New Delhi, Mar 15: Santosh George Kulangara has a confirmed booking on a vacation that will take him thousands of miles away from backpackers, cheap hotels, and souvenir sellers. His destination is the veritable final frontier: space.
Kulangara, a Kerala-based entrepreneur and TV journalist, has reserved his place as India’s first space tourist. He will take off on the Virgin Galactic flight from America by the end of next year.
“It was big news in 2004 when Virgin announced the launch of its first spaceship,” Kulangara said. “I contacted them immediately and was told to wait for a year and a half. Now, I have finally been given confirmation that I am the first space tourist from India.”
Kulangara’s request to film the sub-orbital space flight has also been granted. “I have been involved in making travelogues of my various travels,” said Kulangara, who has visited 50 countries. “This is going to be a unique opportunity for me to show the experience of space travel to my people.”
The spaceship, which will carry four space tourists and two pilots, will take its passengers on a two-to-three-hour sortie. “I am really looking forward to the flight,” Kulangara said. “I am not at all nervous. Space tourism will soon become so common that it will be like taking a flight from London to New York.”
Kulangara has spent $20,000 (circa Rs8,81,400) for securing his seat; he will have to pay another $180,000 (Rs79,32,600) for joining the historic expedition. He will undergo a week’s training for a trip that requires more specialised preparation than familiarising facts from the Rough Guide.
“I love travelling. But this will be a completely different experience,” Kulangara said. “Every time I travel outside the country, I get gifts for my daughter. This time I don’t know what I will get for her.”
Update: Courtesy - Gulf Times
Kulangara, whose travelogue serial is being telecast by a leading Malayalam television channel every week since 2001, was allotted the Voyager reservation number 38 after paying $20,000 as advance, according to the confirmation letter sent by Will Whitehorn, who is the president of the company.
The flight costs $200,000 and the passenger can enjoy six minutes in the no-weight zone. Kulangara, who is a director of the Rs1bn Labour India group, could well be the first Indian space tourist.
The company offers “the world’s affordable space tourist flights”, a roughly two-hour-long flight reaching 3,000 miles per hour and more than 60 miles above the earth. “As one of our voyagers, you will be a trailblazer in a new industry that we hope eventually will open space to many thousands of people.
“I have already travelled 50 countries with my camera for Sancharam (his weekly travelogue program on Asianet) and am still on the move. This is, well, an extension of it and I’m thrilled. It’s a message and motivation to the young generation,” Kulangara, 35, said.