Outside magazine, January 1998
Well, friend, you're looking at it: For just $98,000, a Seattle firm says it will gladly launch you up there into the stars. Zegrahm Space Voyages is taking reservations for two-and-a-half-hour journeys aboard a cruiser that will soar with six passengers and two pilots into the indigo firmament 62 miles above the earth. According to Zegrahm spokesman Chris Ostendorf, 22 people have already rushed to put down a $5,000 deposit. And in case you think this seems a lot to shell out for 150 minutes of thrill qua terror, Ostendorf points out that it's just a drop in the bucket; the real money that Zegrahm's after is a $10 million carrot dangled by the St. Louis-based X Prize Foundation, which will be awarded to the first group to blast civilians into space twice in a two-week span.
Zegrahm's first civilian space flight is scheduled for December 2001, inaugurating a twice-weekly schedule. The missions will be carried out in stages. First, the cruiser will be lifted to 50,000 feet on the belly of a jet. Then reusable rockets will thrust the craft to its apogee and guide it back to earth. In preflight training sessions, the paying "cadets" will hone their extraterrestrial skills in simulators and will learn how to choreograph the several minutes of orbital weightlessness, during which they'll be free, as they say, to move about the cabin. Besides this enjoyable lightness of being, Zegrahm also promises spectacular views of landmass and ocean from the craft's oversize portholes.
But can anything this much fun be completely safe? "We'll have every safety device a plane would have," assures Ostendorf, "and the vehicle will be fully licensed by the FAA." Whether or not this equals a carefree ride, there is some consolation: In space, remember, no one can hear you scream.
Illustration by Stuart Bradford