Start the space tourism countdown
Insight by George T Whitesides
Everyone wants to know when Virgin Galactic will take its maiden passenger flight. Well, we think we’ve got a very good shot of flying Richard by the end of this year, and I’m as excited about that as anyone – before I joined the company as CEO, I was actually a customer. Yep, I bought a couple of tickets early on.
So is Virgin Galactic an American or British company, then? It’s both. It’s international. Sure, the tech is primarily US-based – centred in Mojave, with operations to be down in New Mexico – but the UK is where the company was incubated, where the first employees were based, and where the commercial office is. We also hired our designer from Virgin Atlantic; he did the Upper Class suite and we’re trying to bring that design language into our vehicle, both in the spaceship interiors and the Space Port.
While Virgin may be ahead in the “space tourism” race, what we’ve discovered is that – guess what? – putting someone in space is really hard. There are rival companies trying to roll out new vehicles, but I would hope it will take them a few years before they feel comfortable putting somebody on one. It’s so important for the industry that we get off on