Ben Riecken, a 25-year-old flight instructor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, wants to be one of the first people to become a space tourist. Since that’s difficult to do on a flight instructor’s salary, he’s trying to raise some supplemental income by selling ads on his new website, MyTripInSpace.com.
Place your ad for $1 a pixel (there is a minimum purchase of 100 pixels), your company will get the advertising it wants, he says — and Riecken will get closer to the $200,000 he needs to get a seat aboard SpaceShipTwo, a new generation of spacecraft operated by Virgin Galactic. The spaceship is based on the X-Prize winner prototype SpaceShipOne.
Riecken’s interest in the project was kindled when he met Brian Binnie, program business manager and test pilot at Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, manufacturers of SpaceShipOne.
“I met Brian Binnie at an awards ceremony for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics,” Riecken recalled. “He was getting an award for breaking the X-15 record and I was invited because I had previously set an aviation record for landing at 105 airports in the state of Florida in 48 hours.”
According to Riecken, the two stayed in touch after the ceremony and Binnie invited him to the Mojave Desert to see the spacecraft and take a ride in the simulator.
“I don’t think he expected me to come, but there I was,” Riecken said. “He spent the whole day showing off the facilities and I got the whole session in the simulator from the drop off from the mother ship to trying to get to space to landing,” he said, adding that he “missed space” by 10,000 feet. “We laughed about that. It’s actually easy to do, because even with that big rocket on your back you have to have the right trajectory. There is an awful lot of stick and rudder skill involved.”
Although he has just launched his website, Riecken says he has been getting lots of traffic from space enthusiasts who want to know more about his experience.
“I have also heard from Virgin Galactic,” he noted. “But there is no timeline set on when the space flight will happen. They have hinted that SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled later this year, but they are trying to keep it quiet.”
Riecken is excited about the concept of space tourism and predicts that as space tourism becomes more commonplace, the cost of the trips will come down.
“I read that within the next five years it will be in the $20,000 range, which will put it within reach for the average guy,” he mused. “I am trying to get it out there and show everyone that space no longer belongs to the government and to the rich. I want to be the first person to show that.”
For more information: MyTripInSpace.com.