Ashish Thakkar's space diary

Dubai real estate chief sends his online diary as he trains for Virgin Galactic blast-off into space.
Ashish Thakkar's space diary
By Ashish Thakkar from Philadelphia
Tue 04 Nov 2008 02:02 PM

Dubai-based entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar has started training for the trip of a lifetime - a journey into space.The CEO of Kensington Real Estate is one of just 100 people that will blast off after paying $200,000 to sign up for the Virgin Galactic flight.

He is currently undergoing space training at Nastar Space Centre, Philadelphia. And he’s expecting to launch into space either at the end of next year or early 2010.

Here's his diary from the two days of training:

Day 1- My first day of training at Virgin Centrifuge, Philadelphia and it's been quite a day.

At 8am sharp we leave the hotel to go to Nastar Center in Philadelphia, all geared up and excited.

Once there, we're first given training guide books and briefed by our instructor. He swiftly explains the various types of acceleration.

G Force is a dimensionless ratio that describes an applied accelaration relative to the accelaration of gravity, GZ is the G force that pushes us down, GX is the G force that pushes us back.

We are also taught how to react when experiencing GZ and GX (breathing, blood flow, etc).

Now we are taken to experience G force hands on in the machine! It's difficult to describe this but is the closest thing to going into space and is seriously amazing.

Today we separately experience GZ then GX, but tomorrow we will get both together and I simply cannot wait.

While I've known for months now that I'm going into space, today I really felt it. Virgin's organisation, attention to detail and hospitality makes a real difference; and most importantly, the actual training is just out of this world - quite literally! Virgin is genuinely giving us an incredible experience.

Day 2- We arrive at Nastar at 9.30am for day 2 on training with butterfies - excited to experience it all.

In our briefing, we are told about motion physiology, visual effects such as focal, ambient and object recognition, vestibular effects, auditory effects and illusions.

The training on day 2 is a lot more intensive and prepares us well to get onto the STS-400 simulator.

Once inside, I get strapped in and am taught about all the different effects above and how to counter them.

I start practicing. The door closes. I feel the adrenalin.

There is a visual of me on the mother space ship, as though I am in the actual spaceship going up. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

The spaceship drops. It races forward! My face goes way back, like it's getting sucked into the seat.

I am gripping tight onto the handles and trying to focus on my breathing. It's difficult to think about anything other than the weight that seems to be pulling me back.

But it is incredible and it seriously feels like I'm actually on my way there. This is GX and GZ together. Never felt anything like it.

Once up there, I float weightless for a minute and wave around pulling faces to my co-trainees who are watching from the observatory room through cameras.

Now it's time to go back down and experience the pulling, pushing and force of the Gs once again.

We all get together and are awarded certificates. Time to celebrate!

If the training alone is so amazing, I can't imagine how 'out of this world' the actual experience will be. All I can say is I simply can't wait!

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