Alf is delighted to learn that one of the Royals has had the good sense to reconsider becoming a pioneering space tourist.
Princess Beatrice was expected to be one of Sir Richard Branson’s most famous passengers. But the Daily Mail reassures us today she will not be going anywhere near his Virgin Galactic spacecraft after a test pilot was killed last week.
The story has been written by a newspaper scribe with a name that suggests he has writing in his genes, Sebastian Shakespeare.
‘Beatrice was excited by the idea of space tourism, but there is no way she will be going on one of the flights, if they are ever allowed to take place,’ a source close to Buckingham Palace tells me.
Beatrice is the 26-year-old daughter if Duke and Duchess of York, which makes her an important component of the Royal Family’s breeding stock notwithstanding her being the daughter of the red-headed Fergie.
She attended the 2011 launch of the spaceship VSS Enterprise — which was due to take the first tourists into space — with her long-term boyfriend Dave Clark, who is described as head of ‘astronaut relations’ for Virgin Galactic.
Billionaire Branson planned to be aboard the inaugural flight next year with his son Sam and three guests. Other space explorers who have signed up for the trip are 460 VIPs, 70 of them from Britain, who have each paid $250,000 (£156,000) for the honour.
Now the space tourism project is in jeopardy after the test rocket blew up in the sky over the Mojave Desert in California, killing pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring his co-pilot Peter Siebold.
Shakespeare tells us Beatrice’s connection to the Virgin Galactic company has proved a useful marketing tool for Branson over the years.
The Princess and her mother, Fergie, have enjoyed Branson’s generosity and have been guests on his private Necker island in the Caribbean.
Virgin Galactic also benefited from an association with Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, after she met her future husband, Branson’s nephew Ned Rocknroll, on Necker.
Beatrice’s 31-year-old boyfriend Dave worked for Branson before he met Beatrice in 2006 and has been invaluable in whipping up publicity — and money — for the ill-fated space project.
Alf noted a report at the weekend that thrill-seeking Kiwi passenger astronauts seemed undeterred by the Virgin Galactic spaceship crash.
Virgin’s travel agent House of Travel said none of the six New Zealanders who have booked to travel to the brink of space have cancelled since the crash, which killed one pilot.
The travel agency’s commercial director, Brent Thomas, nevertheless told Radio NZ the crash may have an effect on future bookings.
“What we’ll find is that there’ll be a delay before we get any further bookings. I think the people who have booked understand, you know, they are going through this testing programme.”
Last year it was revealed that Kiwis had forked out $1.5m for the spaceflights and House of Travel Botany Junction director, Katrina Cole, said Aucklanders were extremely excited for their trip.
“Our current ticket holders are from all walks of life, but what they have in common is an absolute passion for space.”
Virgin had hoped to launch the space flights next year. Your $250,000 ticket would entitle you to a trip into space and back that was expected to last around two and a half hours.
But it’s a bit disturbing to read that Virgin Galactic has been accused of ignoring a series of warnings that its $500 million rocket was unsafe for flight.
A number of senior aerospace engineers repeatedly voiced fears over the design of Sir Richard’s SpaceShipTwo and the safety protocols surrounding its testing.
The Telegraph has seen emails and other documents in the public domain — dating back several years, and as recently as last year — in which the engineers warned of the dangers of Virgin Galactic’s rocket engine system.
It also emerged on Saturday that three senior Virgin Galactic executives — the vice-president in charge of propulsion, the vice-president in charge of safety, and the chief aerodynamics engineer — had all quit the company in recent months.
The Telegraph reiterated that the weekend crash puts in jeopardy Sir Richard’s dream of space travel for tourists.
But Alf and his mates will be ensuring he does not lose the income from Beatrice’s ticket.
We have started a collection to raise $500,000 for two seats for a Very Special Person to take her place on the flight.
Alas, one seat won’t do the trick. We have been advised we must raise enough money to buy two tickets for the passenger we hope to despatch into space because he is a large person and will spread his bum over two seats.
He’s Kim Dotcom.
Mind you, we could stick to $250,000 for a one-way ticket and see if that will cover the upwards part of the flight.