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First Virgin Civilians in Space: Scientists

The plans the eccentric Sir Richard Branson has to be the first to put civilians into outer space is closer and closer to becoming a reality. Virgin Galactic, the company put in charge with this audacious plan announced today that the first batch of non-military humans to be flown into space would be a group of... scientists.

The group of people, comprised so far of only two people, will come from the Southwest Research Institute, or SwRI (the reason for this tiny crew is the fact that SwRI only paid the trip for two of its employees). A payment for an extra six members of the expedition is expected to be made shortly (in all, SwRI will pay $1.6 million for the honor of being the first organization, other than NASA, to send its people out there).

The scientists, which will be flown to an altitude of over 100 kilometers, or 328,000 feet, will use the opportunity to scientific experiments developed by its in-house technical staff.

The first scientists to fly Virgin into space will then be able to help their colleagues from other organizations to develop and conduct their experiments in zero G.

“This agreement signals the enormous scientific potential of the Virgin spaceflight system. Virgin Galactic will be able to offer researchers flights to space that are unprecedented in frequency and cost,” said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO.

“Science flights will be an important growth area for the company in the years to come, building on the strong commercial success already demonstrated by deposits received from over 400 individuals for Virgin’s space experience.”


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