The Ultimate Tourist Destination, Spaceflight, Is One More Step Closer To Reality

by SharonKurheg

People get excited about traveling to certain places. Disney World. New York. Paris. London. Australia. Israel. Mt. Fuji. The mountains. Going camping. But the one place that might churn some peoples’ blood more than anything is a destination that we can’t go to yet – but it’s getting closer every day and is, to coin a phrase, “out of this world.”

Of course, I’m talking about space flight.

Sir Richard Branson, he of Virgin “Just About Everything” (Atlantic, Trains, Trains USA, Express, Hotels, etc.) has been working on Virgin Galactic since 2004. In fact, we wrote last year about their successful powered test flight over the Mohave Desert.

At the time, Branson and his Virgin Galactic team hoped to begin commercial flights by the end of that year. They didn’t quite reach that goal, but they’re still working towards it, and now they even have a place they will call home.

Yep, Virgin Galactic is moving their personnel and space vehicles from California to a launch and landing facility in the desert of southern New Mexico, in a town in Sierra County called Truth or Consequences (population 6,411). Branson said the program’s development had advanced enough to make the move.

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The manufacturer of the space vehicles, The Spaceship Company (which is owned by Virgin Galactic), will remain based on Mojave, California at this time.

In February 2019, SpaceShipTwo, the newest version of Virgin Galactic’s winged craft, flew at 3x the speed of sound to an altitude just shy of 56 miles in a test flight over Southern California, as a crew member evaluated the passenger experience.

That latest flight, plus the move to New Mexico, signals how very close the operation is to providing space travel to paying customers (there are several hundred on the waiting list, including Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Bieber), but while Branson says he would like to make his first sub-orbital flight on July 20, 2019 (the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing), Virgin Galactic’s CEO is a little more close-lipped about time frames.

Time will tell.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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