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Got an Extra $200,000? Book a Trip to Space [VIDEO]

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Virgin Galactic

If you’ve ever dreamed of going to outer space, your wish may soon come true — and you won’t have to join NASA to make it happen.

Three companies have jumped into the space tourism business and are currently taking reservations for future flights. Booking a seat isn’t cheap, but it won’t cost anywhere near the tens of millions of dollars civilians currently pay for the privilege of space travel.

Virgin Galactic, owned by Virgin Airlines honcho Richard Branson, will operate flights that venture just beyond the space barrier on a specially-built rocket ship. The cost? About $200,000 a seat. So far, 475 people have put down a $20,000 deposit to reserve a spot on dates yet to be determined.

Boarding one of these flights won’t be as simple as just showing up an hour ahead of time. Passengers will first spend three days engaged in training and preparations exercises at a dedicated New Mexico facility, and if they pass muster, they’ll then hop a carrier airplane with the SpaceShipTwo rocket ship slung underneath. It’ll take off from the runway, fly to 50,000 feet, and launch the rocket ship.

These flights won’t orbit the Earth — they’ll be up-and-down “suborbital” jaunts more akin to a giant roller coaster ride, offering about five minutes of weightlessness at their highest point.

“You’ll be able to unbuckle, move about the cabin, do somersaults, get your picture taken with the Earth’s curvature in the background,” said Lynda Turley Garrett, president of Alpine Travel of Saratoga, California, one of 58 accredited space agents for Virgin Galactic in the United States.

Keeping in mind that more than a few potential NASA astronauts have washed out of training programs because their bodies simply couldn’t handle the stresses of space travel, these trips aren’t for everyone. But since Mr. Branson hopes to take an  inaugural flight by the end of this year, Ms. Garrett predicts that such journeys may soon become routine.

In fact, she says that by 2017, “it’ll be just like scheduling a flight to L.A..”

Watch a video about Virgin Galactic’s program below.

[The New York Times]

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