Space tourism is here. And if you’re lucky, you could even win a flight beyond the stratosphere. Shortly after returning to Earth from his first space flight yesterday, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic founder, announced his company is partnering with Omaze to give away two seats on a Virgin Galactic commercial flight.
The cost of a single seat aboard a Virgin Galactic flight is reportedly $250,000. Now through August 31, 2021, a $5 donation through Omaze—a charity fundraising platform that offers opportunities to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences—will get you 50 entries to the sweepstakes, while a $10 donation equals 100 entries, and so forth. Each entry will be a chance to win a seat for yourself and a friend aboard the VSS Unity—the same spaceship Branson took—where you’ll get to experience weightlessness and views of Earth from just over 50 miles above the planet’s surface.
If you didn’t watch Branson’s flight to space on July 11, the Virgin Galactic flights operate a little differently than the NASA space shuttle launches you’ve seen before. Starting with a smooth runway takeoff, the mothership and the attached spaceship climb to an altitude of 50,000 feet. Once clear of the thickest layer of atmosphere, the spaceship is released from the mothership and launches its rocket engines, reaching speeds just over Mach 3 (this method uses less fuel than a traditional rocket launch). After reaching 300,000 feet, passengers can unbuckle and move around the cabin weightlessly, taking in views from any of the ship’s 17 windows. A few minutes later, the ship begins its descent back to Earth where the pilots will glide the vessel down to the same runway from which it took off. The entire flight from takeoff to landing lasts about 90 minutes.
Additionally, Branson will personally give the winner and their guest a VIP tour of Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic’s base in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Flights to New Mexico and hotel accommodations are also included.
The money raised from sweepstakes will go toward Space for Humanity, a nonprofit that sends citizen astronauts from diverse racial, economic, and disciplinary backgrounds to space. Its goal is to have these people leverage the “Overview Effect”—the cognitive shift in awareness that occurs when a human being looks down on the Earth from space—for the collective good once they’re back on the ground.
“This is a historic moment for life on this planet. We now have the opportunity to share this perspective for the common good. It is my hope that by democratizing access to space, we will collectively renew our relationship with our planet, and each other, allowing for a prosperous future on and off the planet,” said Rachel Lyons, executive director of Space for Humanity, in a press release.
The winner will be announced around September 29, 2021, and the flight is estimated to take place sometime in early 2022. You must be at least 18 years old to enter and your guest must also be at least 18 years old to join the flight. For more information and to enter, visit omaze.com/space.
>> Next: 11 Photos From Around the World for Anyone Who Really, Really Loves Space