By Courtney Trenwith
Richard Branson says space tourism initiative will launch first flight on Christmas Day
Abu Dhabi-backed Virgin Galactic, the space tourism arm of Virgin Group, will stage its first flight this Christmas Day, Richard Branson said.
Celebrities Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher are rumoured to be among those who will participate in the first flight with Richard Branson on December 25.
The company this week also announced it had hired two veteran pilots to operate the space ship, including a former NASA astronaut.
Co-owned by the UAE’s Aabar Investments, which owns about 37 percent, Virgin Galactic expects to “revolutionise the way we get to space”.
As at July last year, more than 500 people had paid deposits towards the $200,000 trip, which will last about two hours and reach 109 kilometres into space.
Virgin expects to fly 600 people in the first two years of service.
The company also plans to build a space port in Abu Dhabi, which could see travel to the US reduced to one hour.
It is expanding to include a satellite-launching service that would use a low-cost rocket system to propel payloads into orbit.
The firm recently successfully tested its SpaceShipTwo.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
What exciting times we live in - in the early 1900's powered flight was all the rage. Now, in the early 2000's, it is space that is attracting our attention. And it is "us" that we are talking about!! In the Metro, 24 Jan. 2008, a ticket for going into space was suggested to be $200,000. This may well have changed and, of course, may come down as popularity gains pace. Say we put a round figure of $100,000 on the cost of a flight. It could well be that ten people would enter a lottery with an entrance fee of $10,000. The lucky winner would then go into space but all participants would be in with a chance and $10,000 is an affordable sum. The "sky's the limit" has now become redundant to express our wildest dreams; it is indeed "to infinity and beyond"