Chris Hadfield: suborbital space tourism “not much of a space flight”

Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield on the ISS in early 2013. In an interview, he wonders if some Virgin Galactic customers know about the limited spaceflight experience they’ll get. (credit: NASA)

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who gained fame earlier this year for his social media outreach while serving on the International Space Station, is doing some interviews with more mainstream media in advance of the publication of his book, An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth. In an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian, he’s asked what he thinks about suborbital space tourism ventures such as Virgin Galactic. He offers a qualified endorsement of such flights.

“I’m all for the idea. I commend him for it. But it’s not much of a space flight,” he said, referring to Sir Richard Branson. He believes that some celebrity customers (the example given by The Guardian of Paris Hilton) might be disappointed about the relatively brief flight. “I’m not sure she knows what she’s paying for. She may think she’s going to … see the universe and stars whipping by. None of that’s happening. They’re just going to go up and fall back down again… They’ll get a few minutes of weightlessness, and they’ll see the black of the universe. And they’ll see the curve of the Earth and the horizon, because they’ll be above the air. But whether that’ll be enough for the quarter-million-dollar price tag? I don’t know.”

He also note the risks inherent in spaceflight. “Eventually they’ll crash one. Because it’s hard. They’re discovering how hard,” he said, noting the years of delays Virgin Galactic, which originally proposed, nine years ago, to begin commercial flights in late 2007. However, he’s not rooting against Virgin. “I hope he succeeds. The more people who can see the world this way, the better off we are.”

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