Exasperated Virgin Galactic Space Tourism Founder Packs It In

Mike Melvill stands atop SpaceShipOne after a suborbital flight on Sept. 29, 2004. (Credit: RenegadeAven)

Seven year ago today, SpaceShipOne rocketed into space for the third and final time, claiming the $10 million Ansari X Prize. Amid the resulting euphoria, Sir Richard Branson promised to begin regular tourist flights in about three years with a follow-on spacecraft.

Ah, what a difference 2,556 days make. No one has flown suborbital since, commercial flights remain 18-24 months away, and some people have grown impatient:

Venture capitalist Alan Walton has trekked to the North Pole, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and skydived over Mount Everest. A hop into space to enjoy a few minutes of weightlessness would have been the ultimate adventure.

After waiting seven years to fly aboard Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline, Walton gave up on the dream and asked for a $200,000 ticket refund on his 75th birthday this past spring.

Walton, who was among the first 100 customers to sign up, is not as spry as he used to be, and he’s concerned about the project delays.

“This was a decision I wish I didn’t have to make,” he said recently. But “it was time.”

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