A Singaporean businessman, his wife and two children have paid $1 million to become the first Asian family to fly together on space-tourism airline Virgin Galactic.
“I had lunch yesterday with a guy who got in touch with us in Singapore, and over lunch he signed his contract for not just a seat, but for a whole flight,” Virgin Galactic commercial director Stephen Attenborough said.
Attenborough said the customer handed over a cheque for $1 million and asked to remain anonymous because “apparently he hasn’t told his wife yet.”
“So he is going to become, or he and his family will become, the first family from Asia to become astronauts together,” Attenborough said.
Virgin Galactic has sold bookings since 2005 at $200,000 per seat even though it has not yet set a firm timetable for space flights to be launched from New Mexico.
Attenborough told AFP in an interview that the Singaporean businessman chartered one exclusive flight for his family on the six-seat aircraft SpaceShipTwo.
The SpaceshipTwo is designed to be launched by a transport plane called White KnightTwo and will be guided by a rocket motor before gliding back to Earth.
Nine out of nearly 500 tickets sold worldwide had been bought by customers in Singapore, which has one of Asia’s highest concentrations of millionaires.
Customers from the Asia-Pacific region now account for “approximately 15 percent” of ticket sales despite a ban on Virgin Galactic selling seats in China.
“The space vehicle is US technology and they fall under a set of regulations in the United States which means that there are some countries where at the moment we’re not permitted to sell tickets,” he explained.
In anticipation of burgeoning future demand for space tourism, Attenborough said Virgin Galactic had already ordered more spacecraft.