SAN JOSE, Calif. - I'm
a practical person (my kids would call me cheap), so when I read about Cathy Culver's
plan to pay $200,000 for about a two-hour flight into outer space, I figured she
must be very rich or very nuts.
It turns out the San Jose woman is neither.
comfortable enough to come up with a $20,000 deposit to reserve a seat on one of Sir Richard Branson's early flights to the heavens.
But far from loopy, Culver
has some well-thought-out reasons for wanting to be among the first generation of space tourists.
Well-thought-out reasons that she's
been trying out on loved ones who by-and-large have been expressing the very-nuts theory.
"I've been trying to explain to them that this is an investment in aerospace for me," Culver
, 49, says, arguing that supporting private space travel now will encourage its growth and success in the future.
"The next phase of aerospace is going to be commercial.
says, with NASA's
budget under siege, "if there is going to be any more aerospace, then this is going to have to happen."
Space exploration has led to a mind-boggling number of innovations in use on earth, she
says. (No, not just Tang.) Even today, space programs have the potential of creating businesses, industries and jobs.
Yes, Culver is a fan of aerospace, having worked in the field (Lockheed Martin) for 25 years.
no doubt has something of a point about the ascendancy, if you will, of commercial space flight - including the trend of tourists like herself ponying up big bucks to take a trip that is out of this world.
Encouraged by her
mother to study math and science, Culver
went to UC-Santa Barbara and became a math major.
She joined Lockheed and worked with NASA as a mission specialist.
, who is now a motivational speaker, became passionate about space and about the innovations space flight has inspired for use here on earth.
ended up applying four times for NASA's
astronaut program and was turned down each time.
knew the odds were long.
But now she
finds herself at T-minus a year or two to her
"It's a thrill ride," she
says, "plus I think it's very important for our economy."