Actor Ashton Kutcher is the latest person to sign up to fly on Virgin Galactic’s first ever space voyage as an astronaut tourist, Richard Branson has revealed in his blog.
In his blog post, Branson said that Kutcher is the 500h customer to sign up for the sub-orbital space flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
Virgin is planning to test fly a spacecraft beyond the earth’s atmosphere sometime in 2012. It anticipates that its commercial passenger service will follow in 2013 or 2014.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has been built to carry six customers and two pilots on sub-orbital space flights, allowing for an out-of-the-seat zero gravity experience. People can fork out around US$200,000 for a seat for a few minutes of weightlessness on the spacecraft.
Branson said he would be on the first commercial flight along with his kids.
Writing on his Blog, Branson said: "I gave Ashton a quick call to congratulate and welcome him. He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space."
The new spaceship vehicle, otherwise known as the VSS Enterprise, and Mothership (VMS Eve) are both being developed for Virgin Galactic by Mojave-based Scaled Composites. Founded by Burt Rutan, Scaled developed SpaceShipOne, which claimed the $10m Ansari X Prize as the world’s first privately developed manned spacecraft in 2004. Northrop Grumman now owns Scaled Composites.
"We are guided by safety and so will ensure that everything is just as safe as it can possibly be before we start commercial services – particularly as I will be on the first commercial flight with my kids!" added Branson.