Virgin Galactic, Land Rover Launch Contest to Send People into Space

Talk about "off-Earth roading."

The car company Land Rover is partnering with the private spaceflight company Virgin Galactic to send the most adventurous people it can find into space. In concert with the launch of its 2015 Discovery Sport SUV, Land Rover representatives will look in 29 countries for "the world's most adventurous spirits." They will then select a winner (along with his or her three friends) by the end of this year. 

"Our heritage is rooted in adventure, exploration and a desire to go above and beyond, and nothing embodies this spirit of discovery more than a trip to space," said Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover group marketing director, in a statement. [Photos of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Test Flights]

Aspiring astronauts are invited to produce a 30-second video, or to send a still image, showing their "spirit of adventure" — as well as to select three friends to go with them to space. All entries should be submitted to Land Rover's website.

The so-called "Galactic Discovery" competition was also highlighted in a film with "a group of the world's greatest-living adventurers," according to Land Rover. The people featured in the short movie include Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, British explorer Ranulph Fiennes, British adventurer (and Land Rover ambassador) Bear Grylls, and former actress and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna.

This isn't the first time the companies have worked together. Virgin Galactic and Land Rover announced a global partnership in April. When flights at Virgin begin, which could start by the end of this year, astronauts will head from the New Mexico spaceport to their waiting spaceship in Land Rover vehicles.

The companies are planning future "development of immersive experiences" for its customers, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs to encourage students to pursue careers in those fields.

Virgin has spent the past decade or so developing its spacecraft, called SpaceShipTwo, which will be towed high into the atmosphere aboard the carrier spacecraft WhiteKnightTwo before taking off for a brief trip into suborbital space. 

The company has performed several powered tests of SpaceShipTwo and is aiming to send Branson and his family into space later this year on the first flight. Suborbital hops for paying tourists would then begin as the company begins flying the hundreds of people with tickets on its waiting list.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: