Virgin Galactic opens ticket sales for space tourism ride

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

Virgin Galactic announced this week that it will open another round of ticket sales on Wednesday, February 16 for its suborbital space tourism ride, giving those with money the chance to waste their money on an experience they’ll likely never forget.

The company has not given a specific date for its first commercial flight to the edge of space, but says it plans to get the first 1,000 customers on board its rocket-powered aircraft later this year.

It seems unlikely that anyone buying a ticket now will be in that group, given that about 600 people are ahead of them in line after paying $250,000 (yes, the price of a seat has skyrocketed) in an earlier phase of the ticket sales that ended in 2014.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson tested the hardware ahead of commercial launch and made a sub-orbital flight aboard the VSS Unity spaceplane in July.

The experience includes being released from a carrier plane at 50,000 feet, a short rocket ride to the Kármán Line (a point 62 miles above the Earth that is widely regarded as where space begins), great views of the Earth, several minutes of weightlessness in 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 preparation activities before settling into their seats for the 90-minute experience.

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

Virgin Galactic competes with Blue Origin in the space tourism sector. Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, also completed a series of manned test flights last year with a view to launching a commercial service in the near future.

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

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