Virgin Galactic Makes One Giant Leap for Space Tourism

Virgin Galactic

Space tourism moved one flight closer to reality Monday when Virgin Galactic took its maiden "captive carry" test flight over the California desert.

Virgin Galactic announced a passenger spaceship, the VSS Enterprise, took to the skies yesterday piggybacking off her proud mother ship, the VMS Eve.

The duo -- dubbed SpaceShipTwo -- reached an altitude of 45,000-feet during its two hour, 54-minute flight. In future tests, the pair will increase their height to 50,000-feet, where the spacecraft will blast off from under the wings of its carrier and into space.

The VSS Enterprise will shuttle six passengers and two pilots into space, where they will experience weightlessness while viewing the earth and stars from two large windows: one at the side of the plane and another overhead.

Virgin Galactic, part of billionaire business mogul Richard Branson's Virgin Group, said they expect the first passenger flight will be completed by 2011. The company claims to have already collected around $45-million in deposits from over 330 people willing to fork over $200,000 for the suborbital experience.

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