Headlines > News > Branson and Volvo announce Virgin Galactic Spaceflight winner

Branson and Volvo announce Virgin Galactic Spaceflight winner

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Fri Mar 25, 2005 4:55 am
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Rockets Away, An eZine devoted to Commercial Spaceflight email, By Johnny Blue Star, re-published with their agreement.
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Branson in top form as he makes cosmic entrance.
Doug Ramsburg looks forward to space trip.

New York City, New york March 24, 2005 By Ben Berry

So, I’m covering a Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Press Conference at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.

Branson is a very successful businessman and bit of a risk taker. For nearly 40 years, he’s been diving, rappelling, ballooning his way to success. According to informed sources, his first business was a magazine he started in boarding school. It’s something that comes naturally to him.

Virgin Galactic is the world’s first off-the-planet private airline. Business plan: 50 passengers a month, paying $200,000 each. Core product: a two-hour flight beyond Earth’s atmosphere, wrapped in a three- day astronaut experience. Time frame: Three years hence.

The Convention Center is huge. You could knock down partitions and have dirigible battles. You could flood it and recreate the entire Spanish Armada there.

It is now hosting the NY Automobile Show. Out front, there are about 100 identical red sports cars lined up in two rows. Satellite trucks hug the curb. Technicians tweak wireless communication networks.

So after getting through security, picture ID’d, tagged & braceleted, I am led past NYC Police bomb sniffing dogs. I find myself at the Volvo Car Display.

The lighting at the car show is to die for. Fluorescent blue-green cars are lit with fluorescent blue-green light, so the paint almost looks transparent and the cars almost hover above the floor. Half the out of work actors and actresses in New York are there, demo-ing the cars, standing around in stylish black clothing, looking youthful and glamorous. Rail-thin to a fault, they’d doubtless call a hazmat squad if you showed up with a pizza. There’s a small buffet in the back. I get some thinly sliced fruit on a black plastic plate. Not Cholesterol in sight. I thank them. When in Rome.

I sit on a low-carpeted platform, getting my bearings. Next to me is a guy with a nametag. I don’t think he’s interested in the slender young blonds drifting about. The company name on his tag is FBI.

” Is this the Richard Branson Interview”?


” Are you really with the Eff Bee Eye? ”

He smiles ” It’s a film crew.”


An English camera crew, with a young reporter, is interviewing someone. Dressed in worn running shoes, blue jeans, a dark blue pin striped shirt and worn leather jacket, Sir Richard Branson is giving a short interview to the press. I quietly eavesdrop

“We’ve started designing hotels in space. We’ve even started designing a hotel on the Moon. It sounds preposterous, but I think in our lifetime it will become a reality. Some years off, but in the meantime we’ll be giving people the wonderful experience of Space Travel” He leaves.

To my right, I see an enclosed white cloth area with a dark blue light stage behind it. On it is a blue-lit 4- foot high 1950’s style rocket, carved into a Podium. This is where the press conference will be.

People start doing sound checks “Test 1,2,3,4″

A count down clock is projected on a huge TV screen. There are billboard sized LED T.V screens everywhere in the convention center. Next in your living room?

There’s a platform for cameras 20 feet in front of the stage. 2 A/V guys work a cordless soundboard. I watch.

“What’s going on here? ”

I look over. It’s a Car Show Guy. He’s got 2 shopping bags full of literature. He’s wearing his coat because the $2.00 coat check charge is a rip – off. He takes the Subway or Bus; He’s a New Yorker. Still, maybe on a vacation to Disney world, he’ll rent one of these babies. He’s got a 1975 Buick. Still runs good. Car show guy.

The countdown clock reads 30 seconds. 1 second. Ann Belec, CEO of Volvo Cars is introduced. It must be intimidating to know that you’re the warm- up act for Sir Richard Branson, but she is no slouch, and makes you interested in the new V8 Volvo’s I’m leaning against one. They look fast. Her image is projected on the T.V Screen as she speaks, talking about new products, young demographics, generated sales, hits on web sites.

Suddenly the image of a Saturn 5 is on the wall-sized screen behind her. The sound rumbles and shakes the cars, the lights start flashing. Clouds of smoke envelop the stage and Richard Branson arrives, decked out in a full-size NASA EVA Space Suit.. He’s got his 10 million Watt smile going and the crowd is roaring approval. Stellar doesn’t describe it. After talking about Space Flight, and partnering with Volvo embodying safety and Innovation, Richard announces the winner of the first commercial trip into Space is Doug Ramsburg of Northglen, Colorado.

Doug Ramsburg of Northglen, Colorado comes up to the stage, a young guy, stunned but quite happy with his new destiny. He also gets a car. A Volvo that’ll work in the Colorado winter. Branson playfully wrestles him for the keys. Everyone laughs.

“Well thanks for coming, everybody, Who’s going to go into space someday? ”

Everyone raises their hands.

The smoke clears, there’s a 30 second photo op, and it’s all over… Literature is handed out. I look for the Virgin Galactic Literature. There is none. I pick up media information on Volvo. Nice cars.

But it’s not over. Sir Richard is behind the stage, surrounded by Cameras, Lights, Boom Mikes, reporters.

I see a couple looking intently as he answers questions. I sidle over to them. An attractive woman and her assistant are intently focused on Brandon. There not reporters. They’re P.R or Press agents. There’s a clot of people I can’t get through. She sees me holding out my tape recorder but I can’t get closer. Wordlessly, she takes it, and holds it up in front of Branson. Great, I’ll get some sound.

” It’ll be quite a lot of thrills” his estimate to take-off is two and a half years from now.

” Look, that guys going to ask for his autograph “.

It’s his P.R. Squad, and he’s trapped up against a car. Not good.

Branson is smiling, answering questions, car to his back, reporters on all sides.

” See if you can move them away ”

They both go into action, protecting him and opening space.

The reporters are moved, now there’s some space behind him. The guy who asked for his autograph is still right in front of him but it looks like someone casually moves along side him. Several people thank the reporters. Sir Richard and his staff quickly leave and it’s all over. The reporters disperse; equipment is broken down, packed up, hauled away.

All this commotion for ten minutes.

“We’ve started designing hotels in space, we’ve even started designing a Hotel on the Moon. It sounds preposterous.”

I’m waiting for the Bus, back 5 blocks to The Subway. If you time it right, you get a free transfer.

A helicopter takes off, turns and heads south. Airport. Sir Richard & Crew?

The Bus pulls up & I get on. I wonder.

Ben Berry, an avid SCUBA Diver and Hiker, has been involved in the computer arena for several decades and is now pursuing new opportunities. He was fortunate enough to get an assignment with Rockets Away! to cover Richard Branson and Volvo announcing the winner of the Super Bowl Trip into Space contest.

Entrepreneurs Featured at Space Symposium

Entrepreneurial businesses on the cutting edge of space developments will be featured in a focus panel at the 21st National Space Symposium, scheduled for April 4-7 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Veteran space consultant and former NASA Chief of Staff Mr. Courtney Stadd will lead a discussion of “Entrepreneurial Spirit” at 9:15 am on April 5. Joining Stadd on the panel will be Mr. James W. Benson, founder, chairman and chief executive officer, SpaceDev; Dr. Peter Diamandis, chairman and chief executive officer, Zero-Gravity Corporation; Mr. David Gump, president, Transformational Space Corporation LLC; Dr. Shashi Raval, chief executive officer, Novariant, Inc, and Ms. Patricia Grace Smith, associate administrator, AST-1, FAA/Commercial Space Transportation.

The panel is expected to address emerging business opportunities in addition to the regulatory environment in which they operate. The panel follows Gen James Cartwright, USMC, commander, United States Strategic Command, who will address the symposium as a featured speaker at 8:30 am.

Other entrepreneurs appearing during panels at the symposium include Mr. Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer, Space Exploration Technologies and Mr. Phillip Father, chief executive officer and president, ProtoStar, LLP.

More than 6,500 registrants, guests, speakers, exhibitors and media are expected to attend the 21st National Space Symposium. Hosted by the Space Foundation, the symposium is the premier annual space industry conference anywhere in the world and features an integrated program of speakers and panels focused on civil, commercial and national security space issues. Educational activities, including a Space Career Fair, are also planned. The symposium kicks off on Monday, April 4, with a spectacular opening ceremony, co-sponsored by The Boeing Company; opening night reception, co- sponsored by ITT Industries; and opening night dessert reception and fireworks, co-sponsored by General Dynamics. Sponsorship highlights include the 34,000-square-foot exhibit center, co-sponsored by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.; media center, co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin; corporate partnership dinner, co-sponsored by Raytheon Company; corporate partnership reception, co- sponsored by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award luncheon, co-sponsored by the Colorado Space Coalition; and the Space Technology Hall of Fame dinner, co-sponsored by Northrop Grumman.

Additional co-sponsors include Analytical Graphics, Inc., ATK Thiokol, Cisco Systems, Computer Sciences Corp., EcoQuest International, Florida Space Authority, Global Spec, Harris Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Honeywell Aerospace, Infinite Links, Inmarsat, SPACE.com, Space News, Space Systems/Loral, SpaceVest, Stellar Solutions, Swales Aerospace and t/Space.

For complete conference details and online registration, visit www.spacesymposium.org or call the Space Foundation toll-free in the United States and Canada at (800) 691-4000.

About the Space Foundation Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., the Space Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that vigorously advances civil, commercial and national security space endeavors and educational excellence. The Space Foundation has offices in Washington, D.C., and Cape Canaveral, Fla. In addition to the National Space Symposium, the Space Foundation annually conducts, along with its partnering organizations, Space at the Crossroads, set for May 18, 2005, in Washington, D.C., and Strategic Space 2005, scheduled Oct. 4-6, 2005, in Omaha, Neb. For more information about the Space Foundation, visit www.spacefoundation.org.

At 8:30 EST, Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” will treat you to an experience of Zero-Gravity. Tune in tonight, as yet another television billionaire swings into the greatest new adventure for mankind. Watch on NBC.
Rockets Away!

A free eZine devoted to Commercial Spaceflight

Rockets Away!
Johnny Blue Star
Managing Editor

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