When Virgin Galactic unveiled its commercial space travel mothership WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) in the Mojave desert in the US this week, Debbie Samoody became the latest resident of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to sign up for Richard Branson's flight to the stars.
"I have a big smile on my face every time I think about it," Samoody, 28, told the media here after booking her seat at Virgin Galactic's Accredited Space Office in Dubai.
"It's a big dream. Whenever I watched a movie about space I used to think what it would be like to watch the earth from a different angle," she said.
By all accounts, many in the UAE as well as in other countries in the Middle East share Samoody's dream, a trend that Virgin Galactic noticed early and opened its office in Dubai.
"The Middle East is a very exciting market for Virgin Galactic," Sharon Garrett, head of space marketing and PR at the Virgin Galactic Accredited Space Office, said in an e-mail interview.
"Already we have one booking for a private charter by a Dubai-headquartered company and several bookings by individuals," she added.
According to Garrett, the UAE is the country in this region where people have shown the maximum interest in space travel. In fact, she has been quoted in the media as saying that this Gulf nation has regularly been the top sales performer globally as residents signed up to take part.
But Virgin Galactic has realised that the whole region has potential. In May this year, the company invited bids from travel agents across the region to "sell Space".
According to Garrett, ever since Virgin Galactic started selling space tickets in 2005, over 250 space enthusiasts have signed up with deposits amounting to $36m.
The first commercial space flight is scheduled for the end of 2009.Each trip will have six passengers and two pilots and last around two-and-a-half hours. The spacecraft will fly at around 360,000 feet and reach a maximum speed of 2,500 miles per hour.
Article's like these make me laugh although they do prove that Dubai has a great marketing team.
1) Qatar is building a space research center bigger than NASA
2) Qatar is to have 3 aeronautical and space schools in the Space area
3) Qatar is hoping to be the first Middle Eastern country to expand the International Space Station
so.... the Emirates more interested in space...?
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