first CEO of virgin galactic

Last spring, Exploration Curriculum Advisory Committee member George Whitesides [Intermediate '87-88] became the first Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, the only commercial space tourism company in the country. Continuing his passion for, and career in, the space travel industry, Whitesides made the move from his post as chief of staff at NASA to the Virgin Galactic headquarters in "Spaceport, America," located in Upham, New Mexico. There, he has been charged with leading the company "from a development project to a commercially operational business." Whitesides was thrilled to take on this role and "continues to be excited about opening the experience of space travel to people around the world."

It certainly seems as though the public is eager to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity. Since 2005, nearly 400 people have reserved their place in space with Virgin Galactic. For a deposit of $200,000, these folks have secured a spot onboard SpaceShipTwo, a 600-foot vehicle that has room for eight astronauts — two trained pilots and six regular Janes and Joes. Every passenger will have two windows to maximize the in-flight view, and plenty of wiggle room to experience zero gravity. These everyday astronauts will have three days of pre-flight preparation prior to their launch, intended to be as much about fun and bonding as it is about education. Virgin Galactic's goal is to make space travel as accessible as possible, without requiring "exhaustive training," or significant medical restrictions. With Whitesides as commander, the company is committed to "ending the exclusivity attached to manned space travel."

To join Whitesides in space, or to just learn more about this exciting company and their not-so-distant-future mission, visit Virgin Galactic's website.