Richard Branson Unveils Virgin Galactic's Space Tourism Mothership

Posted July 29, 2008 by Zak Patten

Virgin_galactic As White Knight Two approaches an altitude of 50,000 feet, you brace yourself. The aircraft that's carried your rocket this far has done its job and must return to the desert runway far below. Seconds later, you're pinned to your seat as SpaceShipTwo's hybrid rocket sends you hurtling into the unknown darkness. Despite g-force three times that of Earth's gravity, you look into the eyes of your fellow passengers and smile knowingly. Within minutes, you've reached the internationally recognized edge of space, 62 miles above the Earth's surface. You are now officially an astronaut.

If you find this fantasy scenario appealing, and happen to have a spare $200,000, Sir Richard Branson would like to make you a space tourist. Branson, the celebrity billionaire head of the Virgin empire (featuring Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America), yesterday unveiled White Knight Two, the latest addition to Virgin Galactic. Though it's only partially complete and no firm date has been set for the first real trip, this plane promises to make space travel a reality for those who have the means and desire.

When that event does take place, the six passengers and two pilots (presumably there won't be a flight attendant handing out drinks) will spend two and a half hours getting from the ground to space and back again. Unfortunately, there won't be a full orbit of the planet on the first flights Virgin Galactic offers, but it still beats that turbulent Newark-Cleveland flight you took last year, doesn't it?

Richard Branson's plans for the "airline" are characteristically ambitious. He wants to get at least 500 people into space in the first year. This would rake in a tidy $100 million in fares, not to mention equal the number of people who have reached such heights in the entire history of space exploration. To date, 250 people have put at least some money down for their tickets, so he’s halfway there already.

Speaking personally, I don't have the credit card limit for such a pricey trip and I'm not typically the bravest of souls, but I would absolutely jump at the chance to travel into space. Would you? Leave a comment below and let me know.

(Photo: Virgin Galactic)

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Reader Comments

My wife and I would ride the ride, see the sights and pay that price for a weekend stay aboard an "orbiting hotel".
We can get the weightless experence in a free float enviroment aboard the "vomit comet" for a mere $20K each now. We'll do that instead.

Posted on August 05, 2008 at 02:52 AM by Fred Lyon

If I won the lottery and needed to get rid of some spare cash, I'd definitely take this flight. However, I'd want to spend more than a few minutes in space and I'd would need huge window space to feel I'd gotten my money's worth.

Posted on August 17, 2008 at 09:08 AM by Elaine

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 ( 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!)

Posted on November 16, 2010 at 07:27 PM by mason

Virgin Galactic has truly started the Space tourism. The price of $200,000 is although not cheap but still gives thousands of people a chance to experience space. And as more private companies will arrive in Space tourism, the prices will go down further.

Posted on May 09, 2011 at 10:07 PM by Space Tourism

Wow! I would really love to be with this celebrity billionaire. Pay the price and fly,fly, fly.

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 11:04 PM by Flight attendant

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