Drink up! Guinness offers seat on a spaceliner

/ Source: Space.com

The company behind the dark Irish beer Guinness will give loyal drinkers a taste of space along with their stout, but only if they win new contest.

Guinness has reserved a seat aboard a suborbital Virgin Galactic spaceliner as one of three experience prizes in an online contest honoring the 250th birthday of the beer's brewery this year.

Founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic is a commercial space tourism company that plans to launch passengers on $200,000 trips to suborbital space using a fleet of SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. The spaceliners are designed to be launched from the air by a massive WhiteKnightTwo mothership and send two pilots and six passengers on a weightless joyride.

Virgin Galactic currently plans to launch and land space tourist flights from a terminal at Spaceport America in New Mexico — which began construction earlier this month — as well as from a spaceport in Kiruna, Sweden. The first WhiteKnightTwo carrier ship "Eve" has been flying a series of test flights this year.

Guinness officials said their space trip contest runs through Sept. 24 and promised a thrilling ride for the winner.

The launch will catapult passengers beyond Earth's atmosphere at nearly 2,500 mph — three times the speed of sound — to a point about 68 miles above the planet, Guinness officials said. Once in space, passengers will have a view of the blackness of space and unbroken vistas of the Earth for 1,000 miles in every direction before re-entering the atmosphere and gliding back to its home port, they added.

The beer company announced the new contest on Wednesday to commemorate founder Arthur Guinness's signing of the 9,000-year lease on the St. James's Gate brewery in Dublin, Ireland. Some 250 events are planned in participating countries around the world. They are open to adults of legal drinking age in their respective countries.

"Since 1759, Arthur Guinness and the Guinness brand have been behind some remarkable and hugely momentous achievements," Guinness officials said in a statement. "To continue this legacy and as part of the 250 celebrations, Guinness is giving something back to Guinness supporters around the world by offering the chance to win one of these three remarkable Guinness experiences."

The two other prizes include an undersea trip to a Guinness bar 229 feet below the ocean's surface near the Lofoten Islands in Norway, as well as a private live studio performance by the band The Black Eye Peas.

Virgin Galactic's carrier ships and spacecraft are being built by the California-based company Scaled Composites. The new vehicles build on the firm's SpaceShipOne and WhiteKnight vehicles that won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004.

For more information on the Guinness online contest visit: www.guinness.com.