Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coming soon to India: Tickets for space ride

New Delhi, Oct 17

Mountaineering, skydiving and rafting are passé. It’s time for all Indian adventure tourism enthusiasts to don a spacesuit and whoosh off to a weightless state at thrice the speed of sound. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, a global commercial space tourism group, on Tuesday entered the Indian market with an eye to woo Indians out to space - albeit at a fee of $200,000 for a two-hour ride.

Virgin Galactic, in collaboration with Deluxe Travel and GD Goenka World Travel, has opened its Indian office in New Delhi and will act as a facilitator for Indians to book tickets to space. The spaceship will be launched at a height of 50,000 feet above earth and on release from the mother craft will take a vertical trajectory at three times the speed of sound.

Carolyn Wincer, head of astronaut sales of Virgin Galactic, told reporters that nearly 300 people including four Indians have bought tickets to travel on the spaceship. “India is a growing market and we are hopeful that people who are not astronauts will venture into space via our commercial spaceships,” Wincer said.

She said four Indians have already booked their tickets and one of them is in the top 100 list of voyagers-to-be. The Spaceship 2, as the commercial flight has been named, will be ready for a test run in January 2008. Santhosh George Kulangara, an Indian- based in the US, has booked a ticket to experience space in the first year of the commercial operation of this adventurous venture.

“It will take at least 18 months to start commercial operations. Initially, the spaceship will fly once a week, taking six tourists on board. In the second year of operation we may go for two flights a day,” Wincer said. The mother ship carrying the spaceship will fly to 50,000 feet and then the rocket will be switched on. In 90 seconds the flight will reach a height of 110 km from 50,000 feet (16 km). The flight will last around two hours including a period of weightlessness.

“The tourists will have the opportunity to leave their seats and enjoy the pleasure of weightlessness (micro gravity) for a period of four to five minutes,” said Bernhard Stingl, a joint managing director of Deluxe Travel Europe. People with a healthy heart and lungs will be able to go on this voyage.

Authorities explained that since these are short duration flights, tourists would not face space sickness. “Each flight will carry two pilots and tourists will undergo a three-day training under micro gravity situation to get accustomed to the space situation,” said Wincer.

Every passenger will have access to large windows to enjoy the amazing views of up to approximately 1,000 miles in any direction and the curvature of the earth, authorities explained. They said the spaceship would adopt unique wing feathering technology to slow and control re-entry and thus help in smooth landing on earth.

Extending good wishes to Virgin Galactic, Aviation Minister Praful Patel said: “I am sure with disposable income increasing among Indians, many will go to space. The adventure spirit of Indians will get a further fillip by venturing into space via commercial spaceships”.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Road to Siliguri and Sikkim

September 2007 saw a large number of landslides in these hills(in Darjeeling&Sikkim).The lifeline to Sikkim -NH 31 A, however brought to normal but still faces trouble in restoring it.Every half kilometer is with a big or small land/rock slips,making the travel to and fro from Sikkim and Siliguri troublesome.Traffic congestion and jams are a common sight .The two hour journey from Rangpo to Siliguri now take three hours ,depending on your luck and patience.

Monday, October 1, 2007

SENIOR CITIZENS:Loan for Financing Trips

Planning a vacation is always a fun experience. Whether you are looking to go on a pilgrimage, travel to an exotic tourist destination or visit your grandchildren – there are a wide range of travel options available. However, sometimes you may find yourself having to postpone or cancel your travel plans due to a lack of sufficient funds. Don’t worry too much though. Today, banks are offering special travel loans to senior citizens to help you make it to the places you have always dreamt of. These travel loans help pay for all sorts of travel related expenses right from booking tickets to the cost of staying at a hotel.

One such loan is the ' Desh Videsh Yatra Loan’ of the Bank of Baroda. This loan allows senior citizens to repay the borrowed amount in as much as 36 easy monthly instalments as on March 31, 2007. Other banks including private banks offer travel loans along similar lines. You can also take a regular personal loan to pay for travel related expenses through banks such as the State Bank of India.

Apart from this, travel agencies provide special travel packages and repayment schemes for senior citizens. Such travel packages include fewer and longer stops at tourist attractions. They also involve less walking and have special buses to accommodate wheelchairs. This is available to ensure a comfortable and memorable trip.

In foreign countries, senior citizens are offered discounted rail passes for train travel, rebates at hotels and lower entry fees at tourist attractions. If you are planning to travel abroad, you can ask your travel agent about these facilities and bargain for a discount on available packages. Senior citizens may also go in for travel insurance. This is useful in case of accidents or emergency hospitalization while travelling out of your home city or country. ICICI Bank provides such an insurance plan for senior citizens called the Senior Citizen Travel Insurance plan.