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Richard Branson On Hand To Open Spaceport America's First Runway

October 25, 2010 at 9:05 AM | by | ()

A spaceship that can fly on its own needs a runway for takeoffs and landings, and so Virgin Galactic now has one of those too. The company's head honcho Richard Branson was joined last Friday by Governor Bill Richardson to formally inaugurate the much-anticipated runway of the much-anticipated spaceport in the New Mexico desert. That would be the much-anticipated commercial spaceport, built specifically to shuttle space tourists back and forth.

We're not quite there yet, because the VSS Enterprise - having completed that drop flight two weeks ago - still needs to undergo further work. Rocket testing has to be done, and nobody's actually flown the thing into space yet. But with updates now coming every month and half a month, it's not hard to squint into the future and see a time when space tourism actually becomes a capital-t Thing. The official estimate is 9 months to 18 months, give or take a few.

Meanwhile details are firming up about what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to get. The $200,000 per seat price tag has been floating around for a while, and that's now confirmed. In exchange you get a two and a half hour flight with about 5 minutes of weightlessness. That's obviously a bit extravagant, but 380 people have already signed up and more than $50 million in deposits have been collected.

It's never a good idea to be gushingly optimistic, since commercial flight technology can always move in reverse. The Concorde, to take one very sad example, currently lives in Jaunted's Throwback Travel section. But Richard Branson doesn't often make bad bets, and we assume that he glanced at a couple of Excel spreadsheets before making the decision to sign onto a mother-effing spaceport in the middle of the desert. So we're hopeful.

[Photo: AllenS / Wiki Commons]

Related Stories:
· Branson opens spaceport runway [SMH]
· Science Travel [Jaunted]
· Space Tourism [Jaunted]

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