Dvice's infographic on Virgin SpaceShipTwo altitude is a bit off

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'm a big fan of infographics, but this one showing the altitude of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo compared with other objects in space such as the Space Shuttle, ISS and so on is a bit off.

First of all, the Space Shuttle is way up there at 960 km. 960 km is its maximum operational altitude, but it's usually at around the same altitude as the ISS (425 km), and the mission to repair the Hubble at 570 km was considered to be a high-altitude mission. So move the Shuttle down a bit.

Satellites: the graph has GPS and geosynchronous satellites, but no mention of LEO satellites, which also operate at quite a low altitude of a few hundred to just over a thousand kilometres.

Since Virgin Galactic is about giving an experience to people that have never had it before, perhaps it would be more interesting to have an infographic showing what it provides vs. what people are capable of experiencing now. After all, it's not like your average person would be bored by being a mere 100 km above the Earth because the Shuttle (which none of us have travelled on, except professional astronauts) can go higher. Something like this but snazzier of course:



Over here a few posters make the (correct) point that sub-orbital really is quite a different thing from orbit, as something in orbit also needs a lot of lateral velocity to maintain it, as in effect something in orbit is just falling forever. Technically then we are sub-orbital as well, but one poster got carried away with the definition:

Why pay $200,000 for that? Going by dictionary.com, I had a nice sub-orbital sleep last night. Followed by a sub-orbital cup of coffee and shower this morning. Right now I'm doing some sub-orbital internettin', and later I might join some friends for some sub-orbital drinking.
In the same sense, a guy who comes home from an awesome first date which included holding hands and a bit of making out is just as 'sub-sexual' as the guy who spent the night with his computer, a cup of coffee and the spider in his basement, but nobody would pretend that their experiences were the same.

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