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New Tokyo travel agency to market ¥25 million tickets for space tours

by Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writer

Booking a tour in space is now possible in Japan thanks to the establishment of a Tokyo travel agency that deals exclusively with the above and beyond — for those who can pay the ¥25 million fare.

Club Tourism Space Tours Inc. was established Monday by Club Tourism International Inc. to handle the space tours planned by Virgin Galactic. CTI is a direct-marketing arm of the KNT-CT Holdings Co. major travel agency group.

Virgin Galactic, established by adventurer and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, plans to start suborbital spaceflights late this year at a cost of $250,000 per traveler.

Six passengers, along with two pilots, will take off from Spaceport America in New Mexico aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which will be taken aloft by the WhiteKnightTwo carrier craft.

At 15,000 meters above the Earth, SpaceShipTwo will be detached and then in 90 seconds climb as high as 100,000 meters, where passengers can experience zero gravity for about four minutes and view the planet far below. SpaceShipTwo will then glide back down to Spaceport America to complete the roughly two-hour tour, according to CTI.

Virgin Galactic has already booked about 600 people from around the world, including 18 Japanese, CTI said.

CTI started to test the waters as early as 2001 by launching a space travel club, which conducted seminars and social events for people interested in space travel. It then became an official booking agent for Virgin Galactic to sell tickets in Japan. Seeing growth potential in the business, CTI’s new company has taken over the booking function.

Virgin Galactic estimates around 30,000 customers will participate in its tour in the first 10 years. CTI figures about 900 will come from Japan.