Love and Rockets

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2007 3:53 PM by Alan Boyle

Outer-space romance has been getting a bad rap lately, thanks to an astronaut love triangle that has generated enough data traffic to draw the attention of extraterrestrials if they're watching. But all that bad press hasn't deterred a few couples from trying to score final-frontier firsts for love and marriage. 'You're always going to have the positive side, and you're always going have the negative side, in space just like you do on Earth,' said Cindy Cashman, a motivational speaker who is angling to become the first bride in space.

Cashman and her intended, airline pilot Mitch Walling, have made reservations to take their vows in the back seats of Rocketplane Kistler's suborbital spaceship - a yet-to-be-built rocket-jet hybrid plane that is currently slated to enter service in the 2008-2009 time frame. The other spots in the four-seat cabin will be taken up by the pilot (front left seat) and the minister (front right).

'Anybody can be ordained within five minutes on the Internet,' Cashman told me today. 'Maybe we'll have a reality-TV show where the winner would be able to marry us in space.'

The plans for the ceremony are an odd mix of traditional Valentine's Day romance and commercial chutzpah. Weddings nowadays are always expensive, but this one would be right up there with a Donald Trump affair. It'll take $750,000 just to buy the three seats in the spaceship. Cashman - who is the author of a 'Life Lessons' book series as well as a somewhat less serious tome, 'Everything Men Know About Women' - hopes sponsorships and media deals will help defray the cost.

Cashman is definitely in charge of the arrangements: 'My fiancé is very wonderful and open,' she said. 'He'll laugh and say, 'I'm just along for the ride.'

And what a ride it would be: At a peak altitude above 62 miles (100 kilometers), the couple should be able to see the black sky of space spreading over a curving Earth. The roller-coaster rise to weightlessness, and the acceleration experienced on the way down, would put any relationship to the test.

Cashman is dealing with all the traditional worries surrounding a wedding - for example, finding the right gown for zero-G. 'We'll have to definitely find one that won't float up over my head,' she said. But the biggest frustration has to do with working around a flight schedule that's still up in the air, so to speak.

'It's important to remember to enjoy the process,' she said. 'I'm focusing on enjoying the moment, even though I know it's going to be a long way away.'

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