- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

From combined dispatches

A former electrician from North London has decided to use his Virgin Atlantic Airways frequent-flier miles for more than a weekend in New York, some new luggage or nights in a hotel. He’s going to space.

Alan Watts will be among the first 1,000 persons to travel to space when he flies in 2009, the airline said yesterday. He earned the 2 million air miles required to make the trip by taking more than 30 Virgin Atlantic flights in his role as managing director of an electrical engineering firm.

The 51-year-old will travel with Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company set up by British billionaire Richard Branson, who also owns the airline. The first space trips will cost $200,000, and test flights are scheduled for early next year.

During the trip, Mr. Watts will travel for half an hour at more then 3,000 miles an hour to a point 75 miles above Earth, where he will float in the zero-gravity atmosphere, the company said.

Mr. Branson showed off the spacecraft’s interior yesterday. He said the technology developed for the vehicle, which is being built in California’s Mojave Desert, could be used in airplanes and eventually could allow people to travel between London and Sydney in half an hour.

Said to be as environmentally friendly as possible, the small spacecraft will transport six passengers and two pilots.

The craft’s white, minimalist interior has seats that recline to allow for a less jolting re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and several round windows positioned from floor to ceiling.

Tens of thousands of people have expressed an interest in the Virgin voyage, and 200 have already made a deposit, the company said.

Mr. Branson said “$200,000 is obviously still too expensive, but we’ve got lots of pioneers willing to pay.”

“Our vision is to successfully build the world’s first environmentally benign space launch system and prove once and for all the commercial viability of a safe space-launch system that we believe will eventually be capable of taking payload and science into space as well as people,” he said.

As part of its goal of making space travel more accessible, Virgin Galactic plans to offer group rates, and wants to start a reality television show and a lottery that will offer winners spaceflights.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide