Space Travel Takes Giant Branson-Fueled Leap

space travel

Taking another step toward space travel for all, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo lit its engine Monday, breaking the sound barrier high above California’s Mojave Air and Space port with billionaire Richard Branson on hand for the event.

“Today was the most significant day in the program,” Branson told NBC News. “I think that for those people who have been good enough to stick with us for the last eight years, who signed up early on, their time to become astronauts is very soon now … We’ll soon be able to make their dreams come true.”

Branson reportedly has 500 would-be space travelers signed up for the $200,000, two-hour flight that will include six minutes of weightlessness.

Confirming the flight and milestone accomplishment, Branson blogged:

“This is a momentous day and the single most important flight test to date for our Virgin Galactic program. What a feeling to be on the ground with all the team in Mojave to witness Virgin Galactic go faster than the speed of sound. It marks the moment when we put together two key elements of our spaceflight system – the spacecraft and its rocket motor, which have both been tested extensively by themselves over several years – and start the phase of testing that will demonstrate our vehicle’s ability to go to space (hopefully later this year).”

On board the first flight with paying passengers will be Virgin frequent fliers, allowed to trade miles for a ride in space.

Virgin Galactic's First Rocket Powered Flight Breaks The Sound Barrier

[Photo credit -MarsScientific.com and Clay Center Observatory]

Richard Branson Makes Airplane Hookups Easier By Letting Travelers Send Each Other Drinks

If you travel when you’re single, the following scenario may sound familiar: You get a friend to drop you off at the airport early, you make it through security and grab a coffee or a pre-trip beer, you wander to your gate and board, scoping out the people around you. You sit down in your seat – damn, how did you get stuck sitting in the middle row again? – and you secretly cross your fingers hoping for someone attractive to sit next to you instead of that overweight man/woman with overgrown nose hairs making their way down the aisle.

Attractive person saunters by. If only you had been in row 30A instead of 28C.

But thanks to Richard Branson, there’s help.

Virgin America is now offering Seat-to-Seat Delivery, making it easy to flirt with that hottie (scare them?) a few rows back by sending them drinks, snacks and even meals. Nothing better than hitting on fellow travelers. Who better to explain how it works than Branson – king of international affairs – himself?

The best part about it? Given the fact that airplane food has become so expensive, your potential mile high club partner probably won’t turn the free drink/food down.

No jokes about salty nuts please.

Johnny Jet feature premiers on the Travel Channel, January 1st

The last time I saw John DiScala – better known as Johnny Jet — was at the JW Marriott tour in Chicago. Exhausted from a day long flight from Helsinki I wandered into a journalist’s dinner at the freshly opened hotel and saw my old friend sitting among a group of eager young writers and polished senior management. As usual, he was lighting up the room and vivaciously engaging with the crowd. Sulking into my seat at the edge of the table I remember thinking to myself that this guy never stops.

The next evening as we quietly listened to the dulcet tones of Emmy Rossum at the opening reception I asked him about his travel schedule. “Something big” was all that he would reveal, something about a travel show that he had in the works and that had a big client behind it.

It turns out that that client was the Travel Channel, and the project was a special covering the hottest destinations for 2012. Airing on the 1st of January at 9PM Eastern, the special features Johnny hop scotching around the planet profiling some of the best upcoming destinations from Necker Island with Richard Branson to the adventure capital of the world in New Zealand.

Reached by phone late this week, Mr DiScala had only excitement to express about the show, suggesting that “some destinations for this feature you would definitely expect – but some might surprise you.” Either way, we’ll be tuning in at Gadling Labs for the premier. You can watch the special at 9PMEastern on the Travel Channel or scattered across the schedule thereafter.

Inside Virgin Galactic’s Gateway to Space (VIDEO)

Yesterday morning, Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, and Richard Branson welcomed guests inside Spaceport America to commemorate and christen the spaceport’s main terminal hangar facility as the ‘Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space’.

Our team on the ground was on hand to capture the festivities, from the opening press conference to the Champagne toast to a spaceport tour. Check out our exclusive video for the details.

Virgin Galactic christens terminal ‘Gateway to Space’ (Photos)

The Montgolfier brothers had Paris. The Wright brothers had Kill Devil Hills. Today, Richard Branson can officially call the New Mexican desert ‘home’ for his burgeoning commercial space line.

This morning, Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez, Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, and Richard Branson welcomed guests inside Spaceport America, to commemorate and christen the Spaceport’s main Terminal Hangar Facility as the ‘Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space’.

In front of a crowd of 800 journalists, future astronauts, and team members responsible for the design & construction of the VSS Enterprise, the spacecraft made a ‘captive carry’ fly-by with mothership White Knight II, before landing on the 10,000 ft. long runway and docking outside Spaceport America’s 47,000 sq. ft hangar.

As flight tests ramp up toward a speculative launch date in 2012 or early 2013, the Spaceport will now serve as the home base of operations for those working to make Virgin Galactic a reality; a date that for some, can’t come soon enough.


%Gallery-136717%


Over 400 passengers have already put down a deposit of $20,000 toward the $200,000 ticket price to be among the first tourists to venture into suborbital space. For these future astronauts, the experience is much more than just taking a trip to space.

At events like the one today, it’s a chance to network and be a part of an elite group that is helping Branson write the next chapter of aviation history. In some ways, it’s the ultimate traveler’s club – a chance of a lifetime for those that can afford to join. Future passengers from all across the globe come to events put on by Virgin Galactic to mingle with former NASA astronauts, politicians, and the Branson family.

Branson’s hope is that it won’t be long before tens of thousands of ordinary humans brave enough to make the trip will be able to afford the flights; and he will have helped forge an entirely new tourism industry.

When operations commence, which could be as soon as 2012 or 2013, passengers will go through a three day training experience at Spaceport America. They’ll undergo g-force testing, weightlessness simulations, and health checks to ensure that they’re fit enough to make the trip to 361,000 ft. Once aboard the 6-seater craft, they will experience up to 4g’s as they rocket toward an apogee inside the thermosphere, before experiencing up to 5 minutes of weightlessness.

There is still much to be done before the passenger experience in New Mexico is fully worked out, but Branson promises that it won’t disappoint. While Galactic has yet to prove itself as a full-fledged business, their customers are excited and there is a sense of enthusiasm from the company as they continue to expand an already impressive list of staff members.

The date on which we’ll witness a powered flight is still uncertain, but it seems as if Branson is determined to keep passing milestones on the way to the history books at a very steady rate; and now with a new home for Galactic, the only way forward is up.