PHOTO: Virgin Galactic is getting very close to space. (photo via Flickr/Jeff Foust)
Virgin Galactic will whisk you into space by 2018. That’s remarkable when you consider we pleasantly reside in 2017, a year sadly devoid of regular space tourism.
The Telegraph picks out some intriguing parts of Richard Branson’s recent interview with the publication’s James Quinn.
The entire article is a wonderful examination of Branson and the state of the company amid topics such as Virgin America’s sale and Brexit. Apropos to would-be space adventurers is the section centered on Virgin Galactic, Virgin Group’s embattled space tourism arm.
Branson, for his part, sounds absolutely optimistic: “The test program is going really well, and as long as we’ve got our brave test pilots pushing it to the limit we think that after whatever it is, 12 years of hard work, we’re nearly there.”
Cautious to give a date, Branson outlined a year that is within the realm of possibility: “Well we stopped giving dates. But I think I’d be very disappointed if we’re not into space with a test flight by the end of the year and I’m not into space myself next year and the program isn’t well underway by the end of next year.”
As outlined in the article, Virgin Galactic has indeed had its issues, namely, one pilot died while another was badly injured when a SpaceShip Two rocket exploded in California’s Mojave Desert back in 2014 .
As outlined by Quinn, NASA chief of staff George Whitesides has been brought into the fold and safety has been of the utmost importance for a reinvigorated program.
500 people remain on the reservation list, so there is definitely a consumer base for a space tourism industry that is to this point relatively hypothetical.
READ MORE: Space: Tourism’s Final Frontier
Yet, any incredulity over flying into space as part of an extravagant holiday seems to be slowly fading. Branson promises he will board an initial flight, and he also recently offered to finally send Stephen Hawking on a trip out of this world.
There is also a competitor to Branson’s Virgin Galactic that is close to reaching beyond the skies: Elon Musk is as fervent in his aim for an industry beyond this atmosphere. His SpaceX has vowed to soar around the moon with tourists by 2018.
So it may not even be a matter of when or whom for space tourism. Reaching the ultimate in destinations is well within reach very soon.