A manned rocket ship powered by laughing gas and rubber fuel, financed entirely with private funds, reached the edge of suborbital space Monday to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize -- a milestone that its builders and backers say will usher in a new age of commercial space tourism and travel.
-- Washington Post news story, Oct. 5
Big Bang Airways
Contract of Carriage
Big Bang Airways, a low-fare space tourism airline, provides nonstop and connecting flights throughout the solar system aboard hypersonic Space Warp aircraft, subject to the regulations, policies and procedures herein incorporated.
FARES, TICKETING, SERVICE
* Passengers on all flights -- regardless of their duration -- are entitled to one free mini-bag of Galactic Trail Mix and a soft drink. Space tourists traveling beyond suborbital destinations, such as those making the seven-year journey to Mercury, are advised to pack a lunch.
* Current low fares, subject to change, range from $200,000 for a 90-minute, sightseeing suborbital trip to $13.6 million for the planets outside our hub system. Customers who fail to book tickets online at Bigbangairways.com and choose instead to speak to a telephone reservation agent will incur a service fee ranging from $40,000 to $1 million, depending on the route.
* Members of Big Bang's Frequent Flyer Universe earn award miles on every flight. A suborbital flight will add 139.4 miles to a member's account, or about the same distance as a one-way flight from Columbus to Cleveland. A round-trip journey to Uranus earns 3.38 billion miles. Members wishing to cash in their miles for a free ticket will need a minimum of 643 billion light-years.
* Blackout dates for Frequent Flyer Universe award travel: Jan. 1, 2008 to June 20, 2071 and June 22, 2071 to Sept. 20, 2104. Frequent Flyer Universe award miles are not transferable -- not to your children, nor to your children's children.
* Seats on all Space Warp aircraft are as commodious as possible, with each passenger enjoying leg and head room equivalent to a full-sized human crouching in a Campbell Soup can.
* Flights may be overbooked. If you are bumped on a planet other than Earth, including Mercury and Venus, Big Bang Airways is not liable for your expenses -- room, board, laundry -- or other necessities such as oxygen and sunblock while you await the next flight in six to eight years.
ITEMS UNACCEPTABLE IN BAGGAGE
* Big Bang Airways prohibits the transport in checked or carry-on bags of little green men.
* If, despite the prohibition, any little green men are included in baggage, Big Bang Airways shall not be responsible for their loss, or for the damage or panic they cause on another planet, especially Earth.
* The Transportation Security Administration has designated Space Warp aircraft -- propelled by highly combustible laughing gas and rubber fuel -- as prime targets for terrorist hijackings. Prior to departure, all space tourists will be subjected to a sonogram and an MRI. Travelers are advised to arrive at the airport for security screening two weeks in advance of their flight.
* Passengers must be strapped in their seats for the duration of the journey. On flights lasting longer than three years, a one-use, personal Porta-Potty will be distributed every six months.
INJURY OR DEATH TO PASSENGERS
* Big Bang Airways shall not be responsible for injuries resulting from hypersonic propulsion. Passengers, by booking a flight on Big Bang Airways, acknowledge the following known hazards: 1) Hurtling through the galaxy at 25 times the speed of sound can permanently alter your facial expression. 2) The Space Warp aircraft achieves thrust of such intensity that your chest can become your back.
* Claims for compensation related to death aboard a Big Bang Airways spaceship must be received within two weeks of any catastrophic event, even if said event occurred during travel to a time warp billions of light-years away and will remain unknown for eons.
* Space tourists are advised that in dire circumstances, time appears to slow down so your last moments, should it come to that, will seem longer than they actually are.
Thanks for flying the Big Bang.
Steven Levingston is an editor in The Post's financial section. He's waiting for the post-Christmas sale to buy a one-way ticket to Pluto.