It's T minus one year and counting before the outer reaches of the atmosphere become a holiday destination.
Speaking at the 2013 Social Good Summit, the Virgin Group founder and serial entrepreneur claimed that commercial space travel is about to become a reality and that his company is still on track to start offering out-of-this world mini breaks in 2014.
A quick glance at the ticket prices for a trip on Branson's own Virgin Intergalactic craft, a $250,000 return, suggests that it will be a reality for a select few. Yet, the hefty price hasn't prevented the company from taking over $70 million in deposits to date from 580 potential space tourists.
And for critics who believe that commercial space flights are nothing more than an expensive thrill with no real purpose, Branson was quick to highlight that Virgin Galactic will actually help the world and be able to do “transformative” things for it."We're going to be able to monitor if a ship is fishing illegally — we can spot it live through our satellites. We can check if people are hunting down rhinos,” he said.
Earlier this month, the company's spacecraft (the SpaceShip Two VSS Enterprise) and its carrier craft completed a second successful test flight, hitting supersonic speeds in the process.
Of the test, Branson said: “We couldn't be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service. It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system.”
Virgin Galactic plans to build a fleet of spacecraft, each capable of carrying six passengers on suborbital space flights. It means that holidaymakers won't be encountering any passing satellites but that they will get to experience true out-of-the-seat zero gravity as well as quite frankly astounding views of their home planet that until now, only the 500 or so people in history who have travelled beyond the Earth's atmosphere and into space have been able to see.
Even though the spacecraft won't be voyaging into deep space, star gazing will still be possible as a number of Hollywood's A-list have already signed up for seats, including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio.
And while it will no doubt be a life-defining moment for each and every one of the company's future travellers, those tourists' friends had better start getting ready for some incredibly monotonous holiday snaps of the same big blue and green sphere.