Space travel is getting closer and closer, with Virgin Galactic chairman Richard Branson announcing that the company’s first space tourism flight will launch from its New Mexico spaceport next year.

According to a report in The Verge, Branson said that his two adult children, Holly and Sam, would join him on a 60-mile trip aboard the SpaceshipTwo next year, but he did not reveal a more specific date.

SpaceshipTwo: Reuters

Virgin has already said that it has 529 passengers who have already paid $200,000 for a trip in the six-seater SpaceshipTwo, and NASA has also booked one complete flight.

The six-passenger, two-pilot spaceship, currently undergoing testing, is based on Scaled Composites’ prototype SpaceShipOne, which clinched the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 for the first privately-funded human spaceflights.

SpaceShipTwo passengers will experience of few minutes of weightlessness and see the curve of Earth set against the blackness of space before returning back through the atmosphere. NASA’s first two manned spaceflights in 1961, by Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom, were similar suborbital flights.

Virgin Galactic’s initial fleet includes five spaceships and three White Knight carrier aircraft.

With the rise of space tourism, being a trained astronaut is no longer a requirement to travel into space, but there are still strict safety precautions – every passenger is required to undergo a week of training on location in New Mexico prior to their flight.

With inputs from Reuters

Publish date: July 12, 2012 1:30 pm| Modified date: July 12, 2012 1:30 pm

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