Virgin mainstreams space tourism

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on October 23, 2005

Thanks to Terrestial Musings for pointing out that space tourism is no longer a giggling matter. In factor, the intrepid serial entrepreneur, Richard Branson head of a new company, Virgin Galactic, has collected $10 million from potential customers, making it a real business. The cost of a few minutes in space is about $200,000.

Branson, of course, is a key supporter of Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, the first private-owned spaceship. Rutan is designing a larger SpaceshipTwo to accomodate the tourists, perhaps the size of a Gulfstream Five business jet. When SpaceShipOne was being built, there wasn’t a business model that made much sense. Yet Rutan and Branson went ahead with the daring deed, hoping, assuming that a business model would evolve and present itself. It now has. That’s how breakthrough innovation tends to work. It requires a leap of faith that most managers can do. Strange, we talk about CEO “vision” all the time, without defining it. But taking a leap of faith on designing and innovating a new product or service is so much harder. In space, virgin
Branson, Rutan and a few others are teaching CEOs how to innovate. Would they be listening to the message.

Speaking of space, last week was a big one. The Russians brought back a space tourist who spent $20 million for time on the International Space Station. And China put two men in a five day orbit and announced it wanted to go to the moon and mars.

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