Maybe I should set-up a pay Pal account?
A $200,000 trip into space is drawing interest from some adventurous South Florida residents.
Three South Florida travel agencies now sell trips on Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceship company backed by Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group known for airlines and media ventures.
They've booked $20,000 deposits from three takers so far, including the owner of one of the agencies, David Mendal of Forest Travel of Aventura. They're also talking with at least 30 other customers in South Florida about buying packages once the space trips start -- likely next year, executives said Wednesday.
Branson himself plans to take the first Virgin Galactic trip with his mom and adult children in the spaceship that would depart from Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert.
The WhiteKnightTwo will be attached under a "lifting craft" jet, flown to roughly 50,000 feet and detached.
Using a hybrid engine, it then will shoot to about 65 miles above the planet, "to a height where you can see 1,000 miles in every direction, and you will see the blue ring of the earth's atmosphere," said Peter Friedman of Unique Travel in Delray Beach.
At its peak height, an announcement will be made: "You are now free to float around the cabin." Passengers can spend four to seven minutes weightless. The craft then will slowly glide down to earth and land like a jet on the runway – perhaps two hours after takeoff, said Friedman.
Mostly affluent men from their 30s to 60s have been booking trips so far, though at least one young couple outside Florida has decided to delay buying a home to sign up. Interest is worldwide, with bookings from Spain to Japan, said Jeannie Cartier Sauleau, owner of Sixth Star Travel of Plantation.
The $200,000 price tag pays for three days of training, the stay at the spaceport and the trip.
Galactic plans to start with one spacecraft seating six passengers and two pilots. More than 100 people already have paid $200,000 in full to be among the first space trippers. As more craft and trips are added, prices should dip, said the agents, who must be individually trained to sell the space packages.
There's more than joy rides and bragging rights involved. Like early aviators who paved the way for mass-market jet travel, Galactic is pioneering technology that may one day may help slash flight times for long-haul trips, trimming hours off California to Australia journeys for example, said Cartier Sauleau.
"I sure like the idea of jumping over to Asia without those 15- to 17-hour flights," she said. "We're making history by being one of the first booking agents for space travel."