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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 jRaskell on 9/21/2012 4:31:46 PM , Rating: 3
Seed the route with unmanned cargo drones

And what route exactly are you going to seed? You do understand that both Earth and Mars are in constant orbit around our sun, and they are by no means synchronized orbits. The earth is traveling around our sun at over 100,000km/h. Mars is moving a bit slower at around 88,000km/h, but it has a much larger orbit. Any sort of crafts or caches that are launched with any significant periods of time between them would result in significantly different trajectories. Even a delay of 1 day between launches would mean the Earth alone would be 2.4 million km farther along it's orbit from one launch to the other.

You can't just seed caches at various stages of the trip. In order for any given cache to be at the right location on any give stage of the trip, it would have to be following a very specific trajectory, one that is in no way aligned with a manned craft trajectory towards Mars. Consequently, even if you could perfectly synchronize the trajectory of that cache to be at the exact location of the manned craft, the two would be going in different directions at very high speeds, and it would be completely impractical (if not impossible) for the manned craft to 'capture' the cache. The amount of fuel that would be required to synchronize the trajectory of the craft and the cache would negate (or, at the very least, significantly mitigate) the value of any supplies that cache would contain.

It would be far more practical just to launch a manned craft and however many supply craft would be necessary at virtually the same time, thus all on the same path, in the same vicinity of each other, with little to no maneuvering required to dock up with any supply craft.

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