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Virgin Galactic Has Hired Its Pilots

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A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel and a former NASA space shuttle commander have been hired to fly space tourists in Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, the company has announced. Michael "Sooch" Masucci has 30 years of civilian and military operational and test flying, according to the company, has served as a U-2 pilot with the Air Force and has flown 70 different types, including gliders. Frederick "CJ" Sturckow has 26 years of military flight experience, flew as commander of two Space Shuttle missions and has logged 1,200 hours in space. The men are currently training to operate commercial suborbital space flights, carrying passengers for $200,000 per ticket.

Virgin Galactic aims to be the world's first commercial spaceflight operator. The company says it has so far accepted "more than $70 million in deposits" from about 580 people. If all those people are able to fly with the company, they will succeed in more than doubling the amount of people ever to have flown in space. Virgin Galactic passengers will be flown six at a time aboard SpaceShipTwo in which they will experience "out-of-the-seat, zero-gravity" with views of earth and space. The company plans to operate from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

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