As any parent knows, keeping children occupied and happy on a mammoth cross-country car journey can be one of the greatest challenges known to man, so quite how Richard Branson is going to contend with a couple of kids in the back of his SpaceShipTwo aircraft on its maiden trip into the stratosphere and beyond is anyone’s guess. A game of I Spy, perhaps?
Luckily for Branson, his kids are grown up now, so any fuss should be kept to a minimum, but either way, this is surely going to be a family trip to remember.
The billionaire entrepreneur and adventurer announced at the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow this week that daughter Holly and son Sam will be accompanying him when SpaceShipTwo embarks on its maiden flight some time next year, taking off from a specially built spaceport in New Mexico.
The flight will mark the the beginning of Branson’s ambitious Virgin Galactic space tourism program.
More than 500 people have already signed up for flights into space on his aircraft, shelling out almost $200,000 (£128,000) for the privilege. That’s right, just under $200,000 to take off, fly around a bit and land back in the same place. However, one assumes they’ll have a story to dine out on until the day they die – though hopefully the dinner guests will be different each time the experience is recounted.
SpaceShipTwo, which can carry two pilots and six passengers, will be flown high above Earth on the back of the WhiteKnightTwo launch aircraft. After reaching a height of 15,000 meters (50,000 feet), the two aircraft will separate before SpaceShipTwo blasts into space.
Passengers will be able to have fun floating around the cabin while enjoying spectacular views of Earth. After a couple of hours, the aircraft will glide back to the spaceport for a (hopefully) smooth landing.
“Virgin Galactic’s goal is to revolutionize the way we get to space,” Branson said in a statement outlining the space program’s latest plans. “I’m immensely proud of what we have already achieved as we draw near to regular suborbital flights on SpaceShipTwo.”
The Brit businessman, who evidently doesn’t know when to take a breather, also announced plans for a new spacecraft, LauncherOne. According to Branson, LauncherOne will deliver small satellites into orbit, with the aim of offering “frequent and dedicated launches at the world’s lowest prices.”
These are exciting times for Branson and his space-bound chums, with the man evidently energized by new challenges. “Going into space is a hard business,” he told reporters at the air show. ”It keeps my mind buzzing.”
[Source: Daily Mail]