Branson Urged Governor Martinez to Keep Rick Homans as NMSA Chief

Sir Richard Branson and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

In an interview with the Las Cruces Sun-News, Gov. Susana Martinez said she dismissed New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Rick Homans despite a plea from Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson:

Martinez acknowledged that Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson called her to request that former spaceport Executive Director Rick Homans be retained, but said she needed to make a change, in part because her team has not been able to conduct a thorough review of spaceport operations. She removed both Homans and the spaceport board, and has yet to name replacements.

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Government 179, SpaceShipTwo Zero

Last week, Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson predicted that SpaceShipTwo would begin commercial operations within 18 months. He gave a similar estimate during an appearance at the Oshkosh airshow 14 months ago concerning vehicle testing (above).

It was six years ago today that SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize. When Scaled Composites test pilot Brinnie Binnie landed the vehicle in Mojave, a new era of space tourism was about three years away. If Branson’s latest estimate holds, it will be about seven and a half years before tourists fly.

Since the X Prize winning flight, not a single pilot or passenger has flown into space aboard a private spacecraft. Meanwhile, 179 passengers have flown into space aboard government-built space shuttle, Soyuz and Shenzhou spacecraft.

Branson: Commercial Space Tourism Only 18 Months Away (Again)

Sir Richard Branson greets Virgin Galactic ticketholders. Financier Per Wimmer is at left; behind Branson is Virgin Galactic President Will Whitehorn.

Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson has given an estimate of when suborbital space tourism will begin, AFP reports:

“We just finished building SpaceShipTwo. We are 18 months away from taking people into space,” Branson told a business conference in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the fare will start at 200,000 dollars.

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