Leith is Scotland’s gateway to space travel


SCOTS dreaming of space travel should head for a side street in Leith.

An Edinburgh-based travel company has scooped exclusive rights to sell tickets for Virgin Galactic’s space flights, which could blast off in as little as 18 months.

But would-be astronauts will need deep pockets in their space suits as tickets for the flights cost £125,000 each.

Dream Escape, which operates in Mitchell Street, Leith, has been appointed as Scotland’s sole Accredited Space Agent (ASA).

The firm says an 87-year-old Glaswegian is among four pioneering Scots who have already expressed an interest.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group established Virgin Galactic in 2004 with an aim to create safe, environmentally-benign and commercially-viable access to space for people and science.

In 2005, work began on the development of SpaceShipTwo, which successfully completed three suborbital test flights last year and is the prototype for a planned fleet of crafts to be used for commercial space travel.

David Tobin and Holly Mackie, own Dream Escape. Mr Tobin said: “We’re delighted to have been picked to sell the tickets.

“We met one of Richard Branson’s right-hand men last year and it’s all gone from there.

“There are two different deposit levels.

“You can pay the £125,000 up front, which can guarantee you are one of the first 500 to travel into space within the first year of its launch.

“Or you can pay a deposit of £12,500.

“Quite an eclectic mix of people have signed up so far, including some of the world’s biggest movers and shakers.

“It’s not just a case of getting on the shuttle and enjoying a two to three-hour journey – it’s a three-day programme.

“Travellers are taken out to New Mexico to a purpose-built space centre because they need to make sure everybody is fit, trained and safe to go.”

Mr Tobin, 36, said Dream Escape had planned to offer a £155,000 package – which could have included training on a Formula 1 track, gaining experience on a zero-gravity flight and pinning in a centrifugal force machine.

But, he said: “People will only experience eight to ten minutes of weightlessness in space, so they don’t spend time acclimatising.”

Carolyn Wincer, head of astronaut sales for Virgin Galactic, said: “We’re very excited to have appointed Dream Escape as our first ASA in Scotland.

“The company has a proven track record as leaders in providing unique travel experiences to a  high-net worth market and they convinced us that they’re as passionate as we are about commercial space travel.

“Each trained member of the Dream Escape team is able to offer the highest level of personalised and discrete customer service as well as in-depth product knowledge.

“With this in mind, we’re confident that our future astronauts will be getting the best possible care and attention when booking their spaceflights.”

Virgin Galactic has received over 410 deposits from customers around the world for the spaceflights costing US$200,000 each, with an additional 85,000 people registering interest via their website.

Each flight will carry six passengers and two pilots on a spaceflight expected to last two hours.

At a peak altitude of around 70 miles, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and views of the Earth’s curvature and thin ribbon of atmosphere.

Less than 500 people have journeyed into space and the handful of non-astronaut individuals to do so spent six months in training with the Russian government’s space programme at a cost of around US$20 million each.