Virgin Galactic space shot is go 'within weeks, not months'

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

That said, there appear to be some serious players in this nascent market, the most prominent of which, aside from Virgin Galactic, are Blue Origin, led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX, run by Elon Musk.

Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, where commercial flights will originate.

Mr Branson's Virgin Group is the parent company of Virgin Galactic, which was founded in 2004 to develop commercial spacecraft for space tourism and space exploration.

"Virgin Australia is very focussed on supporting the mental health of its passengers and team members, and there are very few of us who haven't been directly or indirectly impacted by anxiety".

At full tilt, VSS Unity - the latest instantiation of SpaceShipTwo - should reach speeds in excess of 4000km/hr, or mach 3.2.

But now, Branson says, "We should be in space within weeks, not months".

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"I think the market for people who would love to become astronauts and go to space is enormous".

Tourists will spend several minutes floating in zero gravity, aboard a spaceship that approaches or passes through the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere and space, some 62 miles (100 kilometers) high.

The 67-year-old multi-millionaire was initially expected to take part in a space flight before April this year. "We should be in space within weeks, not months".

"(Prices) are unlikely to ever come down to a point where millions are able to go to space, but we can try to at least bring it down to where tens of thousands of people can become astronauts.

Virgin, meanwhile, offers tickets for $250,000 a pop (but hopes that amount will drop to around $40,000 or $50,000 over the next decade). Despite the $US250,000 ($350,834) price tag, however, some 800 people have bought Virgin Galactic tickets since they went on sale almost 15 years ago.

And don't forget SpaceX, which recently announced a plan to send a paying passenger - and eight others - on a trip around the moon in 2023. Back in 2014, an early version of the Virgin Galactic spaceship crashed in the Mojave Desert and killed one of the co-pilots.

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