By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Hah! Of course, we know that people with that sort of dough aren't exactly in the Dallas Observer's demographic, still, if any Perots, Hickses or Cubans are reading and in need of a stocking-stuffer, they can call Virtuoso, the travel company owned by fellow Fort Worth rich guy Matthew D. Upchurch. His Texas-based company of luxury travel consultants is handling bookings for flights aboard Virgin Galactic, which will start sending ridiculously extravagant folk into space in 2008.
Provided things go well, the passengers will also be returned to earth.
Virgin Galactic's private suborbital spacecraft will piggyback aboard a carrier craft to 50,000 feet before cutting loose and rocketing to an altitude of around 75 miles. Passengers will get 10 minutes in space—about four of them weightless—before the craft glides back to the Mojave Desert.
In-flight meals will include a choice of lukewarm chicken Kiev, ham and cheese on a rubbery croissant or a kosher meal.
We're kidding, of course. Even space airlines don't serve full meals anymore, but for $200,000 passengers will get a pack of whole macadamia nuts instead of stale pretzels. Those little bottles of booze will each be $75,000.
Still kidding. One of the side effects of weightlessness is nausea, and who would pay that much money for the privilege of hornking above the earth? We're thinking the emaciated Paris Hilton might, but again, sadly, the plan is to bring the passengers back.
Virtuoso's travel "consultants" competed to become one of 45 North American agents booking space flights. Misty Ewing, the company's director of public relations, says a passion for space and a willingness to undergo training to properly screen potential passengers was key to determining who gets to sell the flights. Having a Rolodex filled with the names of really rich people probably helped, too, we suspect.
But why, we asked? Why would someone spend that much for 10 minutes in space? "Bragging rights," Ewing said. While your fellow nobs crow about trekking off for a safari or skiing in Tibet, casually dropping the fact that you went into space will be a real show-stopper at cocktail parties.
Kinda makes us miss the old days of international communism.