Posts tagged ‘Justin Bieber’

The perks of being a Virgin Galactic Bransonaut

I’m on rutted, dirt roads in the Jornada del Muerto desert of southern New Mexico headed to Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. It’s adjacent to White Sands Missile Range where, for 70 some years, assorted rockets, nuclear bombs and other WMDs have been tested.

My useless GPS reports this 3,200 square miles of restricted air space as one monstrous black hole. I’d have never found Spaceport Operations Center (SOC, for short) or Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space if it wasn’t for Aaron Prescott, the rocket scientist whose college friends can’t help but break the tenth commandment: “Thou Shall Not Covet.”

They’re insanely jealous, he says, of his position as Business Operations Manager for New Mexico’s $209 million entry into global commercial spaceflight. He works with madcap entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson — whose left eye is on the security badge required to get into the New Mexico Space Authority (NMSA) — and other aerospace firms contracted to fly from this remote high desert location. Prescott calls it the Kitty Hawk of space travel.

Since 2006, 17 rockets have been launched here — “Unmanned, so far,” Prescott says. “We want to make sure people are buying roundtrip tickets.” — and 551 have slapped down $200,000 for Virgin Galactic’s three days of astronaut training and two hours in space. ‘Course, that’s chump change for the likes of Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Kate Winslett, to name a few of the already-paids who probably make that in, say 10 minutes of “Two and a Half Men.”

Mixing it up with celebrities is just one of the perks. Here are five more:

1. Free Drinks at the Astronauts Lounge. When you’re Katy Perry, another who forked over $200 grand, you tend to travel with an entourage. Minions are more than welcome to hang out at the Spaceport, clap when you blast off, even follow your every G-force on giant monitors — “We could probably configure the flights with an iPhone app,” Prescott says, “But you gotta put on a show.” — but the spacesuit dressing room and third-floor lounge with the free champagne? That’s for Bransonauts only.

2. Five minutes of being weightless. Much of the two-hour flight involves getting to the other side of the Karman Line, the line that divides earth’s atmosphere from outer space. But at 60 miles up, you can see 1,500 to 2,000 miles in all directions or, to put it in perspective, that’s a view of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.

3. No need to be a perfect specimen of humanity. Qualifying for NASA requires brains like Einstein, 1,000 hours of in-command flight time and the ability to pass a rigorous physical. Only an elite few make it in. As a Bransonaut, you don’t even need a pressure suit. “At three and a half to six Gs, it’s like a really awesome roller coaster,” Prescott says, adding that at nine Gs, you’d black out.

4. Bragging rights. Being the first to get your Boy Scout “Space Badge” is nothing compared to the VIP invitations to Branson’s private Caribbean island home or his South African game reserve. Last year, for example, he held an Astronaut Forum, a tour of the LEED Gold 110,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic terminal and dinner at Mesilla’s historic Double Eagle steakhouse.

5. 360-degree skies. I’d pit the sunset in southern New Mexico to any painting in any art museum anywhere.

For the rest of us, Follow the Sun offers a three-hour, $59 bus tour.

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. Find out more at

Imagine if Justin Bieber’s fans rechanneled their love

If only we could channel the passion of Justin Bieber’s fans into something useful. Not that there’s anything wrong with the 18-year-old Canadian’s R&B music. But just think what these 13- to 19-year-old girls could accomplish if they turned the sheer energy of their Bieber lust onto a world problem. We’d have no poverty, no hunger, no disparity of any kind.

The lengths to which these nubile young Beliebers, as they’re called, go to proclaim their love for the moptop star could move mountains. At London’s Royal Garden hotel, a posh hotel overlooking Kensington Palace, Hyde Park and St. Paul’s Cathedral, thousands of young fans camped out, skipping school, starving themselves to keep their place in the Bieber viewing queue.

Even though the ritzy hotel is pedigreed in hosting stars from Sonny and Cher and the Monkees to the London Rugby team, Biebster’s fans and their 2000 plus phone calls (claiming to be everyone from his long lost cousin to his personal stripper) jammed the phone lines, forcing the five-star hotel to change its phone number. That unbridled passion could be used to insure health care for all Americans, something their Canadian crush has consistently applauded.

At another London hotel a few years ago, a couple enterprising Beliebers snuck inside the employees’s entrance and pirated a couple maid’s uniforms before they were nabbed dutifully snapping pictures inside the Paul McCartney suite at Liverpool’s Hard Days Night hotel where their idol was staying. Again, if that persistence was used to feed the hungry or stop the Syrian government’s bombing of innocent neighborhoods, the world would be a much nicer place.

The more than 300,000 screaming, purple-wearing (allegedly his favorite color) tweens who stood in the rain for the pop star’s June 11 Mexico City concert could have easily moved their ardor to Los Cabos’s G-20 Summit a week later and put some genuine teeth in the “tax and entitlement reform” act.

Mr. Bieber, I would love you, too, if you could just get the unbridled passion of your 20 million twitter fans pointed in a more productive direction.