Virgin Galactic and Omaze release details for space flight sweepstakes

12 Jul 2021

VSS Unity in space during Unity22 test flight. Image: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic is hosting a sweepstakes for a suborbital flight in an effort to remove the financial barriers from the space experience.

After landing from his suborbital flight yesterday (11 July), founder of the Virgin Group Richard Branson released the details of plans for a space flight sweepstakes.

Partnered with charity fundraising platform Omaze, the pairing are offering two tickets that will bring members of the public into space.

Along with the flight, this includes suborbital flight training, a tour of Virgin’s Spaceport in Las Cruces, New Mexico, accommodation and transport to the spaceport.

Entry is now open and will remain so until 1 September. With an approximate retail value of $510,000 and an estimated flight in early 2022, the fulfillment date is stated as no later than 18 months from closing – putting the journey at March 2023 at the very latest.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all and we want to turn the next generation of dreamers into the astronauts of today and tomorrow […] Today Virgin Galactic is thrilled to announce that we have  partnered with Omaze to open space for everyone,” said Branson.

“Every donation supports a charity called Space for Humanity and you’ll be entered into the Omaze sweepstakes for the chance to win not one, but two seats aboard one of the first commercial Virgin Galactic spaceflights and a guided tour of Spaceport America given by yours truly.”

The charity Space for Humanity will receive all donations from the sweepstakes. Its goal is “cultivating a movement to expand access to space for all of humanity”.

This includes its Sponsored Citizen Astronaut Programme, where it aims to achieve the overview effect in its participants – a cognitive reappraisal of life that occurs upon seeing the Earth from space.

Entry to the Virgin sweepstakes is free, but participants can enter multiple times through a donation system. Priced at 10 entries per dollar and with a double entry system after 1,000 entries, the maximum number of entries possible is 6,000 per participant.

The company specifies that the winners of the space flight sweepstakes may be required to pass medical requirements, including having received certain vaccinations.

Those who have not received their Covid-19 vaccination may be refused, in which case another winner would be randomly drawn.

Branson said: “The exciting thing about this is that if enough people all over the world participate it just means the charity can keep on doing tickets for people.”

The competition for commercial space flight is ongoing, with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos due to fly with Blue Origins on 20 July.

Tensions arose after Blue Origins tweeted that 96pc of the world considered the Kármán line as the boundary of space – a height that the Virgin Galactic voyage did not cross in its flight.

Nevertheless, Bezos congratulated Branson on a successful landing, commenting that he “can’t wait to join the club”.

SpaceX’s Elon Musk showed similar support, pictured with Branson before the launch and tweeting his congratulations after.

Sam Cox was a journalist at Silicon Republic covering sci-tech news