One Small Step for Enterprise: First Commercial Space Flight Takes Off

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Space, the final frontier — in tourism.

Two pilots flew the world’s first manned commercial spacecraft over California’s Mojave Desert on Sunday. The spaceship, called VSS Enterprise, was built by Virgin Galactic, a company with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group which plans to provide sub-orbital space flights to the paying public in the near future. The spaceship completed a successful flight at 45,000 feet (13,700 meters) and landed in Mojave, California, Virgin Galactic said.

“Now the sky is no longer the limit, and we will begin the process of pushing beyond the final frontier of space itself over the next year,” said Richard Branson, CNN reported. “This was one of the most exciting days in the whole history of Virgin… I watched the world’s first manned commercial spaceship landing on the runway at Mojave AirSpace Port and it was a great moment.”

“Virgin Galactic is now well on the way to becoming the word’s first commercial space line with 370 customer deposits totaling $50 million,” the company said in its statement. The test-flight program is expected to continue through 2011 before commercial flights begin. Virgin Galactic has said that it envisions one flight a week for its spaceship, with six tourists aboard. About 80,000 people have already placed their names on the waiting lists for seats. Each passenger will pay $200,000 for the ride and train for at least three days before going.

So, although space tourism is becoming more of a reality, it’s still not as easy as a trip to Disney.