Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project is due to start making commercial flights to the edge of space within the next two years. The programme’s chief pilot, David Mackay of Salisbury, is due to be the man at the controls when the first ever mission takes off. He has described how passengers will be taken to 50,000 feet above the surface of the earth by a mothership before SpaceShipTwo will fire its rockets and transport them beyond the planet’s atmosphere.
It will take around a minute to accelerate the ship to some 2,500 mph, during which customers will experience nearly 4gs. Mr Mackay explained that it will certainly push people into the back of their seats.
At an altitude of around 360,000 feet passengers will be told they can unbuckle their seatbelts and experience weightlessness while looking at a unique view of the earth. The total time of the trip will be around three-and-a-half hours and will cost a cool £125,000. Virgin said that it had already sold 400 tickets for the journey.
Mr Mackay explained that he has wanted to be an astronaut ever since he was a boy watching the Apollo moon landings. He said he joined the RAF after learning that pilots were usually chosen after they had become test pilots.
He was chosen as one of four test pilots for the Virgin Galactic programme while flying as a captain for Virgin Atlantic. He has been based at the Virgin Spaceport in the Mojave Desert in California test flying WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo’s mothership.