British entrepreneur Richard Branson plans to launch the world’s first passenger service to space in 2007. His zero-g flights will be offered for a mere $198,600 (more or less, depending on the exchange rate). He’s teaming up with Paul Allen to build five capsules for the flights.

The flights will climb to about 130 kilometers, roughly six times higher than regular commercial planes, and include four minutes of weightlessness, views of the horizon from 1,200 miles away and possibly a gin and tonic if granted a liquor license.

That’s a pretty short flight for the price, I think. But perhaps the gin & tonic makes it worthwhile. Do you get to keep the glass? Does it have to be gin? I’d much prefer a vodka martini — straight up with a twist, please, and shaken, not stirred.

Branson said he planned to use the proceeds from the first well-heeled customers to bring prices down in the next few years to make space travel affordable to the regular tourist.

“The orbital hotel will happen,” he said.

Virgin expects 3,000 customers in the first five years.

But, will the orbital hotel be starstarstarstarstar ?? If I’m paying upwards of $200k just for the flight up there, I expect turn-down service, at the very least!

Miscellaneous Musing by Judy @ 6:20 AM

Mt. St. Helens is rockin’ & rollin’ again. A couple of days ago there were clusters of small quakes. Yesterday there were clusters of larger quakes. The scientists studying the mountain are not sure what exactly is happening, as this does not appear to be a “normal” pattern. It might be that St. Helens has a bellyache, with gas moving around in the crater. Or it could be magma rising. Since there’s an increased chance of explosions in the crater, the moutain is closed to hikers.

Barb’s son has been on the PCT all summer. Last I heard he was up in Washington somewhere, trying to get done by the end of September. I hope he’s past St. Helens.

I remember the 1980 eruption very well, oh yes I do. Especially the June 12th eruption, that blew ash all over my wedding (June 14th).

We really should have taken that as an omen. Oh yes, we should have. 😛

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