When this was first brought to my attention a few weeks ago, my first thought was ‘Scotland: The Final Frontier’. Yes, I am that geeky. However, upon looking into the situation a bit further, in reality its more like ‘Houston, we have a problem’.
To give you some background, Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson’s behemoth of a company, are looking to set up a commercial spaceport. This would allow them to offer trips into space for $200,000, or about £127,000 in British money. A total bargain? Considering the adventure only gets you about 5 minutes of weightlessness, it’s not exactly pocket change, but this being Virgin I’m sure you can get a discount if you take their broadband and TV package.
Sounds good so far, right? You may be wondering where these problems I foreseen are. Well,  Virgin have been trying to get this off the ground (pun very much intended) for years now. Flights are possible in America, but original estimates scheduled the first space flight in Europe for 2007, which as you can guess, didn’t happen. Currently, it looks like Virgin Galactic plans to shuttle the rich and geeky to the exosphere at some point during 2013.
Many people are fairly excited by the prospect of Scotland being a big player in the world of spaceflight. RAF Lossiemouth has been voiced as the possible base for Scotland’s space-tourism industry. Lossie (as the locals call it) has been facing the prospect of a closure, due to budget cuts at the Ministry of Defence. Given as Lossie is a lynchpin of the economy for North East Scotland (as well as the base my father was stationed at) this is welcome news indeed to the many familes whose lives are based in and around the base. But the lofty title of spacebase Europe isn’t uncontested. Spaceport Sweden is the other contender, and whilst Lossiemouth can offer the thrills and spills of, um, a windy walk along the beach, Spaceport Sweden has the Ice Hotel (it’s exactly what you think it is) as well as unparalleled views of the Northern Lights.
Only time will tell which site Mr Branson will finally settle on, however given the state of the world economy many in Scotland are certainly hoping he decides to keep his plans close to home.
[Kenny Anderson]

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