Published On: Mon, Nov 3rd, 2014

Pie in the sky

Jacob Gelt Dekker“This (flight) schedule is indicative and subject to change,” reads the small print underneath the XCOR --former SXC-- Space ticket bookings Internet form.

The XCOR-website promises, ” from 2014, up to four times a day, at $95,000 (£63,000) per head -- less than half Virgin Galactic's bill -- SXC hopes to take ticket-holders on hour-long flights from the Caribbean island of Curaçao to the edge of space (+100 km). For several minutes, passengers will experience weightlessness and gaze at the Earth.”

After the Virgin Galactic-Richard Branson spacecraft crash in the Mojave Desert, last Saturday, 1 November, the indicative-ness of SXC’s flight schedule must glare potential passengers in the face like red neon signs.

Where are we on Curacao with SXC/XCOR?

“All eyes in the world of space travel are focused on Curacao,” stated Curacao airport director, Maurice Adriaens and other dignitaries a few years ago. Adventurer-entrepreneurs, Michiel Mol and Harry van Hulten, unveiled their space venture in the media with slick videos, glossy brochures and silver shining models as a done deal and the space future of the island. It was exactly that global media attention that appealed to the leaders of Curacao. Space travel would put Curacao on the map as a luxury destination, a playground for billionaires.

Legal and technical problems were waved away as insignificant specs of dust. International commercial aviation laws and space travel regulations were to be resolved easily with special legislation by the autonomous island State of Curacao.

Nobody was surprised when the local government proclaimed proudly that it would furnish large amounts of taxpayer’s money to promote the daring project. National pride grew bigger and bigger by every next bombastic promotion.

It did not take long for counselors to find out that commercial air and space travel are regulated by international laws and agreements and cannot be overruled by the local legislator. Commercial air travel requires, AOC’s (Air Operator’s Certificates) and space travel (higher that 100 km) is subject to outer space agreements incorporated in COPUOS (UN- Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space).

Our cowboy space-entrepreneurs tried to by-pass both international legal issues via the Curacao-backdoor, but to no avail. For the keen observer, the ploy was obvious from the very first moment but bold bravado by populist politicians obscured reality.

Nevertheless, SXC, now operating under the name XCOR, continues to offer space tickets on-line from Curacao for US $ 95,000 and, supposedly, sold, at least, 175 tickets.

The bold initiative that once made islanders proud, can easily backfire. Space travel from Curacao is turning into a scam with false claims. Today, it appears to be no more a fraudulent attempt to make ignorant enthusiastic rich clients part with their money.

It is now the turn of The Public Prosecutor of Curacao to protect the public and safeguard the island’s reputation from shoplifting attempts with “pies in the sky.”

By Jacob Gelt Dekker -  Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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