Rich NZ space tourists ready for blast off

Virgin owner Richard Branson with a model of the space shuttle. (AFP)

Virgin owner Richard Branson with a model of the space shuttle. (AFP)

The group of moneyed-up space tourists have spent $NZ234,000 ($A217,846) each – more than $NZ2 million combined – on tickets on Virgin Galactic’s rocket-powered flights.

They are among 530 people worldwide who have booked a seat on the sub-orbital flights which will give everyday astronauts the chance to view planets and stars from above the Earth’s atmosphere in zero gravity.

House of Travel, which is a partner for the service, says the space tourists have embarked on a rigorous astronaut training program in preparation for the flights, due to start before the end of the year.

Space travel agent Katrina Cole says an increase in test flights indicates it won’t be long before the Kiwis are climbing aboard the spacecraft.

The three-day training program includes a thorough medical examination and ensures the would-be astronauts are familiar with zero gravity and other factors of space travel.

‘They will go through high and micro gravity training to acclimatise themselves with the effect of the g-force and zero gravity they will experience on their flight and how to handle them,’ Ms Cole said.

The goal is to avoid G-LOC, or gravity-induced loss of consciousness.

‘G-LOC can cause astronauts to pass out for up to 28 seconds, although that doesn’t sound like much – it’s a significant gap in a unique experience, they won’t want to miss a second,’ she said.

Surgeon John Dunn has his ticket in hand and said the training gave him a taste of what to expect before heading into space.

‘The extreme g-force provided by the centrifuge training provides a close approximation of the rigours of travelling beyond the earth’s atmosphere,’ Mr Dunn said.

Each spacecraft seats six passengers and two pilots, and Virgin plans to eventually carry out about five commercial flights a day.

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