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Tourists may blast into space soon

July 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you have a couple hundred thousand dollars and would like to fly into space for a few minutes, billionaire Sir Richard Branson may have the spaceship for you.At the Mojave Air and Space Port, the dream of regular people getting a chance to go into space took a giant step forward on Monday.

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Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Spaceship One designer Burt Rutan unveiled their newest historic project: The White Knight Two.

The aircraft debuted at the Mojave Air and Space Port Monday morning. It was designed to carry Spaceship Two along with thousands of passengers like you and me, for a trip into sub-orbital space.

"That's the only thing that's really been missing in the full year since 1961, when men first left the atmosphere," said Burt Rutan. "It's the only thing that's been missing is an opportunity for the public to enjoy what these astronauts say is life-changing."

Branson and Rutan say that this rocket ship is much, much bigger than the one that ferried Spaceship One into space four years ago while the White Knight Two was still in the testing phase.

Branson is hoping it will be ready to load private passengers for a historic flight into space within the next few years.

"We will then do extensive tests and do many, many, many flights into space before we put any passengers on board," said Branson. "And once we're 100 percent comfortable that it's safe to fly and that we're going to give people a return ticket, then I'll be taking my parents and my children up there, and Burt will be coming with us. And then the whole program will start."

Branson says Spaceship Two is still in the design phase and should be ready to roll out in about a year. He says it will be able to carry about a half-dozen or more passengers. A ticket on this flight will cost about $200,000.

Branson says about 200 or more people are already lined up to get a coveted spot on that aircraft to take that historic flight.

 

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