Irish singer-philanthropist Bob Geldof has an honorary knighthood and a couple of Nobel Peace Prize nominations to his name, but he's looking forward to adding a couple of additional lines to his resume as early as next year — as the first rock musician and first Irish citizen in outer space.
The former frontman for the Boomtown Rats raised that prospect in Wednesday's announcement that he's gotten a ticket to ride on XCOR Aerospace's Lynx rocket plane from Dutch-based Space Exploration Corp.
"Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honor but pretty mind-blowing," he said in the news release. "The first rock astronaut space rat! Elvis may have left the building but Bob Geldof will have left the planet! Wild! Who would have thought it possible in my lifetime."
Space Exploration Corp., or SXC, plans to begin rocket-powered passenger spaceflights from a spaceport on the Caribbean island of Curacao in late 2014, company spokeswoman Eva van Pelt told NBC News. XCOR has said it will begin flight-testing its Lynx two-seater sometime in the next few months at California's Mojave Air and Space Port. The tests would start with runway hops and gradually build up to the 100-kilometer (62-mile) altitude that marks the internationally accepted boundary of outer space.
SXC is selling reservations for flights on the Lynx from Mojave and Curacao at $100,000 per seat. The Lynx would take off like a regular airplane, then power up to the edge of space for a brief stretch of weightlessness and an astronaut's-eye view of Earth. The suborbital flight would end with a downward glide and a runway landing. Eventually, Lynx planes may take off from Kennedy Space Center's landing strip as well.
SXC and XCOR say they have sold more than 250 tickets so far. SXC founder Michiel Mol said he was proud to add Geldof to the passenger list.
"He is an icon of social responsibility, and in projects like Live Aid, he proved that entertainment and meaningfulness can be a great combination," Mol said in Wednesday's news release. "We share that vision by offering our astronauts a life-changing experience, while in the same time we are changing the concept of sustainable airline transportation all together, namely outside the earth's atmosphere."
SXC said Geldof is due to start training in a spaceflight simulator in the Netherlands on Sept. 26.
Geldof's claim to be the first Irishman and the first rocker in space may be contested: Virgin Galactic also plans to begin commercial suborbital spaceflights in 2014, and SpaceShipTwo's passenger list is said to include Irish citizens (such as Bill Cullen and Tom Higgins) as well as pop star Justin Bieber. You could even argue that the International Space Station already has hosted the first rock astronaut: Canada's Chris Hadfield, who made a splash with his rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
More about commercial spaceflight:
- SpaceShipTwo goes supersonic ... again!
- California vies with other states in space race
- NBC News archive about the new space race
Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the NBC News Science Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding +Alan Boyle to your Google+ circles. To keep up with NBCNews.com's stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.