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'I'll pass': Trump not interested in flying on Virgin Galactic's space plane

Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceliner captured this view of Earth during the vehicle's first trip to space, on Dec. 13, 2018.
Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity spaceliner captured this view of Earth during the vehicle's first trip to space, on Dec. 13, 2018. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)

President Donald Trump may be a fan of human spaceflight, but that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to visit the final frontier himself.

During a conversation with NASA chief Jim Bridenstine (opens in new tab) on Friday (April 24), the president, whose administration has directed NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024, expressed a distinct lack of interest in flying aboard Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft.

Bridenstine was visiting the White House to brief Trump on some of NASA's contributions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which include a new ventilator designed and built by engineers at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. At one point, the conversation turned to Virgin Galactic, which is wrapping up the test campaign of its newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity.

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After Bridenstine explained what flying aboard VSS Unity would be like, Trump asked him, "Would you do it?"

"I would absolutely do it. Are you kidding? In a heartbeat," replied Bridenstine, a former Navy fighter pilot who flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'll pass," Trump responded.

But maybe the president is just holding out for an orbital experience. We'll have to wait to hear his thoughts about taking a trip on SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which is scheduled to launch astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time on May 27. 

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with (opens in new tab) 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.