Virgin Galactic launches passenger trip into space

WASHINGTON – A new crop of astronauts are headed to space. And you could be one of them.

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson’s brainchild Virgin Galactic has the space ships ready, the New Mexico-based launch pad under construction and the reservation lines buzzing.

The commercial space service will send almost 600 customers into space; tickets for the ride of a lifetime cost $200,000 per seat.

“We hope to get to our space test flight by the end of the year and go into commercial service soon after that,” says President and Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic George Whitesides.

SpaceshipTwo will hold eight passengers and two pilots. The flight is slated to take a little over two hours — just long enough to launch, experience microgravity and gaze at Earth.

The trip’s preparations take longer than the trip, itself. Whitesides says passengers must train for a week, prior to the flight.

“You come down, you get astronaut training for a few days and then on the big day, you get up early and fly to space,” he says.

Passengers are signing up for the trip, and some of them have more experience than others.

“We have one customer who was actually one of the original women picked by NASA to go up to space sort of immediately following the first men,” Whitesides says. “NASA never activated that program but literally this is a woman who has been waiting to go to space for probably 50 years.”

Whitesides says Branson hopes to eventually bring the cost of the tickets down to make the adventure available to more people.

Sir Richard Branson’s thoughts on SpaceShipTwo’s first rocket-powered test flight

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