Curacao to become part of space tourism race

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WILLEMSTAD, Curacao, Thursday April 14, 2011 – The small Dutch-speaking island of Curacao will be catapulted into history when it becomes the launch pad for a Dutch business venture into space. 

A group of Dutch businessmen are to offer space trips for private individuals from 2014 with one-man flights taking off from Curacao for about 35 minutes at a cost of US$ 95,000 dollars.

The first flights are to take off on 1 January 2014. A press conference to launch the venture was held at the National Aerospace Laboratory in Amsterdam on the 50th anniversary of manned space travel.

Pilot Rick Searfoss will pilot the flights to a height of around 100 kilometres for the Dutch company Space Expedition Curaçao (SXC). SXC is an initiative of retired Lieutenant-General Ben Droste, aviator Harry van Hulten and investors Michiel Mol and Maarten Elshove.

Searfoss, a threefold Space Shuttle astronaut and one-time Space Shuttle commander, currently works as a test pilot for XCOR, the US company which builds the Lynx2, the two-seater space ship figuring so prominently in SXC’s plans.

The developers said Curaçao was selected because of the nice weather and because it is a relatively quiet area in the region’s air space. Even though a regular airport would suffice – the Lynx 2 takes off and lands just like a regular airplane – a special building will be constructed which bears a passing resemblance to a space ship.

SXC can operate a maximum of four flights a day, with just one passenger on each flight. The passenger will be belted into his seat. Those who have made the flight can officially call themselves astronauts, according to the company.

General Droste says passengers will get their money’s worth. He believes every space tourist will go through a ‘life-changing experience’.

“It’s seeing the Earth from a distance, seeing the curvature of the Earth, seeing a pitch-black expanse above you, glittering stars. And then there is weightlessness. But primarily the visual impression is said to be phenomenal. Watching the planet makes you realise just how vulnerable it really us and reminds you that we should do something to safeguard the future of Mother Earth.”

Victoria Secret model Doutzen Kroes was among the first to receive a guest ticket for the first flight. 

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