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Virgin Galactic opens ticket sales for space tourism ride

If you have a spare $450,000 laying around, then how about handing it over to Virgin Galactic for a trip to the edge of space?

Virgin Galactic announced this week that it’s opening a new round of ticket sales for its suborbital space tourism ride on Wednesday, February 16, giving moneyed folks the chance to blow their cash on an experience they’re unlikely to ever forget.

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The company doesn’t give a specific date for its first commercial flight to the edge of space, but says it wants to get the first 1,000 customers on board its rocket-powered plane “later this year.”

It seems unlikely that anyone who buys a ticket now will be among that group as around 600 people are ahead of them in the line after paying $250,000 (yes, the price of a seat has increased big time) in an earlier phase of ticket sales that ended in 2014.

Testing out the hardware ahead of the commercial launch, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson took a suborbital space ride aboard the VSS Unity spaceplane in July.

The experience includes being released from a carrier plane at 50,000 feet, a brief rocket ride toward the Kármán line (a point 62 miles above Earth generally regarded as where space starts), awesome views of Earth, several minutes of weightlessness inside the cabin, and a gentle glide back to base.

Virgin Galactic’s first commercial missions will take place at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Passengers will participate in several days of spaceflight preparedness activities before settling into their seat for the 90-minute experience.

“At Virgin Galactic, we believe that space is transformational,” said Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier. “We plan to have our first 1,000 customers on board at the start of commercial service later this year, providing an incredibly strong foundation as we begin regular operations and scale our fleet.”

Virgin Galactic is competing with Blue Origin in the space tourism sector. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, also completed a string of crewed test flights last year with a view toward launching a commercial service in the near future.

Both Branson and Bezos say their respective services will open up space to more individuals and, in the words of Bezos, inspire people to create “amazing things that make life better here on Earth.” Critics, on the other hand, say they’re simply turning space into a playground for the super-wealthy with rides that will negatively impact the environment.

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