May 28, 2023

Not long after Richard Branson re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday, he and other employees at his Virgin Galactic company boasted that the company would greatly expand the opportunities for the general public to travel into space. At the moment these otherworldly views and feelings of weightlessness are still held in dilute air.

A seat in one of the company’s starships originally cost $ 200,000. The company later raised the price to $ 250,000. It then went offline after crashing during a test flight in 2014. If the company resumes sales later this year, the price will likely rise again, said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.

“We are here to make space more accessible for everyone,” said Branson on Sunday when he was presented with his astronaut wings after his milestone flight.

For the vast majority of Americans, the cost of such a trip is prohibitive. Going forward, Virgin Galactic and other space companies hope that expanding flight options into space will lower ticket costs. But for now, mostly people with cash equal to the cost of a few houses can afford a few moments on the edge of space.

Still, the company estimated on Sunday that more than 600 people from around 60 countries had signed up for one of its flights. The first paying SpaceShipTwo passengers could start flying next year after the company completes two more test flights.

During the Virgin Galactic livestream on Sunday, some space tourists waiting spoke about how they looked forward to the flights. You’d been invited to watch Mr. Branson’s flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico. There has been no discussion of the high cost associated with space travel, which is not limited to Virgin Galactic.

An unnamed passenger paid $ 28 million to join Amazon founder Jeff Bezos later this month as his rocket company Blue Origin is due to launch its New Shepard rocket and capsule. The company has yet to announce the standard tariff for a trip with its spaceship if Mr Bezos is not in the next seat.

While the price of a short suborbital trip on Virgin Galactic or Blue Origin is expensive, trips into orbit and beyond are downright astronomical.

Three people each paid $ 55 million to Axiom Space in Houston to fly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station early next year.

But not all trajectories into space will be six or seven digits. On Sunday, Mr. Branson announced that Virgin Galactic would be giving away two tickets to space as part of a sweepstakes initiative with non-profit fundraising platform Omaze.

No donation is required to win, according to Omaze, who said a nonprofit, Space for Humanity, would seek to “democratize space and send civic astronauts of diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds into space.”

“If you’ve ever had a dream, now is the time to make it come true,” said Branson.