Can you believe it’s been almost eight years since Burt Rutan’s Paul Allen-sponsored Scaled Composites won the Ansari X-Prize with SpaceShipOne, the first commercial vehicle to visit space? It has. It’s also been that long since larger-than-life British billionaire Richard Branson started hocking flights to space licensed from that same award-winning design. You may have socked away the required $200,000 for a ticket to sub-orbital spaceflight, but you’ll still need to wait another year before you can make the trip.
Based out of the New Mexican desert, former governor Bill Richardson negotiated with Virgin to make the state site of Galactic’s (nay, the world’s) first spaceport. On top of the required entry fee, potential astronauts will also be required to attend a week-long training course before liftoff. Piggybacking a WhiteKnight-derived carrier plane, you’ll soar to 360,000 feet, just slightly into the ether that is officially “space”. No, you won’t be doing any elaborate space touring like Dennis Tito did on his 8-day International Space station trip in 2001 (for which he paid $20 million for the privilege) you’ll just be weightless for a while before you return to our little ball of rock, but you’ll be part of a new class of citizen that has been able to soar beyond our atmosphere to chase interstellar dreams. Or something like that.
Nearly 600 people have already put down the money to fly on Virgin Galactic, including super-couple Brangelina and Katy Perry, so you’ll be in good company. Branson says he and his sons will be the first Galactic tourists and flights will continue thereafter. Galactic has two vessels (the Enterprise and the Voyager, for obvious reasons) with plans to expand to five. Only one spaceport exists at the moment, but with future spots including Dubai, expect some amazingly fast international travel here in the next decade.
Source: The Verge