From South Africa to space on Virgin

3 May 2012

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has appointed its first accredited agent to sell space flights in South Africa.

Vanessa Rothery, based in the offices of sister company Virgin Atlantic in Johannesburg, joined the team of 140 international accredited space agents after completing an intensive training programme, commercial director Stephen Attenborough said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It’s important that people can find out about Virgin Galactic and book with a local expert, so we are delighted that South Africans now have that option,” said head of travel development Carolyn Wincer.

Virgin Galactic’s commercial operations are based in New Mexico in the US, where the test flight programme is under way, according to the company.

The spaceships used, VSS Enterprise and VMS Eve, will carry six passengers at a time on sub-orbital space flights reaching altitudes of more than 100 kilometres above the earth.

During the flights, the passengers will experience zero gravity and views of earth from space, at a cost of around US$200 000 (about R1.5-million) per ticket.

Passengers will undergo astronaut training and G-force acclimatisation before their flights.

“Virgin Galactic aims to make space travel more attainable to the general public, and uses technology that overcomes the fundamental safety, cost and environmental issues currently associated with space access,” the company says.