Branson shines his rocket

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s lifelong dream of offering commercial space travel to the rich and famous has taken one small step to becoming reality today, as he publicly unveiled his new Virgin Galactic shuttle.

The British billionaire was beaming from ear to ear as he proudly described how the so-called “SpaceShipTwo” – the product of his recent collaboration with renowned aviation designer Burt Rutan – will take passengers on a thrilling 3-hour journey almost into space, before returning back to the ground once more.

The exciting new venture is set to revolutionise commercial travel across the globe, but be warned – ticket prices start from an incredible £130,000, so you’ll need to be pretty wealthy if you wish to travel nearly as far as space in this lifetime!

SpaceShipTwo’s maiden voyage into the deep skies is expected to include Sir Richard and his family, along with super-rich stargazers such as environmental scientist James Lovelock, wheelchair physics wizard Stephen Hawking, quantum celebrity Uri Geller and Arab billionaire playboy Saleh Abdullah Kamel.

The vessel is almost twice the size of its predecessor and can comfortably accommodate up to six passengers on any one flight, and, with the addition of windows, promises to give fabulous panoramic views for those privileged (and wealthy) enough to fly on board. It is thought that the craft may one day fly as far as space itself, although for the moment it is planned to fly into the Earth’s outer atmosphere, which, according to the entrepreneur is “as good as” space.

Speaking from the Mojave Desert in California, wearing a specially-designed Virgin Galactic machine washable spacesuit, Sir Richard said: “I’ve been really eager to get this project off the ground, so to speak, for quite some time. In the end I decided I wasn’t going to wait until the technology was developed to get right into actual space itself, so we pressed ahead with this craft, which gets people in the same ballpark, if not actually there as such. I have been dreaming about it ever since the Moon landing – that one day I would get the chance to go fairly near space.

“NASA, I suppose, didn’t think that ordinary people like you or me would like to go into somewhere pretty much similar to space,” he added, “but if anyone had £130,000 to spare I’m pretty sure they’d rather invest in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a couple of hours exploring the bit just before where space begins as opposed to paying off the mortgage or starting their own business.”

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