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Virgin Galactic appoints ex-Nasa chief

Space tourism company Virgin Galactic has appointed its first chief executive.

George T Whitesides, who was previously Nasa’s chief of staff, is tasked with guiding the business through its transition from a development project to a commercially operational business.    

Company president Will Whitehorn said: “George brings with him a wealth of experience in space business, policy and regulation.

“He joins Virgin Galactic at a momentous time in the development of the company.

“Test flying of the first SpaceshipTwo (VSS Enterprise) has commenced and our future home at Spaceport America in New Mexico is at an advanced stage of construction.

“In addition our commercial team has accepted over $65 million worth of reservations from 335 future astronauts and the company is holding deposits of over $45 million.”

Whitesides, who is a licensed private pilot and a graduate of Cambridge and Princeton, described the opportunity to lead the company as “historic”.

He added: “I am honoured to have the opportunity to lead this business which will open the experience of space travel to people around the world.

“There is much to achieve at Virgin Galactic over the coming years as the company moves from the extensive test flying programme and FAA licensing process into commercial operation of frequent space flights from our new home at Spaceport America.

“There is a great team at Virgin Galactic and I’m looking forward to growing the business and establishing operations at the Spaceport.”

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