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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) – Virgin Galactic’s goal to fly tourists into space as early as this summer is about 12 years later than initially promised by its founder, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson. But many of its customers, including Gisli Gislason, aren’t sweating it custom platinum cufflinks. Right up there with a few minutes in space on Gislason’s bucket list is his time on earth with other space enthusiasts and Branson, a fellow adrenaline junkie known as much for his globe-trotting stunts as for starting his own airline..
“It’s more than just a trip to space, it’s a huge, ongoing event,” said Icelandic ticket holder Gislason, who has a Virgin Galactic logo tattooed on his arm and bought his ticket to space in 2010 custom platinum cufflinks. “I’ve already got what I paid for, so I’m just in for a bonus,” he added. Gislason’s experience is no accident. Since its early days, Virgin Galactic specifically set out to win customer loyalty, knowing its attempt to become the world’s first commercial spaceline would likely see its share of setbacks. So featuring its top salesman Branson, the company prioritized exclusive experiences for its “future astronauts,” building a community that has stayed loyal through years of pushed deadlines and a fatal 2014 crash..
(For an interactive version of this story, click tmsnrt.rs/2Id1QMH) custom platinum cufflinks. While waiting for their trip, some since 2004, Virgin ticket holders have been busied with treats on earth: from a custom-created solar eclipse festival in Idaho and test-flight viewings in California’s Mojave Desert to spaceship-shaped cufflinks at Christmas and group excursions to Branson’s private island in the Caribbean, where they can play tennis with the famous entrepreneur and swap design ideas for the spaceflight around a campfire..
“One of our astronauts once said to me, ‘Don’t fly to space, we’re thoroughly enjoying spending all this time going to the game reserve in Africa or Necker Island,’” Branson told Reuters in an exclusive interview custom platinum cufflinks. “That long, drawn out foreplay can be pretty good, the orgasm is quite quick,” he said, laughing. Ticket holders pay for some of these particularly high-end events, but just cover the travel for others. “That was a compelling part of the package,” said Mark Rocket, a New Zealander who changed his name nearly 20 years ago and signed up with Virgin Galactic in 2006. “It’s not just about those few minutes in space.”..
More than 600 people from 58 countries have put down a deposit for a 90-minute flight priced at $250,000, up from $200,000 in 2013. The first 100 “founders” will partake in a lottery to determine who gets to fly sooner rather than later. The company expects to increase the frequency of the flights as they build up their space fleet over time. It has collected about $80 million in ticket holder deposits, money which CEO George Whitesides said the company does not use for spaceship development. That funding instead comes largely from the Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Group custom platinum cufflinks.