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Richard Branson  (Source:
His spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, is set to start making commercial flights in a year

Richard Branson is hoping to be one of the first humans to populate Mars as space travel enters an era of commercial flight.

Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, discussed his future space plans for both his spaceflight company -- Virgin Galactic -- and his potential settlement on Mars.

Possibly in the next year, Virgin Galactic will lead the shift into commercial spaceflight, taking anyone who can pay $200,000 on a two-hour trip beyond Earth.

"It's going to be absolutely incredible because finally people...ordinary people will be able to have a chance to become astronauts, go into space," said Branson. "There are only 500 people who have ever been into space. They are the privileged astronauts...we just want to enable people to become astronauts and experience it."

He went on to say that "hundreds of thousands" of people will take part in the commercial space program. In fact, Branson and his children will be the first people on a Virgin Galactic flight next year.

Commercial spaceflight comes at a time when U.S. government space agency NASA has retired its space shuttle fleet and temporarily suspended a way for American astronauts to get to the International Space Station (except via Russian Soyuz rockets). This is where the private sector has stepped in, where companies like California-based SpaceX has since shipped its Dragon capsule to the ISS for the delivery of supplies. Virgin Galactic is another member of the private space sector, but it is focusing more on commercial flights that anyone can take.

Branson went on to describe the future of American spaceflight, saying that people will eventually settle on Mars -- and he hopes to be one of the first.

"In my lifetime, I'm determined to being apart of starting a population on Mars," said Branson. "I think it is absolutely realistic. It will happen."

Branson isn't alone in dreams of life on Mars. SpaceX is also developing a reusable orbital launch system that would make spaceflight affordable and permanent Mars settlement a reality.

Source: CBS News

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RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/21/2012 7:43:58 AM , Rating: 3
Why would ANY government spend money to send people to Mars? what is there in Mars that could be sent back to earth to pay up all the costs of sending people there? If the whole point is to colonize some piece of land and claim for yourself, then there are dozens of places in our own planet that could be colonized for much cheaper, our Oceans represent almost 3/4 of the earth surface and there's almost no one living in them and what about the moon?

To me Mars should only be a possibility when we achieve a fully independent "green house" that could supply the people living there with all the Oxygen, Food and Water they need, even this we have not yet achived in our planet, then we should start colonizing the Moon (for it's natural resources) and then Mars.

RE: Reality Check
By ritualm on 9/21/2012 10:09:14 AM , Rating: 2
Because we're putting all our eggs in one basket - Earth. We have about 15-50 years before we'll know whether Apophis will present an ELE over everyone on this planet.

Why colonize Mars and beyond? If you want humanity to survive and prosper into the next century, you will do it regardless.

RE: Reality Check
By Jaybus on 9/24/2012 3:37:31 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that the only logical reason to colonize Mars is to prevent an ELE on Earth from extincting humans. However, there is no real reason to believe that it is possible for a Mars colony to survive indefinitely without resupply from Earth. The colonists would have to be able to manufacture, from Mars raw materials, every single part and piece of the colony. This is because the population (of humans AND the many other species of Earth life required for humans to exist) would have to expand from the small confines of a colony, else there would not be enough biodiversity for humans to survive long term. The only real hope, it seems, would be for humans to survive long enough to send a ship back to repopulate Earth after the ELE. We evolved on, and are extremely adapted to, Earth. It is not a given that we can survive long term anywhere else.

RE: Reality Check
By lightfoot on 9/21/2012 11:23:24 AM , Rating: 3
There is no reason in the world that colonizing Mars should be completely neglected just because we haven't colonized the Moon, or inhabited every last place on Earth.

We have more than enough resources to develop everything you stated as well as a plan for colonizing Mars at the same time. We might even develop technologies that may assist in the other endeavours.

Does the government need to be involved? No, but there is no reason that the private sector (like Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic) should be held back.

RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 9:50:49 AM , Rating: 1
"Does the government need to be involved? No, but there is no reason that the private sector (like Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic) should be held back."
What you don't see is that it's the government that pays most of the bill even for private companies.

RE: Reality Check
By przemo_li on 9/23/2012 6:24:58 AM , Rating: 2
Not for mars. But for ISS supply trips.

And if everything play correctly private sector will be able to provide cheaper solutions there.

Gov. on the other hand is not paying for mars trips. Moon maybe is on the road map (but for NASA trips, not turists trips). Mars is not. And if it will be, than it will be for NASA trips (or some interop between japan, eu, usa)

RE: Reality Check
By aliasfox on 9/21/2012 1:24:36 PM , Rating: 2
A pessimist looks at a goal and asks... why?

An optimist, an engineer, a scientist, an adventurer, a visionary... they all ask 'why not?'

Sometimes, without someone trying to advance us 3 steps at a time, the rest of us wouldn't be able to advance even one step at a time.

Take flight, for example. The Wright brothers had to take nascent ideas in aerodynamics, power to weight ratios, and a barely developed (let alone proven) engine, and turned them into something new. If we had all taken then one step at a time approach, waiting for internal combustion engines to become powerful enough or waiting for aerodynamics to become more developed, we may have had to wait a lot longer.

Maybe Virgin and SpaceX should team up - SpaceX sends fuel, food, and water along the route, and Virgin develops craft that jump along each one until they get to the Moon, Mars, or beyond...

As for a reason why... tourism, for one. No, the price won't be for everyone, but neither were first class suites on ocean liners.

RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 12:27:21 PM , Rating: 3
Your quite wrong if you think the Wright brothers just packed everything up and hoped for the best, they first developed their glider and later the propellers and engine to power it, true they didn't wait for others but they still went one step at a time. Bransom is like a Hollywood star that wants to be in the news all the time, why the heck you compare him to Wright brothers when I doubt he even invented anything, the engineers, scientists and others behind all of "his" achievements are non existent for the media.

Who's saying to wait? the fact is that to live on Mars you need to develop a self sustainable environment, this could be done down on earth or even on the moon for a fraction of the costs and with a lot less risks, going to Mars while still being dependent on earth it's for me not much of an achievement, any fool with enough money could probably make it alive to Mars today.

Tourism? it costs 200000$ to send someone 2h into space, how much do you think it would cost sending someone to Mars, chances are not even the richest people on the planet would do it, the moon however would attract just as much tourism at a more reasonable cost, and even a city entirely built under water would be something to visit at least the oceans have more things to see.

RE: Reality Check
By aliasfox on 9/24/2012 9:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
Of course they didn't pack everything and hope for the best, but their end goal wasn't to create the best kite or the best glider - they wanted powered flight. Yes, they needed a plan and engineering to take it one step at a time, but they had an end goal that was fantastic.

It costs $200,000 to send someone into space for two hours... today. You make the assumption that the price will never go down, that increases in scale and recovery of initial costs will never happen. Yes, it's expensive to hop into space, but it will come down within our lifetime - at which point I hope there's something else to take its place at the top of the ladder.

RE: Reality Check
By Jaybus on 9/24/2012 4:01:24 PM , Rating: 2
Leave out the scientist and engineer and I would agree. The scientist is not asking the question why or why not, but rather attempting to answer them. The engineer never asks why or why not, but rather asks how.

RE: Reality Check
By FaaR on 9/22/2012 6:30:29 AM , Rating: 1
You're too fixated on money, and cost. Money is merely an intellectual concept, which we humans invented, not an actual resource. There will always be money for anything, if we say there is.

Going to Mars is a worthwile project, if we want to ensure the future survival of mankind.

RE: Reality Check
By JKflipflop98 on 9/22/2012 6:55:41 AM , Rating: 3
It's amazing how many people can't understand the concept of an artificial social construct.

RE: Reality Check
By FaaR on 9/22/2012 7:41:29 AM , Rating: 1
And it's amazing how so many people on the internet take a smug, superior attitude without actually contributing anything at any time.

RE: Reality Check
By Strunf on 9/22/2012 9:36:05 AM , Rating: 2
You must be quite the pessimist if you truly believe mankind survival depends on Mars colonization.

As far as I know there is no immediate threat to life on earth, not at least for the next few thousands of years.

RE: Reality Check
By Sivar on 9/23/2012 11:07:19 AM , Rating: 2
Money is also a representation of real resources.
Printing money doesn't create resources. Literally printing money will cause inflation. Resources must be taken from one project to be given to another.
I am all for real human colonization of Mars and other planets, but pretending economics exits is not a good strategy.

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