Virgin Galactic test flight could usher in new era in space tourism

Reuters
Mojave, California, USA Published: Dec 13, 2018, 11:03 AM(IST)

Virgin Galactic spacecraft. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The spaceship which looks like a small plane with long wings will attempt to take the company's pilots for the first time ever to what many consider is the edge of space, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said.

A Virgin Galactic spacecraft is scheduled to launch from California's Mojave Air and Space Port about 90 miles (145 km) outside Los Angeles on Thursday in a test flight that, if successful, could help usher in a new era of space tourism.

The spaceship which looks like a small plane with long wings will attempt to take the company's pilots for the first time ever to what many consider is the edge of space, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told Reuters on Wednesday.

The high-altitude launch comes four years after an earlier craft crashed during a test flight over the Mohave dessert on October 31, 2014, killing one pilot and injuring the other.

US transportation safety investigators at the time said that the passenger spaceship most likely broke up in mid-flight.

British billionaire and Virgin CEO Richard Branson is battling other billionaire-backed ventures like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to develop a vehicle that can take thrill-seekers, researchers and commercial customers on short hops into space.

Some 600 people including Hollywood celebrities have signed up to take the first tourism flights into space with Virgin in exchange for the hefty price tag of $250,000 for a 90-minute flight.

But the company envisions a future when space travel could be as accessible to ordinary people as commercial air travel is today, Whitesides told Reuters.

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