Commercial Space Travel
Airline KLM offering trip to space as prize in competition
A once-in-a-lifetime trip on the first commercial flight to space is being offered as a prize in a competition run by the airline KLM.
After guessing the answer to a single question, the winner can board a suborbital flight to the edge of the realm once described as man's final frontier.
The competition has been launched worldwide and can be entered via a specially-created website (space.klm.com).
It is the latest in a string of events designed to drum up interest from potential passengers for commercial space flights being planned by both KLM and Virgin Galactic.
KLM's competition offers a place on a Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) Lynx spaceship, with room for one passenger and one astronaut, launching from Curacao in the Dutch Caribbean.
It claims it will be the first commercial flight to space, departing on January 1, 2014 and lasting approximately an hour, with tickets normally costing $US95,000 ($A92,000).
Entrants to the competition are being asked to guess the height at which a high altitude balloon, to be released above the Nevada desert by KLM on April 22, will pop and fall back to Earth.
The balloon will carry cameras and a GPS monitor so it can be tracked by teams on the ground and its exact position in the air recorded.
It will expand as it gets higher and then burst, before floating back to Earth by parachute.
Entrants will be able to guess the balloon's highest point before the launch takes place, with the most accurate answer winning a flight for two to Curacao, a stay in a luxury hotel in Curacao, as well as a place on the space flight.
In scenes that echo the great space race of the Sixties, Virgin Galactic also hopes to launch a commercial flight into space in 2014.
Richard Branson's company was last week testing its craft SpaceShipTwo above the Mojave Desert. It hopes to sell spaces on the flight for $US200,000 and says that more than 550 people have put down a deposit so far.
However, the sole registered agent for the Virgin Galactic flights in Scotland, a specialist travel agency called Dream Escape, told the Scotsman newspaper this week that it was yet to sell a single ticket.
In January, Buzz Aldrin opened another competition tied in with the Lynx flights that involved would-be astronauts being flown to Florida and proving themselves in a series of physical and mental tests, with the best winning a place on a flight.