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Virgin Galactic’s First Powered Test Flight Is A Stunning Success

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Should I ever find $200,000 while hunting beneath the cushions of my couch — and 199,999 other couches — then I would see nothing inherently wrong with spending that money on taking a trip into space with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. They’ve been working the last two years on a rocket-propelled passenger craft, performing many test “flights” where the craft was dropped from a carrier plane and successfully glided without power back down to Earth. Well, they recently pulled out the rocket power, and man does that thing fly.

Richard Branson described his anticipation for the event in a Twitter post, saying, “Occasionally you have days that are ridiculously exciting. Today is such a day.” At around 8:00 AM Monday morning, the WhiteKnightTwo carrier reached an altitude of 50,000 ft and released the SpaceShipTwo, piloted by Mark Stucky and Mike Alsbury. Once it got clear of the plane, the SpaceShipTwo blasted off towards the upper atmosphere, hurtling forward at supersonic speeds for around 16 seconds before the shutting off engine power. It’s truly a sight to be seen.

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Richard Branson Says He’s Determined To Start A Population On Mars

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There have been some pretty amazing moments in space exploration these past few months, from Curiosity landing on Mars, to SpaceX becoming the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the ISS, to director James Cameron announcing plans to mind the freakin’ asteroid belt. With private companies such as SpaceX tossing their hats into the…er, space ring, commercial spaceflight has the potential to drive space exploration forward in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Apollo missions. Now eccentric billionaire Richard Branson has spoken out about his ambitious plans for the industry: he wants to “start a population on Mars.”

That’s a mighty ballsy goal, given that we have yet to even land one human on the Red Planet. Branson isn’t known for playing it safe, however, and his Mars goal is just part of an overall plan to make space travel – eventually – affordable enough that many average families will have the chance to do what only astronauts have done so far. “There are only 500 people who have ever been into space,” said Branson during an interview with CBS News. “They are the privileged astronauts … we just want to enable people to become astronauts and experience it.”

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Virgin Galactic Expands Its Space Horizons With Launcher One

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This Wednesday at the Farnborough International Air Show, Indiana Bowie, otherwise known as Sir Richard Branson, just announced a new venture for the space tourism company Virgin Galactic. Even though they haven’t completed testing their vehicle Space Ship Two, a plan to put satellites into space using White Knight Two as a launch platform is already in the works. The new vehicle will have Virgin Galactic’s killer trademark paint job, as well as  their easy-to-remember naming scheme. Enter “Launcher One”.

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Virgin Galactic Plans To Fire Ashton Kutcher Into Outer Space

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Space tourism may still be a pipe dream for most of us, but Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has been doing a brisk business for nearly a decade. Founded back in 2004, the company will provide suborbital jaunts for anyone who can afford the hefty $200,000 price tag. That price point has generally kept Virgin Galactic as a luxury for the rich and famous, but now the company is crossing a huge milestone by signing up their 500th space tourist in the form of Ashton Kutcher. Unfortunately, they’re also going to bring him back to Earth, but they should probably downplay that part.

Branson announced that Kutcher would be VG’s 500th space tourist (I refuse to refer to him as an astronaut) via his blog Monday morning, adding that he had personally called the actor to congratulate him. “He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space for himself,” said Branson.

Kutcher joins a long list of celebrities who have booked a flight with Virgin Galactic, including Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Katy Perry. If you happen to have $200k in loose change jingling around in your sofa cushions, you can visit Virgin Galactic’s website right here (where you will be put in contact with “your local accredited space agent”).

Or you could just wait 10 years and see if you can book a Mars flight for a mere $300k more…

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