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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to launch space tourism
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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic to launch space tourism

Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said Monday that Virgin Galactic is on track to offer commercial space travel within 18 months, and that space hotels are next on the drawing board.

The project’s SpaceshipTwo, an aircraft built by aviation engineer Burt Rutan and designed to carry paying customers into suborbital space, had its maiden flight in the California desert in March.

“We just finished building SpaceShipTwo. We are 18 months away from taking people into space,” Branson told a business conference in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars.

Virgin Galactic, which aims to become the world’s first commercial company to promote space tourism, has already collected 45 million dollars in deposits from more than 330 people who have reserved seats aboard the six-person craft.

Branson also has visions of establishing hotels in space, which well-heeled tourists can use as a base for shuttle flights over the moon.

“We are looking at hotels in space. We love the moon,” the tycoon said, adding that he was also interested in launching “small satellites into space” for the benefit of schools and universities.

Under Branson’s brainchild scheme, the SpaceshipTwo craft is to be launched into space with the help of mothership White Knight Two (WK2).

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WK2 will carry SpaceshipTwo to an altitude of around 16 kilometres (50,000 feet) before dropping the smaller spaceship and allowing it to fire up its rocket motor to blast up to the brink of space.

Once it has reached suborbital space, SpaceShipTwo passengers will be able to view the Earth from portholes next to their seats, or unbuckle their seatbelts and float in zero gravity.

Branson has a 20 percent stake in Malaysia-based long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X which flies to Asia and Europe. From AFP.

View Comments (3)
  • I will be first in line for this… who knew we’d see the day when you didn’t have to have a doctorate and tons of experience to be an astronaut? You can just pay a few million and take a trip around the moon!

  • I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#Top has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt home security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)

  • If I was a millionaire, I wouldn’t spend my money on this. Maybe if I had a billion, we’d talk. Which brings this ventures estimated number of marketable persons to less than a 100 people.



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