Peninsula chemist buys a ticket to space

The opportunity to escape the earthly bounds of gravity is usually a right reserved for only a handful of well-trained astronauts.

For 75-year-old Marjorie Balazs all it took was a casual dinner conversation and enough cash to secure a spot on the Virgin Galactic.

Balazs, a retired chemist who lives in Los Altos, has laid down $175,000 to take part in the first-ever suborbital space service for regular citizens, made possible by Virgin Galactic, a company owned by British billionaire Richard Branson.

With her deposit, Balazs will travel on the SpaceShipTwo, a specially designed craft that will bring its six passengers 62 miles above Earth’s surface so they can feel the effects of weightlessness.

The total cost of the flight is $200,000. By putting nearly all of the cash up front, Balazs has secured a spot among the first 200 travelers and likely will go up in space by 2010.

Balazs first heard about the program earlier this year, while dining with her friend Mary Cardoza, a Palo Alto-based travel agent who at the time had recently completed her training to be an accredited “space agent” — a title created to cater to Virgin Galactic flights.

After hearing about the opportunity to travel to the internationally recognized edge of space, Balazs didn’t hesitate for a minute before declaring her intentions to go.

“I always wished I was younger, so I could have taken part in the NASA space program,” said Balazs, who founded Balazs Analytical Laboratory in 1975, before selling the business in 2000. “When Mary mentioned this, I just came off my seat. I didn’t have to think for a minute, because I knew I wanted in.”

The entire duration of the suborbital flight will last two hours, and passengers will feel weightlessness for only five minutes. But Balazs said the experience is well worth the cost.

“I can’t wait to get up there,” she said.

Balazs will go through a series of training exercises before the flight, including one program that will simulate the six G’s of pressure she will face when she blasts off for space. Although she doesn’t know when her regimen will start, Balazs can expect to get plenty of helpful advice from Cardoza, who has already completed several training programs so she can describe the effects of suborbital space travel to her prospective clients.

“We went to [a NASA training facility in Philadelphia] to understand what six G’s feels like,” Cardoza said. “It was quite the experience, but I’m confident Marjorie can handle it.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocalspaceTransittransportationtravel

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

After the pandemic hit, Twin Peaks Boulevard was closed to vehicle traffic, a situation lauded by open space advocates. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New proposal to partially reopen Twin Peaks to vehicles pleases no one

Neighbors say closure brought crime into residential streets, while advocates seek more open space

Protesters rally at the site of a proposed affordable housing project at 2550 Irving St. in the Sunset District on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Sunset District affordable housing discussion flooded with ‘scare tactics and hysteria’

Project would provide 100 units, some of which would be designated for formerly homeless families

Members of the Sheriff’s Department command staff wore masks at a swearing-in ceremony for Assistant Sheriff Tanzanika Carter. One attendee later tested positive. 
Courtesy SFSD
Sheriff sees increase in COVID-19 cases as 3 captains test positive

Command staff among 10 infected members in past week

Rainy weather is expected in the coming week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Rainstorms, potential atmospheric river expected to drench Bay Area in coming week

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Multiple rainstorms, cold temperatures some… Continue reading

U.S. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s powerful reading was among the highlights of Inauguration Day. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Inauguration shines light in this never-ending shade

Here’s to renewal and resolve in 2021 and beyond

Most Read