Amateur astronauts gathered at the FAITH facility in Mohave, CA to visit with Sir Richard Branson and see their spacecraft, SpaceShip Two. They already paid $250,000 and they have faith that spending 15 minutes in space will be fabulous. Richard Branson will be on the first flight, Ashton Kutcher signed up as nr. 500, William Shatner is not interested. The SpaceShip Two rooms with a view will be comfortable, sexy and safe.
The crowd that gathered to listen to Branson today was an eclectic group: There was John Graves of Bethesda, Md., a 59-year old grandfather and the CEO of Netcom, who wants to go into space for the famed “overview effect”—the ability to see the Earth in a way you never have before and perhaps appreciate it in a new way too. Also here were were longtime friends Tom Reuter and John Gardenhire of Denver, both 34, who admit that taking the risk of going to space is not something they can justify rationally, and so they don’t try. Gardenhire bought his ticket first and effectively dared Reuter to join him. Reuter accepted the challenge. Here too, improbably, was Zanaib Azim, an 11-year-old Canadian girl of Pakistani descent. Assuming Virgin Galactic actually permits someone so young to fly, she is going up as early as 2015, when she’ll be 13—a gift from her father, who brought her here today.
A demo flight was scrapped because of high winds, demonstrating the inevitable delays of aiming for a safe adventure. The first flight, originally planned for 2011, could take off next year.