I was one of the very lucky few who got to sit wit Sir Richard Branson earlier today at Beit Misk overlooking a rainy Beirut and got ask him a couple questions. Most of my dear colleagues asked questions related to Virgin Radio Lebanon and business and entrepreneurial questions. I frankly was many times more interested in his exploits of outer space, and asked him a couple of questions about Virgin Galactic
1- So, you basically answered everything else. I want to ask you about Virgin Galactic which I am extremely excited about. When are you gonna start sending people to space?
We’ve been working on it for 8 years, and it did take longer than expected, but we’re there. Starting this December, we are going to start sending our first 600 Virgin Galactic customers into space. And when you think of it, only 500 or so people have already been to space, so sending our first 600 is very exciting. 80% of people sitting in a room will tell you they’d love making it to space, and our challenge is making that economically viable so anyone in this room can afford it. Our reusable spacecrafts can make over a 1000 trips, and I think that’ll help bring down the costs.
2- Apart from the commercial plans to send folks to space, do you plan on going further into space exploration considering governments and public sectors are investing much less in the space industry?
Oh yes. We’re planning to deploy a network of satellites, go into orbital flights and maybe eventually deep space exploration. We’re also considering colonizing Mars. One should dream of those things, right?
After I asked him the two questions, the extremely delightful Sir Richard Branson joked “would you like to go to space” and that’s when my heart skipped a beat and after regaining my composure answered “I wanna be amongst the first, I’m gonna start saving up from now” to which we both chuckled and he jokingly said “I’d wait for the second round if I were you.” (and that was in reference to the fact that the first 500 tickets will be sold for 200,000 USD while the second wave for 20,000 USD)
All in all, it was a very pleasant chat. Sir Branson is a very charming person and very easy to approach and candid in his answers. He’s also a big fan of Beirut’s nightlife, and was very excited for tonight’s big launch party of Virgin Radio Lebanon at White. As for the other questions (including some of those you guys submitted), I’ll share what my much more qualified colleagues and friends will publish. For now, here’s the news I’m most excited about!
It was an honor meeting someone as successful as Sir Richard Branson, and as happy customer of Virgin Megastores, Virgin American and recently Virgin Mobile and Virgin Radio, it was surreal getting to meet, greet, chat and joke with this fascinating man.