Here’s How to Book a Flight to Space

VSS Unity interior 12 photos
Photo: Virgin Galactic
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By the end of the decade humanity will probably have its first tourists in space. That is people who don’t have an actual business there other than sightseeing and experiment something just a tiny fraction of humans got to experience so far.
We kind of lost track of how many companies are trying to take people to space. That’s because most of them came and went, or got lost along the way, and only three managed to stay afloat and advance their plans: SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.

Virgin is the perhaps the most tourist-oriented of the bunch. Richard Branson’s company was founded with space tourism in mind, unlike what the brainchildren of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are doing. And it’s very close to actual commercial space flight, too.

Back in July, Virgin unveiled the interior of the SpaceShipTwo, or VSS Unity, as it’s also called. Eight people in all (including the pilot and co-pilot) will be able to get on board and travel to the edge of space for the ultimate thrills. But how does one get on board?

First and foremost, you should know that at this time there’s no clear date when Virgin Galactic will begin flying paying customers beyond Earth’s borders. The company is hard at work flight testing the spaceship, but an official announcement on when civilians would be allowed on board has yet to be made.

SpaceShipTwo interior
Photo: Virgin Galactic
With that out of the way, the first thing you should do is start saving up. Although an official price for a ticket to space and back is not known, Branson himself repeatedly said it will be above $250,000, including flight training. A range of prices, depending on unknow criteria, is however in the works.

Virgin’s website is accepting entries from those “serious about becoming an astronaut.” And the only people considered serious in our world are those willing to pay upfront. So, a $1,000 refundable deposit (called registration fee, but that’s semantics) has to be paid before moving any further. That, and a registration form that needs to be filled out.

Once these two steps are completed, you’re in the club, sort of speak. Virgin promises to put you “to the front of the line for new seats when they become available.” Only when that happens, you’ll be contacted to confirm your desire to travel to space.

The reservation fee step was only recently introduced by Virgin as a result of “unprecedented reservation interest.” The company says there are now “many thousands of reservations” - 600 of them taken before the ship’s first test flight in space in late 2018.

To be able to register for a flight to space, you must be over 18. Only payments in US dollars are accepted.

Earth seen from VSS Unity
Photo: Virgin Galactic
As for the training program tourist astronauts will have to go through, Virgin announced that in 2019, without providing any specifics, apart from the fact that it will be far less demanding than those developed by NASA and the likes. Also, no mention as to the medical requirements of a wannabe-astronaut has been made.

As for the ship that would be used, Unity is the second in the SpaceShipTwo line. The first one, VSS Enterprise, was destroyed during a deadly crash in 2014. Two years later, the Unity was unveiled.

We’re talking a horizontal take-off plane-like ship that launches at 50,000 feet (15 km) from the underbelly of a two-bodied carrier aircraft. This allows it to avoid having to beat the pull of Earth’s gravity, saving fuel and money, but also avoids placing tons of explosive substances right under the bottoms of the paying customers.

In December 2018, Unity reached an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7 km), crossing the border into space while carrying three people. That flight was “the first human spaceflight to be launched from American soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011.”
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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