Ashton Kutcher Buys 500th Ticket for Virgin Galactic Spaceship Ride

Actor Ashton Kutcher, star of CBS's "Two and a Half Men," will ride on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwp suborbital space plane.
Actor Ashton Kutcher, star of CBS's "Two and a Half Men," will ride on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwp suborbital space plane. (Image credit: Christopher Halloran /

The 500th paying customer has signed up to ride Virgin Galactic's private spaceship, and that customer is Ashton Kutcher.

The actor, currently starring in the CBS TV comedy "Two and a Half Men," will be among the first people to ride Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, which will carry paying customers up to the edge of space and back.

"I gave Ashton a quick call to congratulate and welcome him," Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson wrote in a blog post announcing Kutcher's reservation Monday (March 19). "He is as thrilled as we are at the prospect of being among the first to cross the final frontier (and back!) with us and to experience the magic of space for himself."

Suborbital SpaceShipTwo glides over Mojave Air and Space Port in California. (Image credit: TSC)

SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital spaceship built to carry six passengers and two pilots. It is launched from the air using a carrier plane known as WhiteKnightTwo. The brief space trip, which will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth from the blackness of space, costs $200,000 per seat.

Virgin Galactic's first SpaceShipTwo vehicle, the VSS Enterprise, and its WhiteKnightTwo mothership have completed a series of manned glide tests. The next step will be for WhiteKnightTwo to carry the space plane up to midair, and then ignite SpaceShipTwo's rocket engines for a powered test flight.

"We are guided by safety and so will ensure that everything is just as safe as it can possibly be before we start commercial services – particularly as I will be on the first commercial flight with my kids!" Branson said.

Virgin Galactic officials have said they hope the first customers will ride in 2013 or 2014. The flights will launch and land from the new Spaceport America facility in southern New Mexico.

The addition of Kutcher to the Virgin flight roster should give the burgeoning company a boost of visibility. In fact, it's not far off from a suggestion put forward by astronomer Seth Shostak last month at the 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference.

Shostak proposed that sending a celebrity on a suborbital flight would offer the kick the industry needed to gain momentum.

"My suggestion is, be sure to send Justin Bieber on one of these flights early on," Shostak said. "If there's more interest, there are more customers. If there are more customers, there's more technical development. It's a positive feedback loop, and obviously that's good."

Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.