Ex-NASA Shuttle Pilot Joins Virgin Galactic

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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.

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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.

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“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