir Richard and his impressive team. We got to see the spaceship up close and hear of Sir Richard’s incredible vision of how Virgin Galactic is the future of private space travel. I am thrilled to be part of a series that will give the everyday person a chance to see space, and that NBC has come on board too so that viewers at home will have a first-class seat.”

Virgin says its first spaceflight with SpaceShipTwo will be in 2014, and soon after it will open the manifest to the more than 600 folks who have purchased tickets.

As for when we’ll expect to see Space Race hit the airwaves, let’s just caution that this is just an agreement so far and nothing firm has been decided.

Recall that in 2000, Burnett announced another deal with NBC to host a space reality show (Destination Mir), with the winner visiting the Russian space station Mir. That idea fell apart when the cash-strapped Russian Federal Space Agency elected to deorbit the aging station in 2001 and focus its resources on the International Space Station.

Burnett subsequently proposed another show that would have brought ‘N Sync guitarist Lance Bass to the International Space Station, but that idea never got off the ground.

50 Years Ago: Explorer 1

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The launch of Sputnik in October 1957 changed the world overnight. And with the Soviet Union’s second successful launch of Sputnik 2 the following month, Americans were feeling a little left behind in the dust, especially after the US’s first satellite launch attempt with the Vanguard rocket exploded on the launchpad. But space pioneer Werner Von Braun, shown in this picture with JPL Director William Pickering and scientist James Van Allen, came through with his Jupiter C rocket that launched the US’s first satellite, Explorer 1, into space on January 31, 1958.

Explorer 1 was not all that big, with a length of 203 centimeters (80 inches), a diameter of 15.9 centimeters (6.25 inches), and a weight of 14 kilograms (30.8 pounds). But it did its job, which was, first and foremost, to reach orbit, and then return scientific information.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory got the assignment of designing and building a scientific payload for the launch, which they accomplished in three months.

The primary science instrument on Explorer 1 was a cosmic ray detector designed to measure the radiation above the atmosphere. Dr. James Van Allen designed the experiment, which revealed a much lower cosmic ray count than expected. Van Allen theorized that the instrument may have been saturated by very strong radiation from a belt of charged particles trapped in space by Earth’s magnetic field. A subsequent launch by Explorer 3 two months later confirmed the existence of these radiation belts, which became known as the Van Allen Belts, in honor of their discoverer.

There were other scientific findings from Explorer 1 as well. Because of its symmetrical shape, Explorer 1 was used to help determine the upper atmospheric densities.

Two other instruments on board looked for micrometeorites in orbit: a micrometeorite detector and an acoustic microphone to detect the sound of an micrometeorite impact. The micrometeorite detector was made of a grid of electrical wires. A micrometeorite of about 10 microns would fracture a wire upon impact, destroy the electrical connection, and record the event. One or two of the wires were destroyed during launch. The equipment worked for about 60 days, but showed only one possible meteorite impact. Data from the acoustical sensor microphone were obtained only when an impact occurred while the satellite was over a ground recording station. However, over an 11-day period (February 1, 1958, to February 12, 1958), 145 impacts were recorded. The high impact rates on one portion of the orbit and the subsequent failures in the satellite’s electronic system were attributed to a meteor shower.

The batteries ran out on Explorer 1 on May 23, 1958 when the last signal was recorded. The US’s first satellite burned up in re-entry of the atmosphere in March of 1970.

Original News Source: Explorer 1