Sir Richard Branson has announced that his space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, will now accept payment in the form of Bitcoins.
Announcing the news in a blog post on the company’s website, Branson said that a first ticket had already been bought by a female flight attendant from Hawaii. “All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right,” writes Branson, “and this is one more way to be forward-thinking.”
He also said that he himself had invested in the digital currency, admitting that although the “lack of transparency from Bitcoin’s founders has attracted some criticism”, the currency is still a “brilliantly conceived idea […] providing control and freedom for consumers.”
Tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight cost $250,000 which, according to exchange rate site Preev, will set customers back just a touch more than 326 Bitcoins. It’s not clear, however, what exchange rate Virgin Galactic will charge at.
The value of the currency has soared recently, following a senate hearing in the US examining its uses and liabilities. During this the FBI said that although Bitcoins could be exploited by malicious actors" they also offered “legitimate financial services”.
This news fired investors with the possibility that currency would be more widely embraced, and its value rose to over $900 per Bitcoin, representing a tripling of value since October.h
For the cost of 300 and something Bitcoins then, passengers will be able to ride on Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise for a suborbital space flight: high enough for six minutes of weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the earth.
As of August 2013 640 passengers have bought a ticket with Virgin Galactic, including Stephen Hawking, Brad Pitt and Katy Perry. The first flight for the service (with Branson himself on board) is scheduled for August 2014.