|太空新竞赛 A New Space Race|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/06/15 14:38 视听英语Ladder AI杂志|
Space tourism is getting a boost from a group of fanatical inventors and businessmen
Thirty years ago, Brian Feeny watched a rocket launch on television. “T
Feeny was hardly alone in his aspirations to become an astronaut but, unlike the millions of kids who dream of walking in space, Feeny is actually doing something about it. In a small Toronto warehouse, Feeny and a team of volunteers are slowly building a rocket, called Wild Fire, which they hope to launch into space, carrying three astronauts, by the end of the year.
But Feeny has competition. Around the world, 27 teams are also working on their own home-made space craft, trying to be the first to claim the X Prize: a $10 million reward for the first privately-funded project to put people into space.
Created in 1996 by a group of space enthusiasts and former astronauts, the X Prize will be awarded to the first team to successfully launch three humans 100 kilometers into space twice in two weeks using the same rocket.
The X Prize chairman, Peter Diamandis, expects teams will spend between $2 million and $20 million to earn the $10 million prize. That’s peanuts compared to the $8 billion NASA spent on space flight in 2003, but that’s the point. The X Prize wants to encourage creative people to think of ways to make space flight affordable, thus opening the way for space tourism.
To date, only a handful of civilians have gone into space as tourists, each time paying millions of dollars for the privilege. But that’s expected to change quickly, with Japanese space officials predicting that tourists will make up three-quarters of all astronauts within 20 years.
Of course, a lot of NASA’s budget is spent on safety measures, which Feeny and his colleagues have to live without. “[Disaster] is a possibility,” says one team leader. “It’s a cost that comes with exploration. Otherwise you stay home and watch TV and eat French fries.”