On Space Travel: Virgin Galactic
“Over the next 20 years, I believe thousands, and perhaps even millions, of private individuals will travel to space. Since the dawn of the space age, just over 500 men and women have been to outer space. With only a few recent exceptions, these men and women have all been government employees, handpicked by space agencies such as NASA and trained to an enormous degree. Their missions are worthwhile and worthy of our gratitude and admiration, but it is critical to realize that for the overwhelming majority of us, government space programs are not our ticket to space. The challenge of sending individuals to space is being taken up by private companies, which have both tools and motives those government agencies may not have. Recently, several entrepreneurs have started new businesses expressly designed to tackle this problem.
Such future space travel won’t be enjoyed only by adventurers. As we progress through the 21st century, spaceflight may become nearly as common for travelers as taking a plane trip became for millions across the world during the 20th. The technology that permits flights into space will also allow passengers to fly to far-flung places on Earth in record time. By traveling out of the Earth’s atmosphere for a small amount of time, a non-stop trip from New York to Sydney might take two to three hours instead of the 20-hour, multi-leg trip required today. Furthermore, I believe air travel will be more environmentally friendly. Airlines ferrying passengers on regional routes will run small, short-hop planes on battery cells.
Now is a fascinating time for the commercial space industry. It is inspiring to see business leaders from different sectors applying their best ideas and practices to the unique challenges of spaceflight. The next 20 years hold exciting, unexplored territory for the people of the world.”
George Whitesides is President and CEO of Virgin Galactic with plans to provide sub-orbital spaceflights to space tourists, suborbital launches for space science missions and orbital launches of small satellites. For additional insights, go to www.VirginGalactic.com.