Virgin Blue and Virgin Galactic have announced an agreement whereby two pilots now flying for Virgin Blue could become astronaut pilots of the future. All of Virgin Blue’s 572 pilots are invited to apply for the 27 month secondment to train as fully-fledged astronaut pilots and fly space tourists on the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo from 2008/9 onwards.
Virgin Blue Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, already one of the first space tourists booked to fly into outer space, said he was thrilled to offer the historic opportunity to his pilot team.
“It is simply an amazing opportunity for two people somewhere out there now flying our planes to make history as part of the team of astronaut pilots to fly the world’s first sightseeing tours into outer space. I am delighted to be able to offer it, I only wish I could fly!” he said
Richard Branson, President of Virgin Blue, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Galactic, said: “We are thrilled to involve Virgin Blue and Australia and I hope all of the Virgin Blue pilots apply. It is an extraordinary opportunity to be at the forefront of space exploration.”
The successful candidates will relocate to the USA and will undergo highly specialized training including nine months of aerobatic, fast jet and executive aircraft for zero gravity flights training. They will then spend the next nine months flying the Virgin Galactic mother ship and participating in Mission Control work - the last nine months will be spent flying Virgin Galactic Spaceships into space. Once they have completed their 27 month secondment they will return to Virgin Blue as Australia’s first qualified pilot astronauts.
Stephen Attenborough, Head of Astronaut Relations, Virgin Galactic, commented: “We are really excited to be able to include Virgin Blue; the successful pilots will take their place as part of a pioneering team in commercial space flight.”
“This announcement comes as Virgin Galactic also kicks off a nationwide search for a travel agent to exclusively represent us in the Australasian region.
“Hundreds of Australians have already registered directly with Virgin Galactic as future astronauts and as enthusiasm builds we are ready to appoint our first agent representative.
“This is a unique opportunity for the right Australian travel agent, and whether big or small, we are inviting interested companies to apply with their credentials to [email protected],” he said.
From 2008 Virgin Galactic http://www.virgingalactic.com expects to have around 30 astronaut pilots. Half of the astronaut pilots will be recruited from NASA with the other half selected from the Virgin airlines group including Virgin Blue, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Nigeria, Virgin Express and Virgin America.
Virgin Galactic is a company established by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of developing space tourism for everybody on earth. It will own and operate privately built spaceships, modelled on the history-making SpaceShipOne craft and will offer affordable sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in history.