NEWS UPDATE: Virgin Galactic ticket prices/China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample-return mission

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Virgin Galactic Ticket Prices

So you want to go to space! Well now’s your chance! …although you may be waiting a while…

Virgin Galactic has just opened ticket sales to the public for flights to the edge of space!

All you have to do to climb aboard one of Virgin Galactic’s spaceplanes is fill out a quick form on the company’s website… and fork over half a million dollars.

Virgin Galactic is now selling tickets for $450K, where customers will pay a $150k deposit, and then pay the remaining $300k before their flight.

But even if you’re flush enough to pay this hefty price tag, it might be a little while before your flight is scheduled.

After flying founder Richard Branson to space in July last year, Virgin Galactic paused its follow-up flight, Unity 23, after finding a manufacturing defect. Unity 23 was expected to carry 3 Italian Air Force members and be Virgin Galactic’s first revenue-generating flight. Virgin Galactic won’t resume commercial flights until late 2022.

Meanwhile, the line gets longer. Virgin Galactic has been selling tickets for roughly a decade, and 600 customers made reservations for $250k during the initial ticketing round.

Ticket sales were opened again last August, and 100 more tickets were sold for $450k. The company has an internal goal of 1,000 total ticket sales before the first commercial flight. 

So if you’re still considering buying a ticket, it’s still up in the air… when you’ll be up in the air.

Latest from China

Jumping over to China’s National Space Program, China’s Chang’e-5 lunar sample-return mission is now in an interesting lunar orbit, more than a year after its launch and completion of its primary mission.

China never revealed the mission timeline or major milestones, and has not publicly announced any updates on Chang’e-5’s activities since May of 2021.

But that hasn’t stopped amateur satellite trackers from connecting the dots. Scott Tilley, Jean-Luc Milette, and Edgar Kaiser (among others) have been closely observing Chang’e-5’s travels and following the craft for months.

Public collaboration between trackers all over the world made it happen, and according to Tilley, “It boiled down to a purely amateur effort.” Nailing down Chang’e-5’s orbit was a challenge, but the tracking collective knows the craft is now in a distant retrograde orbit, or DRO.

Publicly, Chang’e-5 was principally a 3-week mission to collect samples from the near side of the moon. The Long March 5 rocket launched with an orbiter, lander, ascent vehicle, and return capsule in November of 2020. This return capsule touched down around 3 weeks later in Inner Mongolia, and samples are currently being studied by scientists, both Chinese and international. 

But the orbiter itself is what Tilley and other satellite trackers are keeping an eye on. The orbiter continued its journey away from earth and headed for the Sun-Earth Lagrange point 1, almost 1 million miles away.

The China Academy of Space Technology, a subsidiary of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, had this to say: 

I don’t think there will be many opportunities for the orbiter to perform more complex orbit maneuvers with other bodies,” said Jing Peng, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-5 spacecraft system at the China Academy of Space Technology. “I think it will stay in Lagrange point 1 or the Earth-moon system.” 

China is planning to launch Chang’e-6 around 2024, and our guess is that we’ll still need tracking help from Tilley and friends on that mission as well. 

I’m Blake Anderson, for Space Channel News.

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