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We’ve been hearing for months that Sir Richard Branson and his company, Virgin Galactic, were putting together commercial spaceflights for celebrities and other people of means. While those flights have seemed a ways off for the last several years, the first commercial flight might actually launch as early as next August. Branson popped up on NBC’s Today this week to talk about the initial flight, as well as Virgin Galactic’s partnership with NBC, which will air the first commercial foray into space live.
Branson and his son, Sam, were interviewed by Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer on Friday, during which an announcement was made that NBC Universal had nabbed the rights to air the first big flight. Branson also discussed the trajectory of his team’s plans, including testing 2X the sound barrier and doing more rocket launching tests. According to the Today interview, plans are in the works for Branson to head into space with Sam and his daughter, Holly, next summer. Tests breaking the sound barrier have already been accomplished by the company. If all goes well, we could be seeing the flight take off in August of 2014. The shuttle would take off from New Mexico. Those are all the big details, but if you want to get a feel for Branson and his son’s personalities, you can check out more from the interview, below.
While the first commercial flight into space will be undergone by Branson and his family, hundreds of people have also signed up for the expensive flight into space. Among the nearly 700 interested parties, Mildred Pierce’s Kate Winslet and Two And A Half Men’s Ashton Kutcher have both gotten tickets into space, although Winslet didn’t have to pay the steep price, thanks to saving Branson’s mother from a burning building.
Soon, it looks like the flight will be a feat most Americans can watch on their televisions, should they choose to do so. We still have a while to wait and see whether the partnership proves to be a ratings success for NBC, however. When it does air, the event will be available across multiple stations, including CNBC, MSNBC, NBCNews.com, Syfy, and The Weather Channel. The event will also be featured during a primetime special, and an additional, 3-hour episode of Today will air around the launch.
Right now, commercial space flight is too expensive for most of us to actually fathom going on the trip, but the fact that Branson is close enough to making his dream a reality is still an impressive feat to consider, one that could open doors for more populations in the years to come.