Astronaut warns space tourists on realities of likely experience

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 October, 2013, 4:47am

Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut whose tweeted photos, videos and rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity brought him global fame during a stint aboard the International Space Station, has questioned what kind of experience future space tourists will have with Virgin Galactic, saying they are "just going to go up and fall back down again".

The 54-year-old, who spent five months commanding the ISS this year, also said the nature of space travel meant that at some point it appeared inevitable that a Virgin Galactic craft would crash.

Hadfield nonetheless praises the Virgin Galactic concept, under which passengers who have booked seats with a US$250,000 deposit will fly to 110 kilometres miles above earth and experience zero gravity.

Hadfield, whose recording of the Bowie song with a video shot inside the ISS, has been watched more than 18 million times on YouTube, said sign-ups for Virgin Galactic might be disappointed if they expectd an experience on the lines of the space blockbuster Gravity.

"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."

Hadfield added: "Eventually they'll crash one. Because it's hard. They're discovering how hard. … He's a brave entrepreneur and I hope he succeeds. The more people who can see the world this way, the better off we are."

A spokeswoman for Virgin Galactic said that the commercial service would only commence "once we fully understand and can satisfactorily manage the risks involved. There are no shortcuts."