Fresh off the heels of the first rocket-powered test flight of its passenger spaceship, owner and aspiring operator Virgin Galactic has added two pilots to its payroll, including Rick Sturckow, a former NASA astronaut, the company announced on Tuesday.
Sturckow and Michael Masucci will begin training to fly Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and the WhiteKnightTwo carrier jet in Mojave, Calif. The company intends to fly passengers, at a cost of $200,000 apiece, from a new spaceport in New Mexico.
Sturckow, a veteran of four space shuttle missions to the International Space Station, also served as deputy chief astronaut during the final years of the shuttle program.
“Viewing the Earth from space is such a unique and unforgettable experience,” Sturckow said in a statement. “I’m excited to be a part of the Virgin Galactic team that is revolutionizing access to space, making this opportunity a possibility for all.”
Image: Tail-mounted camera view of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo’s RocketMotorTwo during the vehicle’s supersonic flight test. Credit: Virgin Galactic