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Mon 3 Nov 2008 06:08 AM

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Real estate chief poised for space travel training

Dubai-based businessman in US to prepare for Virgin Galactic adventure.

Real estate chief poised for space travel training
SPACE MAN: Kensington Real Estate CEO Ashish Thakkar. (Supplied)

Dubai-based entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar will on Tuesday start training for the trip of a lifetime - a journey into space.

The CEO of Kensington Real Estate is one of just 100 people will blast off after paying $200,000 to sign up for the Virgin Galactic flight.

He will go through a two-day Space training starting on Tuesday at Nastar Space Centre, Philadelphia. And he’s expecting to launch into space either at the end of next year or early 2010.

It's the latest in a long list of adventures for Thakkar.

The successful businessman sold his first computer at 14. At 16 he ran his own showroom and by the age of 27, he has business interests in the UK, Africa, Dubai and India.

He was caught in the crossfire in a civil war in Rwanda and narrowly escaped a hurricane in Miami. He popped the question to his fiancée atop the Burj Al Arab and now he is preparing to tackle the final frontier.

And Thakkar will be writing exclusively for Arabian Business during his extensive training to become one of a select group of Founder Astronauts, who are the first rookie spacemen to be readied for the trip of a lifetime.

Log on to our website on November 4-5 to find the latest news and photos from training camp in the US.

He said: “I signed up for Virgin Galactic’s maiden flight at Shanghai Airport. While surfing the web at the airport, I went to the site and signed up for the heck of it.

"I didn’t take it very seriously. I was surprised when they called back. There was a brief telephonic interview, and I was on.”

UK-born Thakkar grew up in Uganda and his father’s family set up business in Uganda while his mother’s side set up in Tanzania.

And the gene for business has rubbed off from the time he sold his personal computer for profit to one of his friends, aged 14.

He began trading in gadgets and rented a showroom in Uganda while still only 16. And it did well. And there was no stopping the young businessman from there.

He set up a company in his father's name in Dubai the following year and has since diversified his business to real estate and employs nearly 1,000 staff in business interests in IT, real estate and manufacturing in Africa, London, Dubai and India.

Thakkar said that he was "excited" about the prospect of flying into space and predicted that others would be able to follow in the future at knockdown prices.

"I think space travel will really catch on. And it’ll become a lot more affordable and quite common in time to come," he added before being summoned for the start of his training programme.

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