In what could either end up as either a key moment in the history of space travel or a snapshot of one really, really rich man’s intergalactic folly, bearded billionaire Richard Branson was on hand in New Mexico for a ceremony to celebrate work being done on the first Virgin Galactic spaceport.
The dedication of Spaceport America, the first facility in the world designed specifically to launch commercial spacecraft, comes hot on the heels of a successful test flight of the ship Virgin Galactic intends to use for its flights.
Said Branson at the ceremony, also attended by New Mexico governor Bill Richardson:
Today is very personal as our dream becomes more real… People are beginning to believe now. I think the drop flight two weeks ago, which went beautifully, I think it made people sit up and realize this is really reality.
Each flight we make, we’ll learn more, we’ll experience, we’ll open up more opportunities that we cannot even conceive of today… This history, we’re making it right now.
After much speculation, Virgin confirmed on Friday that seats on suborbital trips aboard SpaceShipTwo will go for $200,000 each. For that, you get 2.5 hours on the rocketship thingy, but only about 5 minutes of weightlessness.
The company says that 380 customers have already made deposits totaling more than $50 million for trips on board Virgin Galactic flights, which could begin as soon as 9-18 months from now.
No word on whether or not there will be a checked-bag fee.