Virgin Galactic Space Tourists In Training
Sir Richard Branson is among the latest graduates of a two-day training program for space tourists. Future passengers who have reserved seats to fly into space aboard SpaceShipTwo have started their training at the National Aerospace Training and Research Center, a private company based in Bucks County, Pa. Sir Richard Branson completed his course this week. "It was an amazing experience," he said. "I really felt like I was launching into space." About 60 of the first 100 Virgin Galactic customers have completed the two-day course, which exposes students to simulated flight conditions and G-forces. The course is as much about anxiety reduction as it is about physiological training, says Dick Leland, president of the NASTAR Center. "You can practice what you will feel on the actual launch, so when that day comes, you can say to yourself, 'Hey, I've experienced this before, and I did just fine. I think I'll look out the window and enjoy my ride.'" The test flight program for SpaceShipTwo and its launch aircraft WhiteKnightTwo is expected to begin next summer, with the first flight into space in the following year.
Commercial operations are expected to begin from Spaceport America, in New Mexico, once all test flying is successfully completed and the FAA has issued the OK to fly. Others who took the course this week with Branson were his son Sam; Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic; Alan Watts, who earned a flight aboard SpaceShipTwo by cashing in his Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer miles; and scientist James Lovelock.