Virgin Galactic pilot looking forward to first flight -

Virgin Galactic pilot looking forward to first flight

Meet Lt. Keith Colmer - he's a decorated pilot with the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. He's also one of two pilots now working for Virgin Galactic.

"I started working in late October for a company called Virgin Galactic ... which aims to be the world first commercial space line."

You heard him correctly.

For $200,000 per ticket, Virgin Galactic hopes to fly regular people like you and me into space.

Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson speaks to the draw of space travel in one of the company's promotional videos. 

"Just to be able to look back at our fragile Earth from space and see the beauty of it ... is something I'm sure every single one of us would love to do if we had the opportunity," Branson says.

The company's already had successful test runs with pilots only: where the spacecraft is flown to about 50 thousand feet, then disengaged from the "Mother plane."

At that point, the rocket kicks in.

"Three G's is a quite a bit," Colmer says, referring to speeds exceeding three times the speed of sound.  "It's gonna plant your head firmly into the back of the seat and you're not gonna be able to move it."

That is, until you leave the Earth's atmosphere, some 60 miles above Earth's surface.

What comes next is the moment you've been waiting for: absolute weightlessness, when you're literally floating in space.

"We get them up there. They're weightless for four or five minutes ... and we turn them loose and let them float about the cabin," Colmer says.  "And then obviously we get them back into the seats and we re-enter."

Upon re-entry into the atmosphere the spacecraft physically changes shape.

This is called the feather mechanism: where by changing configurations the vehicle is able to absorb any violent variations in pressure and weight.

"If we're not stable the feather will help correct that and bring us in safely," Colmer says.

As for when this might happen, Colmer says it's still probably at least a year until Virgin Galactic's first commercial flight.

But that doesn't mean people aren't getting excited.

Nearly 500 hundred passengers have already made substantial deposits to be among the first civilians in space.

"The neat thing about Virgin Galactic and the thing that really drew me to it right now is that's it's like being back at the dawn of exploration," Colmer said.  "And that's just a super exciting thing to be a part of."

The entire trip takes about 2 and half hours.  Upon re-entering the atmosphere, the six-passenger spaceship will land on a runway near Las Cruces, New Mexico.  

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