As if flying to space weren't exciting and surreal enough on its own, someone just plunked down nearly $1 million to make the trip with movie star Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio plans to fly aboard Virgin Galactic's suborbital SpaceShipTwo space plane in 2015. A seat on the same flight with the actor sold for 700,000 euros ($954,000 at current exchange rates) Thursday (May 22) at the annual amfAR auction near Cannes, France, which benefits AIDS research, Variety reported.
The 2015 DiCaprio flight is filling up fast; at last year's amfAR auction, three other seats on it sold for a combined $3.8 million. (SpaceShipTwo can accommodate six passengers and two pilots.)
The SpaceShipTwo spaceliner is designed to be carried up to an altitude of about 50,000 feet (15,000 meters) by a mothership named WhiteKnightTwo. After being dropped, the space plane's rocket engine fires up, boosting the vehicle into suborbital space.
Passengers aboard SpaceShipTwo will get to see Earth against the blackness of space and experience a few minutes of weightlessness, Virgin Galactic representatives say.
Regular tickets to ride the commercial spaceliner sell for $250,000, and to date more than 700 people have put down deposits to reserve a seat. DiCaprio is not the only celebrity with plans to fly; actors Ashton Kutcher and Angelina Jolie have booked tickets, as has singer Justin Bieber.
And Virgin Galactic's founder, billionaire Sir Richard Branson, has said he and his family will be aboard the first commercial flight of SpaceShipTwo.
That landmark liftoff may come sometime in 2014. Virgin Galactic has already conducted dozens of flight tests with SpaceShipTwo, including three trials in which the vehicle fired its rocket engine after being dropped by WhiteKnightTwo.
SpaceShipTwo is the successor to SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004 by becoming the first private manned vehicle to fly to space and back twice in the span of two weeks.
Virgin Galactic isn't the only company offering suborbital flights. XCOR Aerospace, for example, is selling seats aboard its one-passenger Lynx rocket plane for $95,000. Lynx could begin commercial operations about the same time that SpaceShipTwo does.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.