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June 13, 2014

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Suspicions over space trip offer

A SPACE travel offer by a United States company which promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience to explore space on a “spaceplane” is proving controversial.

Tour packages range from US$95,000 to US$220,000 and two Shanghainese entrepreneurs have booked ones priced at US$100,000 and paid a 50 percent deposit.

But as this is cheaper than earlier spaceflight offers, some web users wonder if it is all a promotional stunt.

“I don’t think it is reliable, and sounds more like a promotion,” said a Shanghai office worker Yang Shuo.

“Even if I am sent to space, I would fear whether I could return,” he added.

However, organizers say costs are lower because it is a suborbital flight.

 Space tourists will have to wait until next year as the two spaceplanes, Lynx Mark I and II, are still under development by the private California-based company XCOR Aerospace.Lynx Mark I is expected to undergo a trial run in September with commercial operations next year.

The trip has been offered by Zhejiang-based Dexo Travel for Chinese mainland tourists since last December and went online on Taobao’s travel platform yesterday.

Dexo is the authorized Chinese agent of Dutch company Space Expedition Co, which has launched the program globally.

The spaceplanes will take off from the United States. The Lynx is projected to carry one pilot and a ticketed passenger.

Compared with earlier Russian programs, the price is cheaper because it is a suborbital flight, said Du Xiyong, who is in charge of the project with Dexo.

Zero gravity

Lynx climbs 61 kilometers above the Earth, compared with the altitude of 200 to 400km reached by other craft.

The journey will last 45 minutes, however, passengers will only experience three to four minutes of zero gravity.

So far, more than 30 people have booked the trips and paid half of the charge, Dexo said.

More than 300 people signed up for the spaceflight after it went on Taobao yesterday, but none of those have prepaid.

“We need to confirm with them as many may just book for fun, and the booking is only formed after the downpayment is paid,” Du said.


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