Bear Island resident Richard Laronde completed his childhood dream of
traveling to the North and South Poles, but there is one dream he has
yet to make a reality and is something that might just happen sooner
than he thinks — going into space.
Laronde has purchased a ticket
on the world's first commercial space flights, landing him ticket
number 93 aboard Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise, an six-passenger
aircraft designed to touch the outer limits of the Earth's atmosphere.
If everything goes well in respect to testing of the aircraft, Laronde
could possibly be weightless over the world within the year.
the 58-year-old seasonal resident of Meredith, traveling and adventure
have been running through his blood after being charged with losing
weight. Several years ago Laronde learned he was diabetic, which
required him to lose almost 100 pounds. With that goal in mind, he
decided to get fit while doing something he dreamed of doing, traveling
around the Arctic.
Since his initial trip to the North Pole in
2006, Laronde has traveled the world, going Antarctica three times,
traveling in 2007 once by cross-country skis, once to climb Antarctica's
tallest mountain, Mount Vinson and in 2009 by sailboat, departing from
Chile and going along the coast to view the coastal animals. He has also
hiked the Andes Mountains in Peru, viewing the historic Machu Picchu
ruins in 2009.
Having completed an expedition to the North Pole
and then to the South Pole, Laronde doesn't see the sky as being any
sort of limit for him.
"By far, going to the South Pole has been
my biggest adventure," Laronde said. "But in terms of satisfaction, this
trip in to space will be the best trip."
The idea of going into
space popped up on the radar for Laronde after hearing about Virgin
Galactic proposing a passenger spaceship that would take anyone who had
the money into space for a hefty price of $200,000.
Going into space was something he has dreamed about his entire life.
grew up in the 50s and 60s when all the astronauts were heroes," he
said. "That was just a natural thing. I think all the boys wanted to be
He said he wanted to be an astronaut because he saw
them do amazing things, such as getting launched into space and landing
on the moon.
"Back then we all thought everyone was going into
space and that we were going to have colonies on the moon," Laronde
said. "Going into space has been my ultimate childhood dream."
hearing that Chairman of the Virgin Group Richard Branson was creating a
commercial spaceflight program, Laronde started thinking about taking
the trip. About a week after returning from his most recent trip to the
South Pole, he sent the money for the spaceflight.
About a year
ago, Laronde participated in pre-flight training, which required him to
complete a 6G test through centrifuge training, which replicates
gravitational forces passengers will experience during the flight.
rocket I'll be on goes up to 4G and when it re-enters the atmosphere it
goes to 6G," Laronde said. "I passed the test no problem."
Before doing the test, Laronde needed a note from his doctor to participate in the training, which led to a funny story.
went to the doctor, he asked me what I needed the note for and I told
him," Laronde said. "The doctor then said 'Are you crazy?' and I
basically answered, yes."
While in flight, all the passengers
aboard will experience 0G, or the state of being weightless, and will be
able to float around if they choose. Cameras are planned to be placed
throughout the cabin so those paying for the flight can get the most out
of their experience.
Laronde explained how the aircraft that
Virgin Galactic has developed is 60 feet in length and has a 27-foot
wingspan. It has room for two pilots and six passengers, with each seat
having two observation windows so there isn't a bad seat on board.
aircraft will be launched from a special plane that will travel to
50,000 feet, at which point the aircraft will be released and launch
into space. The duration of the trip will be around three hours, with
the total amount of time being in space consisting of only six minutes.
"It's pretty impressive," Laronde said. "It's the first aircraft taking passengers into space."
said after the last stages of testing are done on the aircraft, it will
be fairly soon that he takes flight. Since there are six passengers per
flight, he is expecting to be on flight No. 15 or 16.
"I found out that Paris Hilton just signed up after me," he said. "Maybe she'll be on my flight."
Galactic still has to determine whether or not passengers will need to
wear spacesuits during the flight, but either way, Laronde will have the
experience of a lifetime.
For more information on Laronde's adventures, visit www.icetent.com.