The price of a trip into space with Virgin Galactic could fall to under £60,000 in the next six years, according to former president of Virgin Galactic Will Whitehorn.
Speaking at the Advantage conference in Madrid, Whitehorn said space travel would become more affordable than the current $200,000 price tag, but was unlikely to fall below £60,000.
He said: “My colleagues at Virgin Galactic are going to make that a priority. It should come down below $100,000 – some people pay that for a cruise. The aim is to carry 50,000 people over the next six years.”
Whitehorn left Virgin Galactic earlier this year but remains a consultant. He was replaced by former Nasa head of staff George Whitesides.
He was involved from the formation of the company in 2004 and was responsible for the design and investment. He recalled: “We had to prove there was a business case for space tourism. We set up a website and soon we had 800,000 registrations and 100 customers who paid a deposit.
“The word of the web sold this – we had no money to spend on marketing. We set up Space Book for our customers to have discussions in closed walled environments.”
Among the first 100 to sign up were opera singer Sarah Brightman and designer Phillipe Stark. The experience includes three days of training, but the actual trip into space lasts just two and a half hours.
Those who can’t afford the fare can content themselves with a trip to Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport in New Mexico, designed by Fosters and Partners, which will eventually become a tourist attraction.
Whitehorn predicted that travel would take place outside the Earth’s atmosphere in years to come.
“Travel will have to be outside the atmosphere in the next thirty years. You could do London to Sydney in 2.5 hours. There’s never going to be another Concorde. To get back to the exciting days of travel you have to be outside the atmosphere.”
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