Virgin Galactic Appoint First Space Agents in NZ

Published: Thu 14 Dec 2006 09:56 AM
Virgin Galactic Appoint First Accredited Space Agents in New Zealand

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Credit: Jim Koepnick
Virgin Galactic Appoint First Accredited Space Agents in New Zealand
Strictly Embargoed until 2.30pm Tuesday 12th December 2006
Virgin Galactic has appointed the House of Travel Group exclusively as their New Zealand 'Accredited Space Agent' endorsed to sell seats on Virgin Galactic spaceflights, due to launch in 2008. Together with Virgin Galactic, House of Travel, whose tagline is "How Kiwis See the World" will help make the dream of going into space a reality for New Zealanders.
The House of Travel Group has selected ten consultants/owner operators to represent the company who will be able to offer a three-day Virgin Galactic experience for the price of approximately USD200,000. The once in a lifetime experience includes astronaut training, 'G force' acclimatisation and a two and a half hour spaceflight.
Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group, said:
"Today's announcement is exciting. It makes space travel immediately more accessible for Kiwis, who will now be able to simply contact House of Travel to purchase a Virgin Galactic ticket into space. They may even find themselves being flown into space by Virgin Blue or Virgin Atlantic pilots, who are currently training to fly the Virgin Galactic spacecraft."
As Virgin Galactic representatives, the House of Travel 'Accredited Space Agents' will be fully briefed on the experience onboard the first space flight and become experts on G-force, weightlessness and the spacecraft's construction.
The search for New Zealand's first accredited space travel agents was launched by Richard Branson in trade publication Travel Today and attracted an enormous response.
Head of astronaut sales Carolyn Wincer said "Born and bred in Nelson, New Zealand, I was always very excited about appointing our 'Accredited Space Agents' in my home country. The quality of applications was extremely high, in fact the House of Travel Group submission is the best we've seen globally with their innovative approach and understanding of the New Zealand market."
House of Travel founder and managing director Chris Paulsen believed it was one of the most exciting opportunities for the company during his 40 years in the travel industry.
"Having grown up with Star Trek, it has always been flouted as the next big move to commercialise space travel for the consumer. Virgin Galactic is making that possible and we are rapt to be the New Zealand company to work with them to help Kiwis see the world! We think we are the perfect choice with our corporate travel arm known as Orbit, our strong Adventure Travel brand and would you believe our House of Travel tagline is "How Kiwis See the World"? it is almost too good to be true."
Paulsen said they were confident there were New Zealanders who would jump at the chance to travel into space; however he commented that at around USD200,000 it would be out of the reach of the average Kiwi.
"We wouldn't have applied if we didn't think there was a market. We have recently commissioned independent research which has given us fantastic information about what drives Kiwis to travel. What we have always known is that Kiwis love adventure and are always up for new experiences. That spirit of discovery exists in backpackers, families and the premium traveller. Space travel is certainly the ultimate adventure of the future. Imagine being one of the first Kiwis… I might have to start saving!"
About Virgin Galactic
Virgin Galactic is a company established by Richard Branson's Virgin Group to undertake the challenge of developing space tourism for everybody. It will own and operate privately built spaceships, modelled on the history-making SpaceShipOne craft. These spaceships will allow private sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in our history. Virgin Galactic will run as a business with the primary purpose of making space travel more and more affordable to people throughout the world. They will reinvest funds made over the first few years back into the business, striving constantly to lower prices.
About House of Travel
The House of Travel Group has forecasted turnover in 2006 in excess of $700m, it has 90 retail outlets (with specialist corporate and leisure travel outlets) throughout New Zealand, its own award winning aggregated booking website and two wholesale companies (both inbound and outbound). It employs in excess of 1,100 people and is privately owned (by New Zealander Chris Paulsen) and operated since it was established in 1987.
Virgin Galactic Three-Day Experience:
After three days of training, passengers will board the spaceship attached to a purpose-built carrier aircraft, which will take one hour to climb to 50,000 feet where it will be close to the edges of the Earth's atmosphere.
From here the spaceship will be released from the carrier aircraft and climb vertically, reaching the speed of sound in less than 10 seconds and three times the speed of sound in under 30 seconds.
Travelling at around 2500 miles an hour, the astronauts will be pushed back into their seats by the acceleration G-forces as they head for a maximum altitude of more than 360,000 feet above the earth's surface.
At the point the rocket motor cuts out, the astronauts will experience the silence of space and magical feeling of weightlessness. They will be able to see the curvature of the Earth and for 1,000 miles in any direction. They will also see the atmosphere protecting the Earth. They will experience around four minutes of weightlessness before the spacecraft returns to Earth, passing back through the atmosphere.
The trip into space and back is expected to last around two and a half hours.

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