Richard Branson Dedicates Launchpad for Space Tourism

Sir Richard Branson has dedicated the Launchpad for his space tourism venture in the New Mexico desert. The British billionaire held an event at the world’s first built-from-scratch commercial spaceport where New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined the crowd of onlookers.

The space tourism venture will include a two-and-a-half hour flight that will offer five minutes of weightlessness and cost $200,000. Test flights are scheduled to take place in 2012 and Sir Richard says that he hopes the Virgin Galactic commercial flights would begin soon after.

The project’s maiden flight was originally expected to take place in 2007, but many delays have set that deadline back significantly. Despite this, onlookers at the recent event were excited to see a flyover of Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft WhiteKnightTwo. The last time Sir Richard visited the $209 million Spaceport America was one year ago when the runway was completed. The Spaceport America was partly financed by taxpayers.

On Monday, Sir Richard told the crowd of around 150, many of whom already bought tickets for the flights, “The building is absolutely magnificent. It is literally out of this world, and that’s what we were aiming at creating.”

Sir Richard has told the media that he and his children will be some of the first passengers, but that he needed to be certain he could bring them home safely. “We want to be sure we’ve really tested the craft through and through before turning it over to the astronauts who bought tickets to go up. If it takes a bit longer, we’ll take a little bit longer.”

Source: BBC News