13 December 2008
- Tourism (Good)
A Conversation with CEO of Rocketship Tours...
...the official travel agent of XCOR Aerospace
by G B Leatherwood
Jeff Greason, president and CEO of XCOR Aerospace, has selected Jules Klar, the president of Great American Travel who founded “$5-a-Day Tours” in 1961, as the agent for flights on XCOR’s spaceplane, the Lynx Mark I—which is now under construction at the XCOR facilities at the Mojave spaceport.

We spoke with Klar about his latest venture, a new company called RocketShip Tours created to usher in tourism of the very-near future.

Space Future Journal: Given the number of grandiose promises made over the past few years about space tourism, what seems to be the most convincing evidence of probable success for this one?

Jules Klar: After meeting with XCOR in the summer of 2006, I felt reassured that I was dealing with a company that has a history of under-promising and over-delivering. Most impressive is their track record of more than 3,500 rocket firings without a single mishap. That, coupled with the fact that their two rocket-powered vehicles, built for the Rocket Racing League, have been successfully flown leads me to believe that Lynx will be equally successful. XCOR simply does everything the right way.

SFJ: We understand that in addition to the flight itself, participants will be treated to world-class lodging and meals at a premier resort hotel, pre-flight preparation and training will be provided, and each participant will receive a package of mementoes including a DVD of their flight. How are you educating the general public about this adventure?

Klar: Our website [has] complete details concerning every aspect of the total Lynx experience. We believe it’s important to properly prepare our customers (participants) for their suborbital flight. We are therefore preparing them with a full training and orientation package that will, in our view, exceed their expectations.

SFJ: The Lynx vehicle only carries one passenger instead of the six or so to be carried by other suborbital tourist vehicles such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two. How are you presenting the more intimate Lynx experience to customers?

Klar: In a very straightforward manner. You’ll be going up in the co-pilot seat next to Rick Searfoss, probably one of the best and most qualified astronauts/pilots in the world. This very personalized experience has tremendous appeal to those who yearn to go to the edge of space.

SFJ: XCOR will be represented by a group of agents you have designated as “Space Tourism Specialists.” Will they all be experienced agents already in the travel business?

Klar: Since we are in the travel business and have extensive experience as wholesale tour operators, it was logical for us to enlist the aid of the retail travel distribution system in the US and beyond. Travel professionals already have existing relationships with their best clients. We therefore believe that these professionals, both here and abroad are the best qualified to represent RocketShip Tours in a highly professional manner.

Under certain circumstances we will permit individuals who are not affiliated with the travel agency community to act as Space Tourism Specialists. All those who aspire to become Space Tourism Specialists will be required to go through our Space Tourism University on line program. After successfully completing this program they will then be eligible to represent RocketShip Tours as authorized representatives for the sale of flights on Lynx.

SFJ: You seem very confident that this venture will be successful.

Klar: I’m putting my reputation of 47 years in the travel industry on the line when I decided to represent XCOR for the sale of seats on Lynx. I also feel honored and privileged to be associated with a company that has the finest reputation for integrity, quality of design and workmanship, and most important of all—a 100% performance record.

If all goes according to plan, the Lynx Mark I will start test flights in 2010 at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The first rides will begin 2011 with entrepreneur and adventurer Per Wimmer as the first paying customer.

Details of the Lynx Mark I are available on the XCOR web site as well as the web site for RocketShip Tours.
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G B Leatherwood 13 December 2008
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