Space Tourism: Becoming a Reality

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Spaceships in front of Spaceport America.

Higher Calling

Virgin Galactic is on its way to introducing the first tourist spaceflights.

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SpaceShipTwo gliding in flight.
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo at the FAITH hangar.

Space tourism got one small step closer to reality with SpaceShipTwo’s third rocket-powered test flight in January 2014. Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft hit Mach 1.4 and broke its previous altitude records, climbing to 71,000 feet. It was also the first powered flight flown by the spaceline’s chief pilot, Dave Mackay, who will be at the controls when some 680 ticketed passengers climb aboard the six-passenger spaceship.

“I have watched SpaceShipTwo evolve over the years into an incredible vehicle that is going to open up space to more people than ever before,” says Mackay. “To be behind the controls and fly it as the rocket ignited is something I will never forget.”
 
Mackay and fellow pilot Mark Stucky also checked off a successful test of the control system that will allow pilots to maneuver in space to provide passengers with the best views of Earth below. “I couldn’t be happier to start 2014 with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full spaceflights,” says Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson. “This will be the year when we finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment.”

Virtuoso’s accredited space agents are the exclusive North American travel advisors for Virgin Galactic flights.
 
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, March 2014.

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Pilot Dave Mackay.