28 May 1998
Media - Tourism (Good)
Richard Branson confirms Virgin is aiming for space tourism
"I want Virgin to be at the heart of it"
by Patrick Collins
Richard Branson, Founder and Chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways, spoke on the Discovery Channel on May 11 about his plans to offer space trips to the public, which he has mentioned before. "Never has the idea of space travel been more popular and most of us dream that we might just see the Earth from space during our lifetime. The exciting thing about technological development is that it can rapidly make the seemingly impossible become reality and nowhere is that more true than transport."

"During the next two years we will assess all the different programmes to put people in space on a commercial basis, and would hope that by 2010 Virgin will be offering the dream trip of a lifetime."

As pointed out elsewhere in Space Future, like the early days of aviation, passenger space travel is in an exciting phase where wealthy individuals can play a major role, do something of great interest to the general public - and change history at the same time. For example Tom Clancy and Walt Anderson have invested in Rotary Rocket, one of the new companies developing a reusable launch system. Richard Branson could take a similar step and back a company to develop passenger space travel services.

Branson said that he will "...focus fully on his plans for space travel once he has made another attempt to fly round the world in a hot air balloon later this year".

Fingers crossed that it goes better than his last three balloon flights, which all involved narrow escapes from death! As someone has said: "His best friend ought to tell him to give up his dangerous hobby of ballooning - and do something safe like going to space!"

The Express newspaper's editorial commented that "[Nothing] seems likely to dampen his determination to be the first offering tours in space."

Well, if he's only targeting 2010, he certainly won't be the first company to offer sub-orbital flights - and maybe not orbital trips either. Virgin better get their skates on - it's a competitive world out there!

Source: The Express, April 30; Discovery Channel May 11

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Patrick Collins 28 May 1998
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