Virgin Galactic opens the space flight market to Japanese travelers

Travel - January 8th, 2014
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You can now boldly go where very few have gone before—if you’ve got $250,000 to spare, that is.

The once-in-a-lifetime trip is exclusively being offered to the Japanese market by Club Tourism Space Tours, Inc., by a Tokyo-based travel agency for the price of 25 million yen a seat on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which is owned by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Lucky space tourists will spend three days preparing at Spaceport America in New Mexico before launching into space aboard the the eight-seater Virgin Galactic, which will be taken aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier craft. At 15,000 meters above Earth, SpaceShipTwo will detach from the carrier craft and then climb as high as 100,000 meters, where passengers can experience four minutes of zero gravity and be treated to spectacular views of the planet.

The spacecraft will then glide back down to the airport to complete the two-hour celestial tour, with passengers transformed. “You come back as an astronaut,” says Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic’s commercial director.

Virgin Galactic has already booked about 600 people from around the world, including 18 Japanese, according to Club Tourism International Inc.

Branson’s private space-tourism company estimates that approximately 30,000 customers will participate in the space flight program in the next decade. CTI figures about 900 Japanese will book a tour.

The first commercial spaceflights are slated to launch late this year. Although it won’t go as high as the International Space Station, “we know it will blow people away,” Attenborough says. “And it’s a doable first step.”

If you’re reluctant to open up your wallet, this video might inspire you to take the leap:

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Jeff Foust/Flickr