POSTED: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - 11:38am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm
Sir Richard Branson is taking his dream of commercial space travel one step closer to reality. On a chilly day in the Mojave Desert, earthlings got their first look at SpaceShipTwo, the Virgin Galactic vehicle that will transport paying customers into space.
Billionaire Sir Richard Branson is financing the push for commercial space travel. "Anybody who saw the moon landing, and I was teenager when it took place, has dreamt of going into space," says Branson. SpaceShipTwo is the cousin of SpaceShipOne, the privately-funded spacecraft that made back-to-back missions to suborbital space in 2004.
With a wing span of 27 feet, 6 passengers and 2 pilots will travel three times the speed of sound to the Earth's sub orbit. The 60-foot long spaceship is a hybrid, part rocket and part glider. It is carried 60,000 feet into the air by mothership named Eve, after Branson's mother. The rocket is then propelled 65 miles into space. But space travel doesn't come cheap. So far, 300 wealthy thrill seekers have paid $200,000 to make the 2.5 hour round trip journey.
Once in space, passengers will be allowed to float in anti-gravity for several minutes. SpaceShipTwo plans to begin test flights early next year, and start commercial flights between 2011 and 2012.