A History of Civilian Space Travel

A History of Civilian Space Travel

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Monday night, Sir Richard Branson, the eccentric billionaire behind the Virgin empire, unveiled his long awaited sub-orbital spacecraft, the SpaceShipTwo. If you haven't been following the long lead up to this event, which was attended by a bunch of other extremely wealthy people, astronauts and the Governator, let us fill you in.

In 2004, Branson launched Virgin Galactic, a company that would provide sub-orbital spaceflights to anyone that could afford to pay. SpaceShipTwo is their second attempt at building a machine that could achieve his vision. If his vision does come to fruition it would be good news for rich people everywhere as a long list of regular joes have been longing to visit space. Before this becomes a normal occurrence, take a look back at all the people who have journeyed to the final frontier, and a few who tried.

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CHALLENGER STS-51-L CREW, 1986
• January 28, 1986 was supposed to be one of the best days in American history as civilians were going to head into space for the first time. Unfortunately due to the failure of an O-ring seal on Challenger's right Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) 73 seconds after takeoff, it became one of the saddest days in history when the spaceship exploded killing the entire crew including Sharon Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, New Hampshire.

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DENNIS TITO, 2001
• This Queens, NY born engineer turned millionaire was the first civilian to purchase a ticket to space, spending eight days aboard the Soyuz TM-32 and the International Space Station. Sound rough? Compared to growing up in NYC's biggest borough, it wasn't shit.

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LANCE BASS, 2002
• Four years before he revealed to the world that he was gay, the former N' Sync member had dreams of frolicking through the final frontier. He was originally tapped to host a show called The Big Mission in which contestants would compete for a seat aboard a Russian spacecraft, but producers thought to scrap the show and focus on the story of getting Lance into space. After getting cleared for launch (which included getting heart surgery), the producers pulled the plug and Bass lost his funding, leaving him grounded ever since. Life's a bitch, ain't it?

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MARK SHUTTLEWORTH, 2002
• South African millionaire and founder of one of the most popular iterations of Linux, Mark Shuttleworth had no problem securing funding for his trip. He forked over the needed $20 million and was able to board the Soyuz craft and the International Space Station. While up there he participated in AIDS research and found time to holler at Nelson Mandela.

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ZATHURA, 2005
• This Jumanji ripoff had two brothers—and a young Kristen Stewart—launched into space while playing a mystical board game.

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GREGORY OLSEN, 2005
• The third person to privately fund his way into space, Olsen (no relation to Mary Kate and Ashley) sold technology directly to NASA through his Sensors Unlimited Inc company. We guess they kind of owed it to him, no?

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THE ASTRONAUT FARMER, 2006
• Billy Bob Thornton gets kicked out of NASA after training to head into space. Once back on his farm he says, fuck it, and decides to build his own spaceship. Yes, you read that right. A dude living on a farm attempts to build a spaceship. Netflix it if you wanna know how that genius plan worked out.

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ANOUSHEH ANSARI, 2006
• The first woman to pay her way into space, Ansari considered herself to be less of a space tourist and more of a spaceflight participant. Whatever she called herself, we're sure the guys up there were thankful she made the trip.

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CHARLES SIMONY, 2006
• The former head of Microsoft's Office software group has been to space TWICE!

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MADONNA, 2008
• When Richard Branson first announced his plans for SpaceShipTwo, Madonna was said to be on the first list of people to travel into sub-orbit. Seeing as how she's already been through most of Earth's male population, we're sure she was ready to jump off with some Martian millionaires.

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RICHARD GARRIOTT, 2008
• When this video game programmer went into space, he became the first offspring of an American astronaut to go into space and the second person to wear the British Union flag in space.

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GUY LALIBERTE, 2008
• Canada's first space tourist and owner of the Cirque Du Soleil became known as the worlds first space clown. Great. Because that's exactly what you want with you aboard a spaceship, a clown.

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Tags: madonna, sir-richard-branson, spaceshiptwo, virgin, virgin-galactic
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