Subcontinental space tourists

Several Indian media reports have identified the first Indian space tourist: Santosh George Kulangara, a TV journalist and entrepreneur, who has signed up to fly on Virgin Galactic. Beyond that, however, the details get a little confusing: it seems he is one of the Founders, having reservation number 38. However, he says he’s paid only a $20,000 deposit on his $200,000 flight: previous reports had suggested that the Founders had to pay the $200,000 in full up front. He also says he’ll spend “2-3 hours” in space, which is a huge over-estimate. (It might be closer to that time from takeoff to landing, but most of that time will be spend in the atmosphere, attached to the carrier aircraft.) Another report says that SpaceShipTwo carries four passengers, rather than the six displayed in cabin mockups in New York and London (the other report does indicate the correct passenger complement.) Both reports also state that Kulangara’s flight will take place either “by the end of next year” or “mid-2008″, when actually passenger flight don’t appear to be slated to begin in late 2008 or early 2009.

Reuters, meanwhile, (or, rather, “Reuters Life!”, exclamation mark included), has a brief profile of Namira Salim, who plans to be the first Pakistani-born woman in space by flying on Virgin Galactic. Salim has already gotten some media coverage, so there’s not much new here. Few of the reports have explained how Salim, described in the Reuters article as “a poet and an artist” (and elsewhere as a musician, “astrologist”, and peace activist) could scrape up the $200,000 for a flight. That’s a lot of poems.

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