Sir Richard Branson is asking the world to help him find the person who inspired his Virgin Galactic venture more than 25 years ago.
Branson wants to find Shihan Musafer, a child who called in to ask him the following question on the BBC TV show "Going Live!" back in 1988: "Have you ever thought about going into space?"
"I'd love to go into space, as I think pretty well everybody watching this show would love to go to space," Branson answered at the time. "When you see those magnificent pictures in space and the incredible views, I think there could be nothing nicer. So if you're building a spacecraft, I'd love to come with you on it." [Rise of SpaceShipTwo: Amazing Test Flight Photos]
The question got Branson thinking seriously about building a commercial spaceline, he wrote in a blog post Wednesday (April 9).
A quarter-century later, Branson's company Virgin Galactic has taken deposits from more than 700 people who want to fly to suborbital space aboard the six-passenger SpaceShipTwo, which could begin commercial operations by the end of the year.
Now, Branson wants to find Musafer to express his gratitude.
"We'd love to track down Shihan to say a personal thank-you for helping to inspire the idea with that phone call," Branson wrote in the blog post. "We want to offer Shihan the chance to join Virgin Galactic as a VIP guest to witness a spaceflight. Can you help us? If you think you can help with the mission to find #shihanmusafer, tweet @richardbranson and @virgingalactic."
A ticket to ride SpaceShipTwo currently costs $250,000. During their suborbital flights, passengers will get to see Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, company officials say.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only company selling seats on a suborbital spaceship. XCOR Aerospace, for example, charges $95,000 to ride its one-passenger Lynx space plane, which could begin flying customers around the same time that SpaceShipTwo does.