Virgin CEO Richard Branson found his 500th person willing to pony up $200,000 to take a ride on a rocket ship into space. Virgin Galactic, Branson's space-exploration offshoot of his airline, Virgin Airlines, has booked none other than "Two and a Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher in its final open seat for the inaugural flights into space that should begin next year.
For the two-hundred grand that he shelled out, Ashton will will get to strap into one of six seats and be hurdled into orbit around the Earth for a little over two hours, getting to be fully weightless for about five minutes. The spacecraft will take off from a specially designed spaceport in New Mexico's desert. That's right, Kutcher will add "astronaut" to his resume, and we think more celebrities should take a cue from him!
Space exploration is truly the last frontier that human kind has left, and with the United States ending its own NASA space shuttle program last year, a giant hole in the field has been opened up. Branson's vision of commercial spaceflight could help inspire more Americans to take the trip into the cosmos and eventually, if successful, could lead to the cost of space travel being drastically reduced, resulting in being able to break out into the depths of the solar system, and maybe beyond.
If more stars take their cues from AK and sign up on one of Virgina Galactic flights, a buzz will generate. Space flight could be popular again. There's no denying the impact all the research that went into the NASA program over the years had on technology, giving us things like microchips that now allow us to surf the web and network with our friends all over the world. Sure, right now the price tag is just too high for any average, middle-class American to take advantage, but Branson's vision isn't one of just luxury space flights; he plans to grow the operation into something that can get us all up into the stars one day.
Ashton's bravery should also be noted. Stepping onto a giant rocket that's going to hurdle you out of the Earth's atmosphere is a dangerous business, and always has been. But the same pioneer spirit that took man and put him on the moon in 1969 is clearly alive and well in Kutcher, and that's something to be commended and encouraged. For every star that uses their fame and notoriety to launch a new clothing line or fragrance, it's refreshing to see a star take a real risk (and let there be no mistake about them) in order to push the limits of the human race. If enough brave celebrities ponied up the cash to take the ride, who knows where the venture could be in five or ten years' time?
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- Ashton Kutcher
- Virgin Galactic
- Richard Branson
- Virgin Airlines