Virgin Galactic Shows Off New Space Plane's Cabin
Richard Branson may have been set to sell $400 million of his shares in his space tourism firm Virgin Galactic in recent times, owing to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on his business empire.
But the company's much ballyhooed 'space plane' is still on track, and now we can have our first look at the futuristic vehicle. Images of the craft were revealed earlier today (28 July), providing us with a first look at the cabin - and it looks pretty cool.
Flashy custom seats? Check. Some sort of weird 'space mirror'? Check. Portholes providing a look into the endless darkness of infinity? That's three times we get to say 'check'.
Naturally, this is no budget travel firm. Tickets will set you back $250,000 (£193,000) a go, but any would-be passengers willing to splash the cash on a suborbital flight aboard the air-launched plane VSS Unity will strap into tailored, teal-coloured seats as they soar some 60 miles (97 km) above the surface of the Earth.
There are 12 windows in the passenger section, but of course the plane has five other windows up front. Well, you'd want them to be able to see where they're going, wouldn't you?
Virgin Galactic Chief Space Officer George Whitesides told Reuters: "We have amazing seats that will be tailored to each person, and that move during the flight to maximize people's comfort," before adding that passengers can unbuckle themselves at peak altitude to float around the cabin in zero-gravity conditions.
The company has 600 customers signed up to fly and more than 400 more who have expressed interest, Whitesides said. Sounds a bit like trying to get on my bus in rush hour.
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The company has not set a firm date for its first commercial space flight, with its British founder Branson expected to be aboard.
The cabin, revealed in a virtual-reality headset the company provided to journalists - oi Richard, gizza go - also features a large, circular mirror in the back 'to allow our customers to see themselves in space in a way that has really never been done before,' Whitesides said.
The plane, attached to a bigger carrier plane, will launch from the company's New Mexico spaceport and detach mid-air to as it propels itself space-wards.
The trip lasts around 90 minutes - I'm no mathematician, but my calculator tells me that's a total of $2,700 (£2,085) per minute, which again sounds a bit like my bus journey home.
Stephen Attenborough, Virgin Galactic's Commercial Director, said: "We have been greatly encouraged by the ongoing and increasing demand seen from around the world for personal spaceflight.
"One Small Step allows us to help qualify and build confidence in our direct sales pipeline, as well as to ensure that those who are most keen to make reservations, are able to do so at the earliest opportunity."
Some of those who have already signed up and bought tickets for the very first flight include Leonardo DiCaprio and singer Justin Bieber.
If you fancy it (and have a spare quarter of a mil) you can apply by visiting the official website, here.
Featured Image Credit: Handout