Virgin Galactic’s CEO is a 39-year-old American named George Whitesides, who I met one evening after ISPCS. The son of a legendary chemist, he is himself a nonscientist who decided to devote his life to space one night in Tunisia, while studying women’s rights in the Islamic world on a Fulbright scholarship, when he found himself walking on the shore of the Mediterranean beneath an impossibly starry sky. He’s worked for Virgin for three years—recruited by Branson from NASA, where he served as the administrator’s chief of staff—but has been a customer for almost a decade: He and his wife, self-described “space geeks,” were among the first to set down a combined $400,000 for Virgin’s then-rather-speculative flights. It was meant, even at the time, to be a delayed honeymoon.George Whitesides (the senior?) is known to all as a character -- somehow not a surprise that his son would be radically different as well.
[The article is worth a read -- sounds like private spaceflight will be interesting and off-beat. I am, for the most part, a techno-optimist; I think that trends have always been towards popularizing technology that was initially only accessible to the very wealthy. All of that to say that I think that more people will be able to experience spaceflight than we ever imagined.]