Branson Promises Hypersonic Intercontinental Travel Within Reporter’s Lifetime; ISU Dean Says 8 Years

Speaking with Swedish TV4, the ever-talkative and always optimistic Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson was repeatedly “hopeful” on the company’s prospects for launching space tourists from Kiruna:

I am hopeful that quite soon after that we have started our space program from New Mexico…that hopefully the next base will be in Northern Sweden“.

The British billionaut- and space-priest-to-be was also vaguely bullish on the prospects of intercontinental travel via space:

“Fredrik Andersson, TV4: – Do you think that we will travel to space in the same way as we travel to for example Thailand today?

“Richard Branson: – I don’t think that people will travel to space in the same way they travel to Thailand. Having said that I think that the technology that we are developing at Virgin Galactic for space travels may well enable you to go to Thailand from Scandinavia in half an hour by popping you out of the Earth’s atmosphere and then straight back again at an affordable price. I think that in your lifetime that is a possibility.”

I guess that depends on how Branson defines “affordable” and his best estimates on Andersson’s life expectancy. Meanwhile, International Space University Dean Walter Peeters is significantly more definitive:

“One estimate suggests a ticket for a round trip taking in London, Tokyo and New York would cost more than £43,000. Mr Peeters, however, thinks that the fares in the middle of the next decade will be the equivalent of what passengers were paying to fly on Concorde during its heyday.”

Jeff Foust of the Futron Corporation, which studies such things for cash, was diplomatically skeptical, calling the schedule “very aggressive” while citing a host of technical, financial and regulatory challenges.

My guess is that there’s enough qualifiers in there that all three men are bound to be right – and wrong.