This isn’t an ad.
This is an editorial based on the USA Today weekend edition’s front page about future space travel by paying tourists aboard SpaceShipTwo, now undergoing extensive testing at its Mojave birthplace.
Here’s the lead on the piece:
“If you want to become a pioneer, braving the cosmos as one of the first ‘regular’ people to experience space travel through Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, it’s going to cost you.
“At least Branson is including a small extra as part of the $250,000 price tag for the voyage: ‘I think we’re throwing the space suit in for that money,’” he said.
The custom suit, along with outer space footwear, will be made by Under Armour, as part of a partnership, the two companies announced Thursday.
“Going to space, you’re becoming an astronaut — you need to not only feel good about it, but also look good,” Branson told USA Today during an interview alongside Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. “This will be the day in somebody’s life that they’re going to remember the most, apart from having kids or getting married.”
Part of Branson’s Virgin Group, Virgin Galactic’s origins date to 2004. His goal is to take passengers on an ultimate joy ride, some 50 miles above the Earth.
The company’s stated mission is to “democratize space” and eventually run a regular schedule of flights for private individuals and researchers from an operational hub in New Mexico. If all goes well, commercial travel will begin this summer, when Branson heads into space.
Virgin Galactic’s waiting list to travel numbers 600 and Branson, who is 68, has been getting in shape for the inaugural flight.
“I’ve spent the last few months trying to get to the fitness I was when I was in my 20s,” he said. “I’ve got a six-pack for the first time in my life.”
On Dec. 13, 2018, Virgin completed a successful test flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port. It was the first human spacecraft to be launched from the U.S. soil since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011.
Virgin has at least two to three more test flights. But the flight path to the final frontier has had tragic consequences in the past. In 2014, the crash of a Virgin Galactic test ship killed one of the two pilots.
It will be quite some time before humans with way more modest bank accounts can afford the journey.
“The fare … in the short term (is) likely to stay expensive,” Branson said. “If it’s as successful as we hope and believe it will be, and we can build many, many spaceships, then hopefully by the time your children reach the age of 20, 21, the price will have come down so many more people will have a chance to become astronauts and go to space.”
Neither Plank nor Branson were ready to share pictures of the new space duds or dive too deeply into specifics of the design.
According to Plank, “all the technology and innovation we’re effectively putting into the space suits, with some limitations around some things we have to specifically do for fire retardancy … are things we’re already doing or are coming to market in 2019-2020.”
For example, tempurature-regulated fabric, as well as a new technology that can increase blood flow and in some cases, give an athlete or astronaut more energy to help recovery, will be woven into the garments.
Plank mentioned that quarterback Tom Brady, who will be playing in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots, wears pajama’s containing some of this technology.
Branson and Plank met eight years ago at a conference on Branson’s private Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands and formed a friendship that led to the collaboration.
If you’d like to be an astronaut, start saving your money.