January 23, 2008 / 9:55 PM / 11 years ago

Virgin sees space travel uptick as markets tank

Entrepreneur Richard Branson and aircraft designer Burt Rutan (not pictured) display Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites' new WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo aircrafts in New York January 23, 2008. REUTERS/Chip East

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Richard Branson’s space travel venture is selling tickets faster than ever, despite fears of a recession and turmoil in global markets, according to its top executive.

“It’s actually accelerating — we’ve just had our best month for sales,” said Will Whitehorn, president of Virgin Galactic. “Clearly a lot of people want to get away from Planet Earth at the moment.”

Branson and rocket designer Burt Rutan unveiled a model of the Virgin spacecraft in New York on Wednesday, in front of the media and about 100 passengers already booked onto flights, which may start as early as next year.

“I do not see the market we are in here being affected by the events on Wall Street over the past 24 hours, or over a year,” said Whitehorn.

Virgin Galactic has now booked more than 200 passengers at $200,000 each and is hoping the price will come down further, eventually establishing a market for mass space tourism.

So far, the five private space tourists taken to the International Space Station on board Russian spacecraft have paid around $20 million each for the pleasure, according to reports.

Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Andre Grenon

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