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Branson plans to bring space travel within reach of general public -- at a price.

SPACE tourism could be the next giant leap for mankind under a plan unveiled by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson.

The entrepreneur yesterday said he wanted to bring space travel within the reach of the general public.

Sir Richard launched Virgin Galactic at the Royal Aeronautical Society in central London. He said: ``Today is an historic day -- it will bring the dream of space travel for many millions closer to reality.

``One day children around the world will wonder why we ever thought that space travel was a dream we read about in books. ''

Each spacecraft will carry five passengers at a price of pounds 115, 000 each, which will include three days of pre-flight training.

The first flight will take about two to three hours and is scheduled to leave in 2007-8. Sir Richard said he plans to be on the inaugural flight.

The licensing deal, with Mojave Aerospace Ventures (MAV), which owns the technology, was signed on Saturday morning.

Virgin plans to invest up to pounds 60m in the project.

The spacecraft are modelled on Space Ship One, designed by aviation legend Burt Rutan whose company, Scaled Composites, operated the world's first privately manned space flight last June.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2004
Words:200
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