WARY would-be space cadets are holding out on a history-making holiday until they see proof that Virgin Galactic’s flights are not just a pie-in-the-sky concept.
Dream Escape, a specialist travel agency based in Leith, is selling tickets to the first suborbital space tours masterminded by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
However, with a price tag of £130,000, the firm confirmed it was yet to sell a single pass to the once-in-a-lifetime experience almost two-and-a-half years on from becoming Scotland’s sole agent for the revolutionary flights.
More than 570 passengers have signed up worldwide for the initial series of trips to the edge of space, where passengers will experience six minutes of weightlessness while observing the Earth.
Dream Escape owner David Tobin said he had fielded as many as 30 requests for information, but was still yet to see a deposit laid down to enter the final frontier. He said: “Maybe it’s a Scottish thing. When you put Scotland alongside America, there’s obviously a huge number of people [in America] who will get into the Disney-esque aspect of it and will put their money down.
“The Scots are very keen to see something in the air before they part with quite a decent amount of money. There are a lot of people who have requested information, but a lot of people are sitting with that information waiting to see it happen.”
Mr Tobin said the greatest local interest had come from wealthy residents in East Lothian, rather than central Edinburgh. He said: “It’s a big commuter belt for successful people who want to get out of the city. The sort of people that we’ve got calls from in East Lothian, they are more than likely in their 40s and have done very well commercially, some of whom have retired already.”
Commercial pilots from Scotland have also expressed an interest in the flights. However, an 86-year old from Glasgow had his request for a ticket turned down due to concerns about his memory.
Mr Tobin said: “We’d had a disproportionate amount of pilots just because obviously it’s in their blood. They’re very keen to get involved. Across the board, a lot of them are entrepreneurs who are almost looking to take the next step and do something new and different.
“But increasingly, I do know a lot of people have signed up because ultimately you’re rubbing shoulders with some of the most interesting and gregarious people in the world.”
Chief Virgin Galactic pilot, Scotsman Dave McKay, is in the running to pilot the first flight.
Monday has been billed as a potential first powered test flight for Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane. Passengers may be able to take flights aboard the six-seater spacecraft as early as next year.
Above and beyond
VIRGIN Galactic first offered chances for aspiring astronauts to pay a deposit and reserve a place on the revolutionary space flights in 2005.
Passengers will travel beyond 62 miles in altitude – the internationally accepted boundary of outer space – on the 60ft long
rocket ships, with two windows for each person on board. But Virgin chiefs have promised the out-of-this-world experience does not stop there.
The exclusive business club includes a pass to astronaut forums with Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson on either his Caribbean island home or South African game reserve to tours of the planes under development.