Get your face in space

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th July 2010.

After nearly thirty years of service, NASA has announced that the iconic space shuttle will be retired in 2011. With only 2 missions left to fly, Australians have the opportunity to have their picture carried aboard one of these historic flights.

The first space shuttle flight took place on 12th April, 1981 with the inaugural orbital flight of the Columbia. Launching from the Kennedy Space Centre on Merritt Island in Florida, the space shuttle program has remained the cornerstone of NASA’s activities from the eighties until now. Over 131 successful launches, the shuttle has delivered many significant payloads into space, including the Hubble Telescope, the Galileo Orbiter (which successfully studied Jupiter), the Magellan Probe (which explored Venus), Spacelab and parts of the International Space Station.

Of course, there were actually 132 launches. The Challenger disaster on 28th January 1986 saw the shuttle explode after launch, killing all seven astronauts. And in 2003, Columbia broke apart during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, but technically it still counts as a successful launch.

Despite an annual budget of US$17.6 billion, the aging technology of the space shuttle has resulted in its impending retirement, making way for the new Orion manned spacecraft, also known as Project Constellation.

 The “Face in Space” project was originally offered to NASA employees only but has since been opened to the public. By uploading your image and name to the NASA website, and selecting which mission you wish to be “aboard”, your digital information will be carried on the Space Shuttle Endeavour or Discovery as they embark upon their final missions.

Conspiracy theorists can also relax. Those of us a little concerned about sending the US Government our names and photos can rest assured that NASA has promised to delete all of the participants’ information upon landing.

Once your noggin has been to space and back, you can then return to the NASA website and print out a certificate signed by the Mission Commander.

OK, the prospect of some zeroes and ones which digitally represent your face going up into orbit may not seem all that exciting but let’s face it, most of us have got our photos in cyberspace, so why not venture to the final frontier and send your dial into outer space? Plus, it’s free.

Your only other option to get your face into space will be flying with Virgin Galactic, who will start sub-orbital tourism flights in 2011. At US$200,0000 per person (hand luggage only), you could be joining the 340 astro-tourists who have already signed on and paid their US$20,000 deposit.

If you’re keen to participate in “Face in Space”, act quickly, because Mission STS-133 (Space Transportation System) launches on 1st November this year and the final space shuttle flight, Mission STS-134, is planned for Australia Day 2011.

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 07:17  Leave a Comment  
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