For space tourism, UAE becomes a promising destination

Published on : Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Would you pay $250,000 to go to space? In fact, over 600 people world over have purchased tickets for a Virgin Galactic flight that will take them to the sub orbit.


Apparently it might sound like science-fiction. However, space tourism is solowly becoming a reality. On December 13, the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, VSS Unity by Virgin Galactic effectively finished a test flight to the edge of space. For many years, companies like Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and SpaceX have been trying to make space tourism a reality.


UAE-based firm Aabar Investments owns a third of Virgin Galactic and talks about utilizing Abu Dhabi as one of their prime spaceports for the flights have been ongoing.


Recently, Khaleej Times had arranged for an exclusive interview with one of the two pilots who flew the spaceship. Mark Stucky, better known as Mark “Forger” Stucky, talked about the details about the historic flight, his own profession and what’s next for the space tourism industry.


As a pilot, what is your professional background?
For decades, I’ve been dedicated to the flight test industry, mainly to the US government and the military. At that particular time, I’ve been lucky that I got an immense flight test experience in a wide range of aircraft. Majority my flight test experience has been high performance military fighters. However, I’ve also done flight testing on larger and smaller aircraft as well. Also, I have many years of experience in teaching wing space landing approaches for fighter aircrafts. Getting to fly SpaceShipTwo, I won’t say it’s natural for me. Nevertheless, I think I’ve been uniquely qualified to fall into that job. As I started flying, I started teaching myself to handglide in 1970s, when I was 15 years old.


For this test flight, you had many relying on you and your colleague to be a success. During this entire process, exactly how much pressure did you feel?


I would like to say that it’s a self-defense mechanism. I try not to think in terms of those things and I was stayed composed and confident as I could be. We took the spaceship to the areas we’ve never been before and all we have on the way it should fly is computer models and those are never really right. There are always basic assumptions that go into them. My biggest pressure was that I knew many who had their hopes and dreams relying on the flight and I was going to take it as critically as I could to do the best possible job and it did.


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