A Sydney travel agent has become one of the first travel agencies in the world to sell tickets to space.And space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic flights is at a premium, with fares selling for $260,000 for a three-hour trek into the black.
Travel Media Group Pty Ltd, which owns Harvey World Travel offices in Mosman and Manly, is one of the first travel agents in the world to have been appointed official agents to Virgin Galactic, which is preparing to launch its sub-orbital space flights late in 2008.
Agency owner Gil McLachlan said a number of Australians had already signed up and he was confident there were many more adventurous, cashed-up Sydneysiders keen to join the flight of a lifetime.
“We’re now taking bookings and we’re confident we’ll sell quite a few tickets for the early flights,” Mr McLachlan said.
Branson’s tailor-made suborbital plane will blast six passengers and two pilots 100km above the earth - or more than seven times higher than conventional planes, enabling passengers to see the earth’s curvature through extra large windows while experiencing moments of weightlessness.
Mr McLachlan said the spacecraft would be released from a futuristic mother ship at 50,000 feet.
“At that point it will accelerate under its own power to more than 2000 feet per second and an altitude of 350,000 feet before shutting down to allow passengers to enjoy the sensation of weightlessness in the utter silence of space with mother earth glowing below.
“Re-entry is expected to be something of an anti-climax with a slow, feathered return to terra firma and none of the heat problems suffered by the space shuttle.”
Mr McLachlan said health requirements imposed by Virgin Galactic had been flexible enough to enable bookings to be accepted from passengers aged in their seventies.
“Many of the first passengers are baby boomers who still feel the spark of romance ignited in their childhood by the first images of man on the moon”, he added. “Once the price comes down and the flights are established we expect the experience will attract thousands of Australians.”
Flights will take off from Mojave in the US desert until a $US220 million space port is completed in New Mexico for takeoffs from 2011 on, with Richard Branson and his two children joining the first departure.
The $260,000 intergalactic ticket includes three days of space training prior to the flight on one of Branson’s five space ships.